Jane Harman, a former Democratic member of the House of Representatives, is president and chief executive of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The so-called “zingers” about Donald Trump were the least effective part of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy speech Thursday — and, sadly, just about all the media covered. Actually, this was Clinton’s most powerful speech ever, both in tone and content.
Those who called this a campaign speech and not substantive apparently missed the sections on why strong alliances matter, what to do about Syria, how to lead with America’s moral values, and why creating a vacuum “will either cause chaos, or other countries will rush in to fill the void.” There was lots of beef to support all these points.
For much of the speech, Clinton spoke quietly yet firmly. And she sketched a narrative of America’s role in the world that has been sorely missing.
Clinton presented two different visions of America’s role: one angry, afraid and calling us weak — the other confident, recognizing the complexity of navigating a world in crisis.
Maybe I’m old-school, but I think reaching solutions that everyone can get behind, measuring and dealing with leaders with whom we share some but not all views, sending young people into harm’s way only as a last resort, and respecting the diversity of our people and those who serve are crucial requirements for a commander in chief. As one who personally witnessed Clinton’s iconic speech in Beijing in 1995, there is experience behind these positions.
And, in a fascinating factoid, the assertion that the likely Republican nominee took out full-page ads in 1987 during the Reagan presidency saying America lacked a backbone is worth pondering.
Bring on a debate about who is better equipped to lead us into the future.
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