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POLITICS: PennAve

Hillary Clinton distances herself from President Obama's foreign policy

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Politics,Hillary Clinton,2016 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Rebecca Berg,Secretary of State,Foreign Policy

Hillary Clinton is stepping away from President Obama on foreign policy.

The likely Democratic presidential candidate is distancing herself more sharply than ever before from some important facets of President Obama's foreign policy that evolved under her watch as secretary of state.

That includes calling the administration's lack of engagement in Syria a "failure" and questioning Obama's guiding doctrine.

In an interview with the Atlantic magazine published Sunday, Clinton diverged notably from her public record of support for decisions made by the White House during her tenure, as she acknowledged key areas of disagreement between her and President Obama.

Indeed, Clinton outright dismissed President Obama's guiding doctrine on foreign policy, characterized repeatedly in media reports as, "Don't do stupid stuff," rejecting that it could even be considered an "organizing principle."

“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle," Clinton said.

But, she qualified, "I think that that's a political message. It’s not [Obama's] worldview."

"I think he was trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy," Clinton said, adding that she considers Obama "incredibly smart" and "thoughtful."

Still, Clinton was willing to offer up her own organizing principle: "Peace, progress, and prosperity."

Clinton also used strikingly harsh language — including the word "failure" — to assess the administration's efforts to prevent the growth of ISIS, the jihadist group with roots in Syria which is now driving conflict, and threatening genocide, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The United States has responded within the past week with airstrikes and relief drops. But, Clinton said, the current situation might have been prevented had the U.S. aided groups fighting the oppressive government led by President Bashar Assad, a position Obama opposed.

"I know that the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled," Clinton said.

Clinton's remarks hint at a political conundrum she would face should she run for president. While her tenure as secretary of state would be central to her claim to the presidency, Clinton will also need to tactfully create separation between her individual role and the administration for which she worked, which has been dogged by low approval ratings and could be a drag on her bid.

Clinton is currently wrapping up a nationwide tour to promote her memoir, Hard Choices, which detailed her tenure as secretary of state. She plans to spend the last three weeks of August in the Hamptons with former President Clinton.

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Author:

Rebecca Berg

Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner

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