Opinion: Columnists

Hillary Clinton senses the trend and moves toward a more muscular foreign policy

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Opinion,Noemie Emery,Columnists,Hillary Clinton,Bill Clinton,2016 Elections,Foreign Policy

If a reliable weather vane exists today in American politics, it is likely to be Mrs. Bill Clinton, now making her last bid to become the first female president and desperately eager to do nothing whatsoever to turn voters off.

If there was ever a human barometer keenly attuned to middle America, it is husband Bill, a creature created by God to sense and adjust to present and oncoming changes in weather.

So when Hillary Clinton chose Sunday morning to lower the boom on President Obama and what is too kindly described as his "doctrine," it can mean only one thing: The shrewdest political mind in the country right now has concluded the current incumbent is dead in the water, will go down in the books as the worst failure ever, that war weariness will soon be eclipsed by disgust at his failures and that the only hope for a Democrat who hopes to survive or succeed him is to break with him, as hard and as fast she can.

Sounding more like her friend Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., than her former employer, she proceeded to rip Obama a new one, blasting him for not having tried to get in with the Syrian rebels, leaving a "vacuum which the jihadists have … filled." She slapped around Hamas, threw her arms hard around Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel and said "don’t do stupid stuff" isn’t a doctrine or statement of principle, and may even be stupid itself. There was no word (as of yet) about the status of forces agreement in Iraq that never materialized, but this may come later.

It’s opportunistic, but this is exactly why it’s important. She would never have said this if she thought it would hurt her, which means that war weariness, which grabbed us six years ago, may be now a bit weary itself.

In fact, this weariness was wearing off even before this string of disasters proved just how fragile it was. In March, Robert Kagan wrote in the Washington Post that while Obama was giving the country what it said that it wanted — withdrawal, retreat and exiting wars before they were over. Before the Iraqi collapse and Ukrainian crisis, Obama’s approval ratings stood at 36 percent, below his ratings even on health care and on a par with George W. Bush’s at the very worst phase of the war.

Kagan suggests it’s because Obama’s reductionist preference is fundamentally at odds with the national character, which, if it tires of wars that end inconclusively, insists on a moral, leadership role. It loved the two Roosevelts, whose middle names were "World Leadership." It loved Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy, American presidents who addressed the Berliners as if they were German citizens. Only Franklin Roosevelt led the nation in war but all prepared for it and extended protection to various allies. Obama does not, and this has left them conflicted: "They may want what Obama so far has been giving them," Kagan writes. "But they’re not proud of it, and they’re not grateful to him for giving them what they want."

Now that they know what this cost, they’re less grateful than ever, especially as the price to prevent it was small. Jeffrey Goldberg writes that in 2013, Bill Clinton told McCain that Obama should do more to help the Syrian rebels and that a president who relied too much on the polls was a "fool." Doubtless the Clintons believe what they say, but they would have kept it to themselves had they thought it unhelpful. That they think it safe to advance a more muscular outlook may be the very best portent of all.

Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.
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