On April 12, Hillary Clinton announced that she was seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in the 2016. The three chief obstacles in her run for the presidency will be the Benghazi attack that took place in September 2012, her affirmative vote in 2002 for the invasion of Iraq, and removing herself from President Obama’s shadow of unpopular foreign policy choices. However, ultimately, her greatest strength will be her experience.
On April 12, Hillary Clinton announced that she was seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in the 2016 election. She has the most foreign policy experience of all the presidential hopefuls after serving as the 67th Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 during which time she travelled to 112 countries, logged nearly 1,000,000 miles, and built an impressive resume in international affairs. In an election that is shaping up to be focused on foreign policy, her greatest strength will be her experience in this area. In spite of this, Clinton is not guaranteed a win in either the Democratic primary or the election itself due to a number of scandals she finds herself embroiled in, the most damaging of which is proving to be the recent email scandal, and challenges from her legacy. The three chief obstacles in her run for the presidency will be the Benghazi attack that took place in September 2012, her affirmative vote in 2002 for the invasion of Iraq, and removing herself from President Barack Obama’s shadow of unpopular foreign policy choices. However, the former Secretary will overcome these obstacles as she will translate her foreign policy experience into the leadership and decision-making skills needed to be the next commander-in-chief.
The first obstacle is the Benghazi attack that occurred on September 11, 2012 during Clinton’s tenure as U.S. Secretary of State. In 2011, Clinton played a key role in advocating for and orchestrating NATO air attacks against the Libyan government removed President Muammar Qaddafi from power and left a power vacuum that has since led to civil war. It was in this environment of unrest that the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked, leading to the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. By and large, Republicans have held Clinton responsible or at least in suspicion for her role in the attack – as shown by the three-year and still ongoing investigation Congress is still conducting. During the presidential election, Republicans will seize on the Benghazi attack and subsequent email controversy to undermine Clinton’s record as Secretary of State. In fact, Republicans and Democrats alike will likely confront the former Secretary on these issues. Both events have caused on some anxiety of how Clinton would handle being the leader of the free world.
However, the catastrophic attack on Benghazi and her handling of such events will only help prove that Clinton will make a good commander-in-chief. She has and will continue to learn from his horrific incident; the attack and all the time she has spent being interrogated by the Republican-dominated House Select Committee on Benghazi has pushed her to be introspective, especially pondering what could or should have been done differently. Introspection and deep, strategic thinking are traits that the American people expect in a president, and this incident has given her insight into what actions could be taken to prevent a similar future attack.
Another challenge took place in 2002 when Clinton voted for a congressional resolution that authorized the use of force against Iraq. This became an almost instantly regretted vote as she stated in 2007 that “Obviously, if I had known then what I know now about what the President would do with the authority that was given him, I would not have voted the way I did.” Further expressing this sentiment, in her book “Hard Choices,” she admits she made a mistake, saying “I should have stated my regret sooner and in the plainest, most direct language possible. I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best possible decision with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.” This affirmative vote was seen as having “cost her the election in 2008” and is certain to resurface in the her 2016 run.
Clinton, however, will learn from her vote. To her credit, she and the other Senators and House members who voted on the invasion were misled by President Bush’s proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and earnestly believed they were making the right decision to proceed with the invasion. This vote will only inspire her that much more to run a winning campaign. Clinton adopted an apologetic position on this issue, owning up to the fact that she was voted incorrectly. The American public wants a leader who can admit when she is wrong and will take corrective action; Clinton has proven that she can do just that.
Yet perhaps Clinton’s biggest challenge will be trying to remove herself from President Obama’s shadow. Senator Lindsey Graham aptly offered the observation that, “If it’s a foreign policy election and the public sees Obama as a failed foreign policy leader, [Clinton is] in trouble.” The former secretary has proven to be more hawkish than the current U.S. President through her advocacy for intervention in Libya and the arming of rebels due to the Arab Spring uprisings. She announced she was a proponent of acting more decisively in the Syrian civil war, but was overridden. She also promised to be tougher on Russia. She also recently admitted that she was opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. There are, conversely, many areas of U.S. foreign policy that she and Mr. Obama agree: Clinton plans to address the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but wants to do so without “miring our troops in another misguided ground war.” Another area of agreement comes from the Iran nuclear deal negotiations, saying the deal is beneficial for the United States’ Arab allies and Israel. She avidly supports the normalizing of relations with Cuba. Finally, she was also one of the chief architects behind the Obama administration’s proudest foreign policy initiatives: the pivot toward Asia.
Clinton, during her time as Secretary of State, proved her loyalty and professionalism. She also substantiated that she could make sound policy decisions in the realm of foreign policy. As U.S. foreign relations are currently strained in some very important regions, loyalty, professionalism, and sound decision-making are exactly the traits that the next U.S. president must possess. Clinton did not agree with some of the policy stances that President Obama took, but she was loyal in that she voiced her opposition to Obama in a professional manner, but ultimately performed her job as Secretary to implement the policies. Hillary Clinton has once again used her foreign policy experience to prove she has the necessary attributes that the next U.S. president needs.
Hillary Clinton’s run for presidency will not be without its challenges. While she is the front runner and assumed Democratic Party nominee, she will face some stiff competition from inside her own party and from the Republican candidates. She will be targeted for her relationship with President Obama and for carrying out his foreign policy agenda. She will be antagonized for her much-regretted vote for the Iraq war in 2002 and criticized over the controversy surrounding her responsibility for the Benghazi attack. However, all of these challenges during her time as Senator or Secretary of State only prove that Clinton has what it takes to be a great president.