Hillary Clinton's announcement video showcased several "everyday Americans," and evoked issues like economic security, education, and gay rights. But when Republican presidential hopefuls answered back, they made clear that they wanted to talk about something else — her foreign policy record.
In anticipation of Clinton's announcement this morning, Jeb Bush released a video in which he criticized the "Obama-Clinton foreign policy" — a popular phrase among GOP hopefuls — for having "damaged relationships with our allies and emboldened our enemies."
Ted Cruz chimed in this afternoon, saying Clinton has failed to make the world safer:
Scott Walker, too, argued that Clinton was responsible for Obama's foreign policy failures, and additionally accused her of having a "Washington knows best" mentality.
As Secretary of State @HillaryClinton was the architect of the failed foreign policy we’re seeing executed by President Obama today. -SKW
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) April 12, 2015
Clinton will have to respond to foreign policy criticisms from the left and right
In polls, foreign policy issues rarely rank among voters' top concerns. But the GOP sees opportunity in tying Clinton's service at State to chaotic headlines from the Middle East today — hoping to portray her as incompetent, and link her to issues where the Obama administration polls badly. Everyone from Ted Cruz to John Boehner has been saying lately that the "world is on fire."
Clinton will have to come up with a response to these GOP arguments — but she knows full well that the left isn't thrilled with some of her foreign policy views, either. Her vote for the Iraq War hurt her badly in the 2008 race, and there's little sign that she's become less hawkish since then.
The "bio" page on her new website gives us clues about how she'll try to split the difference. Overall, she emphasizes both diplomacy and strength — but not her advocacy of military interventions.
Rather than bragging that she was a main advocate of the 2009 Afghanistan troop surges or the 2011 Libya intervention, Clinton's site says that she helped bring Iran "to the negotiating table" by building a "coalition for tough new sanctions" on the country. It adds that she "brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that ended a war and protected Israel's security."
Note the similarity in what's emphasized there: toughness leading to diplomatic achievements and the avoidance of military conflict. That's a message Clinton hopes will appeal to both left-wing Democrats and swing voters who don't think Obama's foreign policy is going so wonderfully. We'll see whether it works.