Hillary Clinton played the role of a loyal soldier when she was Secretary of State, but now that she is not working for the administration and now that she is gearing up for a presidential run, she is harshly criticizing President Obama’s foreign policy, promising to be more forceful, proactive, and hawkish. I wonder how the left wing of the Democratic party will take this.
For the 19 months since Hillary Rodham Clinton departed as President Obama’s secretary of state, she and Mr. Obama, and their respective aides, have labored to preserve a veneer of unity over how they worked together and how they view the world.
On Sunday, that veneer shattered — the victim of Mrs. Clinton’s remarkably blunt interview with the Atlantic correspondent, Jeffrey Goldberg, in which she criticized not just Mr. Obama’s refusal to aid the rebels in Syria but his shorthand description of his entire foreign policy.
“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Mrs. Clinton said, referring to the line that Mr. Obama has used with aides and reporters to describe his reluctance to inject the United States into messy foreign conflicts.
Mrs. Clinton said she assumed the line was more a “political message” for a war-weary American public than his actual worldview — an interpretation that makes her words even more stinging, since “don’t do stupid stuff” was in fact the animating principle for the new foreign policy blueprint that Mr. Obama laid out at West Point in May.
That Mrs. Clinton is more hawkish than Mr. Obama is no surprise to anyone who watched a Democratic primary debate in 2008. Her policy differences with the president are well-documented: She favored supplying arms to moderate Syrian rebels, leaving behind a larger residual force in Iraq, and waiting longer before pulling American support for Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak during the historic protests in Cairo.
What has changed is her readiness to surface those differences and put them in the context of a different worldview. Even her memoir, “Hard Choices,” which she was promoting in her interview with Mr. Goldberg, soft-pedaled the gaps and painted a portrait of her and Mr. Obama in lock step in rebuilding America’s tattered image abroad.
Now, though, Mrs. Clinton is suggesting that she and the president hold fundamentally different views of American power: his view cautious, inward-looking, suffused with a sense of limits; hers muscular, optimistic, unabashedly old-fashioned.