Republicans have accused former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of riding Barack Obama’s political coattails in her campaign for the Democratic nomination, but Clinton isn’t complaining.
After all, she has repeatedly voiced her support for Obama’s achievements as president, and it only makes sense to tap into the voting bloc that elected Obama twice and continues to support him in large numbers. But Clinton’s approach to the presidency would be completely different than that of her 2008 challenger.
“I’m going to defend Dodd-Frank and I’m going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street, taking on the financial industry and getting results,” she said in January.
Clinton also stood up for President Obama’s work on the Affordable Care Act, calling it “one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, of the Democratic Party, and our country.”
But the question remains: Would Clinton actually serve “Obama’s third term” as president? Aside from some apparent tension between Clinton and Obama spilling over from the 2008 primary — e-mails revealed that Clinton was so disconnected from Obama’s inner circle that she once said “I heard on the radio that there is a Cabinet mtg this am. Is there? Can I go?” — evidence suggests this would not be the case. Here are five reasons why President Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be serving President Obama’s third term.
- Foreign policy. President Obama has received his fair share of criticism for the rise of American militarism under his watch, but he has tended to exert caution much more often than Clinton would have. In their book HRC, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parne recount former defense secretary Robert Gates said Hillary “believed in all forms of American power, including force.” One of the earliest differences between Clinton and Obama came in 2009, when Clinton backed Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s proposal to send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan to keep the Taliban in check. Obama, who later fired McChrystal, compromised and agreed to send 30,000 with a condition: the troops would be rolled back starting in 2011. Clinton still disagreed. When North Korea torpedoed and sank a South Korean Navy corvette in 2010, the U.S. planned to respond with a show of force by sending an aircraft carrier to the waters off the coast of North Korea. But when Pacific Commander Robert Willard suggested a riskier move — sending the aircraft carrier between North Korea and China — Clinton wholeheartedly agreed, according to the New York Times, telling her aides that the U.S. should “run it up the gut!” President Obama ultimately rejected the move. In 2011, Clinton’s support of intervention in Libya — specifically, ousting then-leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi — was the tipping point in a “51-49” decision, convincing a hesitant Obama to approve the move, according to Gates. After Qaddafi’s death, Clinton proudly proclaimed, “We came, we saw, he died.”Following Russia’s bizarre annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, Obama was hesitant to send weapons to Ukraine in the fight against pro-Russian rebels out of fear that it could spark a proxy war with Russia. Again, Clinton called for a more aggressive response.“I have been, I remain convinced that we need a concerted effort to really up the costs on Russia and in particular on Putin. I think we have not done enough,” Clinton said in September of 2015. “I am in the category of people who wanted us to do more in response to the annexation of Crimea and the continuing destabilization of Ukraine.”
- Israel. Clinton has taken a much more pro-Israel stance than Obama has over the course of his presidency. In 2009, Clinton disagreed with Obama when he pushed to halt the construction of Israeli settlements in disputed areas, noting in her book that she “was worried that we would be locking ourselves into a confrontation we didn’t need.” Any doubts surrounding Clinton’s support for Israel, despite its occupation of Palestinian territory, were squashed following her speech to AIPAC in March. Though Israel hasn’t slowed construction of controversial settlements in the West Bank, Clinton aggressively supported President Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. “Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families,” she said during the speech.Meanwhile, Obama has had a shaky relationship with Netanyahu. The White House declined a meeting between the two leaders when Netanyahu visited the United States Congress in 2015 to speak against Obama’s Iran deal. Netanyahu also turned down a proposed meeting with Obama in March.
- Deportations. President Obama’s executive actions on immigration have been overshadowed by his administration’s raids on immigrant families. The administration has ignored criticism over the raids, which have split up families and instilled fear in children whose parents have been hesitant to even send their children to school. The Obama administration just announced plans for a new wave of raids targeting Central American adults and children who entered the country illegally. Clinton responded to the news by ramping up criticism of the raids. “I am concerned about recent news reports, and believe we should not be taking kids and families from their homes in the middle of the night,” Clinton said. “Large scale raids are not productive and do not reflect who we are as a country.”
- Relationships with world leaders. Clinton’s experience as Secretary of State sets her apart from Obama when he first came into office. Considering the relationships, she built during her years as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, she would have a huge head start on building connections during her presidency. World leaders such as Tony Blair, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Salam Fayyad praised Clinton in a 2012 tribute video before she concluded her time as Secretary of State, a clear reflection of her presence on the international stage with the 2016 election looming. In March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she valued Clinton’s political experience and her history of work on women’s rights. “Whenever I had the chance to work together with Hillary Clinton, it was a great pleasure.” Just as Clinton and Obama differ on approaches to military action, these same differences are reflected in their respective approaches to working with foreign leaders. Clinton is more aggressive towards adversaries such as Russia and Iran. She called for a stronger response to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the crisis in Ukraine and she warned Iran that she would take military action if it did not follow the nuclear deal.
- Eight years’ difference. Clinton will continue to stand with Obama during the election season, but if she becomes president, expect her to pave her own path. At times, her presidency might even be reminiscent of her husband’s — Clinton announced on Sunday that she would employ Bill as some type of “economy czar.” Regardless of how Hillary compares to Obama or Bill in 2016, if elected president she will govern a country transformed culturally and politically by Barack Obama’s historic presidency, and by global trends such as the Arab Spring, widespread shifts towards nativism in Europe, and the continued War on Terror. No matter what happens next, the stage is already set: Clinton would president over a changed world.
Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addresses the crowd during a campaign rally in the Hall of Fame Pavilion at Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., May 10, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II