The old joke goes: So what do you think? Answer: What do you want me to think? That was a bit of Mitt Romney’s problem in 2012 and now it is Hillary Clinton’s. First, according to the former secretary of state, Vladimir Putin was akin to Hitler. After that kicked up some dust, she declared, “I just want everybody to have a little historic perspective. I am not making a comparison, certainly. But I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before.” Got that?
This is Hillary Clinton’s dilemma: Whenever she attempts to separate herself from President Obama, in this case sounding more in touch with reality about Russia than he does, the party’s left wing squawks and jerks her back. That problem may extend beyond foreign policy to Obamacare and economic policy. The left has long suspected she is not “one of them,” while the country at large is recoiling against Obama. She will be pulled in two diametrically opposed directions. The result may be a further hardening of the view that she is a politician without real convictions.
Hillary Clinton is already being slammed by Republicans for her role as the mother of “Russian reset,” but they should not underestimate the Clintons’ slipperiness. Hillary Clinton can be tough on Russia in the general election, more or less silent now and talk anti-war lingo with her base. Mere mortal politicians would be bashed for such opportunism, but if nothing else, Hillary Clinton has learned to be all things to all people. Fortunately for Republicans, she is much less adept at doing so that her husband; her deliberate style telegraphs her motives.
The Russian issue, like all foreign policy matters, will put a premium on foreign policy adeptness for 2016 GOP contenders. At the Conservative Political Action Conference Carly Fiorina, the new chairman of the American Conservative Union Foundation that hosts the event, conceded in a media briefing that up to now, generally speaking, people haven’t thought foreign policy “mattered.” However, she now she said, “It is becoming more important as people see the world becoming a more dangerous place. Today they see American strength makes a difference in the world.” The Republican nominee who will go up against Clinton in 2016 will need to embrace that view and translate it into concrete positions on foreign policy issues. At least they’ll have a juicy target in the person of Obama’s first secretary of state.