August 12, 2014 The rap against Hillary Clinton is that she’s a cynical and conniving public figure who hardly takes a breath without calculating the political advantage of a sigh. That caricature fueled coverage of Clinton’s public break from President Obama on global affairs. “The benefits to Clinton are clear,” wrote Juliet Eilperin, channeling conventional wisdom for The Washington Post.
But I’m not so sure the former secretary of State has helped herself politically. It may be that we’ve just witnessed a rare and risky act of authenticity.
To review, Clinton told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic that Obama failed in Syria by refusing to back rebel forces, as she had advised. Clinton also dismissed Obama’s emphasis on avoiding mistakes overseas that might lead to military confrontation—a philosophy he privately labels, “Don’t do stupid shit.” Echoing the president’s critics, she told Goldberg, “Great nations need organizing principles—and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
On one level, this is a sensible move for a likely 2016 presidential candidate. Her former boss’s job-approval rating hovers meekly around 40 percent, and an even smaller percentage of Americans appreciate the way he’s handled the spate of global crises.
“It’s in her political interest to begin to distance herself from an unpopular president and to drive home the fact that she’s risk-ready while Obama’s risk-adverse,” Aaron David Miller, vice president for new initiatives at the Wilson Center, told Eilperin.