Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton embarked on a cable news blitz on Tuesday night which should dispel what remains of the notion that she is only engaged in a publicity tour for a book rather than a nascent presidential campaign. In those appearances, however, Clinton revealed her thinking on a variety of issues which indicate that she is well to the right of her party on a series of key issues.
During a town hall on CNN on Tuesday, Clinton was asked about a recent surge of unaccompanied minors rushing over the Mexican border. When asked what the United States should do about this predicament, Clinton endorsed deportation.
“They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns whether all of them should be sent back,” Clinton said. “But I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families.”
“We have so to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay,” she continued. “So, we don’t want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”
When the issue of marijuana use, both medical and recreational, was raised, Clinton hedged. She said that she does not believe “we’ve done enough research yet” on the benefits of medical marijuana and, while she endorsed a federalist approach to the recreational question, also expressed concerns about full legalization. “We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is,” she said.
On foreign policy, Clinton did nothing to counter the prevailing notion on the left that she is far more hawkish than President Barack Obama. “I don’t think we should be retreating from the world,” Clinton said, in an implicit rebuke of the Obama administration’s unstated doctrine of global retrenchment.
She distanced herself from the present administration on Syria, noting that the White House should have armed the Syrian rebels “you know, two plus years ago.”
To the likely dismay of The New York Times editorial board, which praised the administration’s outreach to Iran on Tuesday, Clinton expressed doubts in the utility of a partnership with the Islamic Republic. “I am not prepared to say that we go in with Iran right now, until we have a better idea what we’re getting ourselves into,” Clinton said.
“What they (Iran) want to do in Baghdad is basically to envelop (Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki) in the Iranian embrace, maybe even use their own troops in Iraq, as they did in Syria. That is a very difficult position to put the United States in.”
Finally, on the persistent issue of the Benghazi attacks, Clinton legitimized a congressional select committee investigation by conceding that there are several unanswered questions about that event. “There are answers, not all of them, not enough, frankly,” Clinton said. “I’m still looking for answers, because it was a confusing and difficult time.”
The former secretary of state added that “there’s a lot we don’t know” about the nature of the attack, who participated, and what their motivation was.
In a subsequent appearance on Fox News on Tuesday, Clinton answered a series of hard questions about the Benghazi attack, her role that night, and how members of Obama’s administration responded. Not once did she bristle over the nature of her interrogation, nor did she suggest, as she has in the past, that Fox hosts’ lines of questioning were motivated by partisanship.
Similarly, when asked if she agreed with the president that this and other scandals, like that involving the IRS’s alleged targeting of conservative groups with undue scrutiny, were “phony,” Clinton appeared to suggest that she did not.
“Anytime the IRS is involved, for many people, it’s a real scandal,” she conceded.
On the NSA’s domestic surveillance techniques, Clinton defended, albeit obliquely, the practice of the collection of bulk metadata without a warrant. Though she did endorse “changes” to that practice in order to comport with the protections in the Fourth Amendment.
Only on the issue of gun control did Clinton stake out a rhetorical position which could be interpreted as to the left left of the present administration.
“We cannot let a minority of people — and that’s what it is, it is a minority of people — hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people,” Clinton said on CNN of the expanded background checks which failed to pass the House or the Senate in 2013. “We’re going to have to do a better job protecting the vast majority of our citizens, including our children, from that very, very, very small group that is unfortunately prone to violence, and now with automatic weapons can wreak so much more violence than they ever could have before.”
Conservative groups will be perfectly justified when they decry the incivility of characterizing gun rights advocates as terrorists and highlight Clinton’s inexplicable insistence that the federal government must do something about the public’s access to “automatic weapons.” Liberal voters, however, will be comforted by Clinton’s apparent zeal for stricter gun laws.
In a post-game analysis of Clinton’s appearance on CNN, former White House advisor and current Crossfire co-host Van Jones expressed concerns that Clinton may be alienating Obama Democrats with her center-left approach to a variety of pressing policy issues. These performances certainly did nothing to reassure progressives like MSNBC host Krystal Ball who Tuesday called Clinton the Democratic Party’s Mitt Romney; “tone-deaf” and “unrelatable” as she is.
In concert with a NBC/WSJ poll released on Tuesday which showed Clinton has fallen back to earth as she reenters the political fray, these appearances might give Clinton’s potential progressive challengers a reason to rethink their position on a 2016 bid.