In appearances this month, Clinton struck a hawkish tone on issues
including Iran and Russia, even while expressing broad support for
the work done by Obama and her successor as secretary of state, John
Clinton said in New York on Wednesday night she was "personally
skeptical" of Iran's commitment to reaching a comprehensive
agreement on its nuclear program.
"I've seen their behavior over (the) years," she said, saying that
if the diplomatic track failed, "every other option does remain on
Just two weeks earlier, Clinton was forced to backtrack after she
drew parallels between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Nazi
dictator Adolf Hitler at a closed-door fundraiser. In comments
leaked to the media by a local reporter who attended the event,
Clinton said Putin's justifications for his actions in the Crimean
region were akin to moves Hitler made in the years before World War
"I'm not making a comparison, certainly, but I am recommending that
we can perhaps learn from this tactic that has been used before,"
she said the next day at an event in Los Angeles.
As secretary of state, Clinton was a key player in a U.S. effort to
reset relations with Russia, a policy that critics say now appears
to be a glaring failure.
Clinton's recent rhetoric on Iran and Russia is part of a renewed
focus on foreign policy for the former first lady and New York
senator, who is widely considered the Democratic presidential
front-runner in 2016 if she chooses to run.
She has been giving speeches across the country since leaving the
State Department, but Wednesday's address was her first
on-the-record event in recent months focused solely on international
"NOT THE SAME CANDIDATE"
"Secretary Clinton is distancing herself a bit on foreign policy
matters from the administration recently," said John Hudak, a
Brookings Institution fellow and expert on presidential campaigns.
"This is a pretty standard practice for anyone looking to succeed
the sitting president, even within the same party."
"It's one of the first steps for her to say, 'We're not the same
candidate,'" he said.
Clinton's office did not respond to questions about the issue.
Creating space between her position and Obama's is a "smart move,"
said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist who
worked for the 1996 presidential re-election campaign of Hillary
Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton.
"The present administration is in a no-win situation with Russia,
with Syria and in the Middle East," Sheinkopf said before Clinton's
New York speech. "Making a distance from them can only help."
During her four-year tenure in the State Department, Clinton helped
lead the charge on imposing strong sanctions on Iran, which she
mentioned in her New York speech to a pro-Israel audience — including several Democratic lawmakers — at an American Jewish
Congress dinner honoring her.
[to top of second column]
In late January, Clinton sent a letter to Carl Levin, Democratic
chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, calling herself a
"longtime advocate for crippling sanctions against Iran," but urging
that Congress not impose new sanctions during negotiations over
Tehran's nuclear program.
She said that like Obama, she had no illusions about the ease or
likelihood of reaching a permanent deal with Iran following an
interim agreement reached under Kerry.
"Yet I have no doubt that this is the time to give our diplomacy the
space to work," a stance she reaffirmed on Wednesday.
Republicans have promised to make Clinton's State Department record
an issue if she runs for the White House, focusing on the 2012
attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in which
four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.
The Republican National Committee has condemned Clinton's handling
of the Benghazi assault, suggesting in a recent research note that
"Benghazi is still the defining moment of Clinton's tenure as
Secretary of State."
Some political analysts see her toughening rhetoric as more than a
campaign tactic, and fitting with her foreign policy statements
before joining the Obama administration. They said that could
broaden her appeal to voters if she chooses to run, a decision she
has said will not come until the end of this year.
Clinton, while a senator, voted in 2002 for a resolution authorizing
U.S. military action against Iraq, a position that hurt her with
liberal primary voters in her losing battle with Obama for the 2008
Democratic presidential nomination.
"Making a credible and forceful case for America's place in the
world — that's the kind of thing she's likely to say and continue to
say," said Josh Block, a former Clinton administration official and
now an executive at the Israel Project in Washington. "Those are
messages that will resonate with Democrats and independents, as well
as some Republicans."
(Editing by Peter Cooney and Douglas Royalty)
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