Ironically and predictably, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have the same problem: They both agreed with President Obama’s foreign policy, which is now circling the drain.
Huffington Post captures the Rand Paul quandary:
The libertarian-leaning Republican, a potential 2016 presidential contender, has long been skeptical of entangling the U.S. in foreign affairs. He slammed the administration’s decision to intervene in Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya. He argued against the use of force in Bashar Assad’s Syria. He even said he couldn’t support committing additional troops to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities in Iraq. All of which has made Paul a prime target for members of his own party who argue that America cannot afford to isolate itself at a time of global turmoil.
Paul can call himself a conservative or a Reaganite or whatever he pleases, but as he discovered with aid to Israel, his libertarian impulses sent him running into a brick wall. It’s not only the GOP that is excoriating Obama’s foreign policy, but also Democrats and the mainstream media. Is Paul the last defender of Obamaism? So far, Paul has not done a 180 on all his positions, rightly fearing that he will lose the support of those who carried the torches and pitchforks for his father, Ron Paul. So for now, he’s mum but getting the worst press of his political career (at least since he appeared to criticize the Civil Rights Act for trampling on property rights).
Clinton seems to be under no such compunction to stick with her former statements and positions. Now she claims to have been a champion of action in Syria. The conservative group America Rising joined the myriad other Clinton critics scouring her record for inconsistencies. It isn’t hard. In a 2012 interview, she was singing a different tune:
“What are we going to arm them with and against what? We’re not going to bring tanks over the borders of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan,” Clinton said.. .
“We know al Qaeda [leader Ayman al-] Zawahiri is supporting the opposition in Syria. Are we supporting al Qaeda in Syria? Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?” Clinton said. “If you’re a military planner or if you’re a secretary of state and you’re trying to figure out do you have the elements of an opposition that is actually viable, that we don’t see.”
It’s entirely plausible, as the White House now claims, that Clinton wasn’t all that forceful in lobbying the president for more action in Syria. She was, you recall, none too keen on backing opponents of the region’s aging despots in the early days of the Arab Spring. She clung to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before she and the president unceremoniously abandoned him. She sent then-Sen. John Kerry and his wife to butter up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, deemed him a reformer and refused for months to call for him to go. She wasn’t on the cutting edge of the regional uprisings, but rather like her boss happy to “engage” despots, be they in Damascus or Iran. Recall also that she said she thought the Syria problem could be resolved by pleading with the Russians to shut down their client Assad. She insisted on going to the United Nations Security Council three times, and was rebuffed each time. (That, to many of us at the time and certainly in retrospect, was just foolish.)
And when the president went up to the red line and then copped out, why didn’t she then — safely out of office — speak up in favor of her more supposedly more robust Syria instincts? To the contrary, in September 2013 Clinton supported the president’s cave on using force against Assad.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly threw her support to the administration’s efforts on Syria today, and said Syria’s surrendering its chemical weapons to international control would be an “important step.”
“Now, if the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles as was suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians, that would be an important step, but this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction, and Russia has to support the international community’s efforts sincerely or be held to account,” Clinton said in her first remarks endorsing the president’s plan.
This plan, of course, ensured that Assad would remain in power and the jihadis would continue to pour into Syria. So when exactly was Clinton in favor of strong action to oust Assad and squelch the jihadis — in secret between 2010 and 2012, and then not until her pre-campaign book tour?
Both Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton desperately need to be something they were not — critics of the ill-fated Obama foreign policy. They are stuck with their prior positions and comments, unless they want to come right out and acknowledge that they have no enduring convictions. If, however, the purpose is to shed the image of political opportunism and failed foreign policy judgment, that would be a problem.