CHICAGO — Islamic State militants are stronger and better-funded than al-Qaeda and could pose a direct threat to the United States and other Western nations if their advance is not stopped, former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.
“It’s a serious threat because this is the best-funded, most professional, expansionist jihadist military force that we have ever seen,” Clinton told the Economic Club of Chicago. “This is far more advanced and far richer than al-Qaeda ever was.”
The potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate was in her home town for a mix of business and politics. She combined a paid speech to medical-device manufacturers with a campaign appearance for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and an evening question-and-
answer session with the Economic Club.
Democratic worries about Quinn’s tight race with Republican challenger Bruce Rauner have also sent President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to the state over the past week.
The president was right to launch a political and military offensive against the militants who have seized vast areas of Iraq and Syria and beheaded American and British hostages, Clinton said. The group “will attempt to launch attacks against Western targets if it has the ability to do so,” she added.
She predicted “some kind of legislative action” when Congress returns after the November election. Clinton, whose Senate vote in favor of military action in Iraq haunted her 2008 presidential campaign, did not call for an up-or-down congressional vote on what Obama has said is likely to be a long military campaign against the militants.
Clinton covered a range of topics from economic development to early-childhood education at the Economic Club event, where she was questioned by Chicago billionaire venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker. The Hyatt hotel heir is a longtime Democratic supporter and was national co-chairman of Clinton’s losing 2008 campaign.
Pritzker appeared to be leading up to the presidential question as the evening ended but drew laughs when he instead asked, “Cubs or Sox?”
For her part, Clinton joked that she had turned down Obama twice before agreeing to his offer to become secretary of state and had also twice turned down former president Bill Clinton’s marriage offer.
“I have a history with charismatic, attractive men,” Clinton said to laughter. “They just wear me out.”
Earlier Wednesday, she skirted the issue of whether she would oppose efforts to repeal a tax on medical devices under the Affordable Care Act.
A declared supporter of the law, she said she was “well aware” that the group she was addressing, the Advanced Medical Technologies Association, is seeking repeal, but she added that she did “not know what the right answer is.”
“I think you have an argument to make,” Clinton told the medical- device group. “I think it has to be made within the context of the larger set of issues that have been raised by the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”
“I think we have to look to see what are the pluses and the minuses that are embodied in a decision about either to remove, or alter, or continue this particular piece of the Affordable Care Act,” Clinton said.
The tax is considered key to funding the signature Obama administration’s health-care initiative.
Clinton’s overall message on the economy was sunny.
“We are on the cusp of another great economic era,” she told the medical conference.
AdvaMed conference spokeswoman Lauren Belisle declined to comment on what Clinton was paid for the appearance. Clinton’s office did not immediately respond to the same question.