WASHINGTON, D.C. – What would US foreign policy look if Hillary Clinton, the yet-to-be-announced 2016 presidential candidate and most travelled Secretary of State in history, were elected commander and chief? Whether in favor or against the politics of former Secretary Clinton, internationally oriented communities are asking how and where the possible candidate will change perceptions and policies of the US abroad if elected.
This hypothetical question may seem premature. However, without even announcing candidacy the Ready for Hillary Super PAC has already fundraised $1.25 million dollars (a small amount in the context of modern campaign finance, but massive for a person who isn’t officially running 3 years from now).
If Clinton is on the 2016 ticket, the attention of many voters will shift their perspective from a woman president, to returning to a global president. How would the four most recent years of her career, operating outside the sphere of domestic policy, shape her presidency? Reviewing her successes and failures during her time in the state department and comparing past presidents is a good place to start.
Clinton is a longstanding proponent of US engagement in international organizations. Within 4 years serving as Secretary of State she traveled to 112 countries and to China 7 times. She is revered for her personal engagement with communities around the world in town-hall style meetings, acknowledging the needs to connect directly with global leaders. Creating diplomatic ties with Burma, the liberation of Libya, establishing the coalition against Iran, are a few items on her foreign policy résumé – but most importantly she has created personal relationships across the world.
While George W. Bush’s foreign policy intentionally steered away from international organizations, Hillary Clinton’s face-to-face travels have earned her connections that she can use to create global coalitions. While Obama may intend to do just that, he appears to have no personal connections with global leaders. The last president to have this kind of experience and wherewithal would oddly enough be George H.W. Bush, who had a long career in politics and 8 years as vice president before his presidency.
In specific reference to foreign affairs issues, Clinton has a history of fighting against budget cuts for foreign aid, consistently pointing out the jarring misconception that ‘20% of the US budget goes to foreign aid’ – when, in fact, it is less than 1%. With the equivalent of 87 days on an airplane, Clinton left a legacy of 956,733 miles worth of face-to-face diplomacy and networking.
Clinton expressed her regret that as Secretary of State she did not do more for the peace process in the Middle East. Time Magazine suggests that this omission during her time at the State Department may be a major incentive for Clinton to seek the presidency. Should we infer from this ‘regret’ that an aspect of a 2016 Clinton Administration would be significant effort to help the Middle East? Or is it cause for concern that the omission would repeat itself?
A recent poll showed that the state of Georgia would be well within Clinton’s reach, were she to run in 2016 – a stat that was as inspiring for her supporters, as it was worrisome for her opponents. This month the Republican National Convention released an ad attacking CNN and NBC for financing documentaries about Clinton’s career.
Ironically, her knowledge and expertise in the field may play against her, as opposing strategists would most likely use her foreign affairs expertise to distance her from domestic policy, although the First Lady and US Senator won’t have trouble finding a rebuttal for that critique. What is clear is that, if elected, the US will have a network of powerful personal connections around the world that it has not had in some time.
– Davy Gardner