In one sense, Hillary Clinton’s announcement — such as it was — has not changed the dynamics of the 2016 race. Earlier in the day, Republicans continued attacking Clinton as they have for weeks and months, since the only surprise behind her announcement was how poorly it was conceived. On CBS’ Face the Nation, Rand Paul went after Hillary’s supposed strength in foreign policy and national security, telling Bob Schieffer that when the 3 AM phone call came repeatedly on Benghazi, Hillary never answered it:
SCHIEFFER: Hillary Clinton is getting ready to announce, maybe within the hour or so.
What are her credentials for being president? We know the positions she has had, but she has also been involved in a couple of controversies.
PAUL: I think precisely what some will say is her strength is actually her weakness.
Her tenure as secretary of state, there is one thing that people want as a commander in chief. They want someone who will defend the country, and when her 3:00 a.m. moment came, when she was asked to defend Benghazi, not just that night but, for nine months leading up to Benghazi, they were begging and pleading for more security. And I think the fact that she didn’t provide that security will go to the heart of the matter of whether or not we should have her as commander in chief.
The very next question Schieffer posed related to Hillary’s ability to “make a strong appeal to women.” Paul attacked that strength as well:
PAUL: I think the problem will be for her with that line is, is that she has taken money from countries that abuse the rights of women.
In Saudi Arabia, a woman was raped by seven men. The woman was then publicly whipped. And then she was arrested for being in a car with an unmarried man. I think we should be boycotting that activity, not encouraging it. And it looks really bad for the case of defending women’s rights if you are accepting money — she accepted money from Brunei also, where they stone women to death for adultery.
I doubt they stone men, because women aren’t allowed to make accusations. Women aren’t on the juries. Women don’t vote. And so it is going to be hard for her to say she is for women’s right, when she is accepting money from sort of Stone Age sort of regimes that really abuse the rights of women.
These are effective attacks, and don’t think that they will be limited to Paul. Marco Rubio may spend more time at first attacking Barack Obama’s foreign policy — especially on Cuba — but he’ll bring it home by making sure everyone knows that Hillary Clinton was the architect of that policy. While the media goes gaga over Hillary’s music video for the remake of “Chevy Van,” more and more Republicans will demand answers to these issues, and eventually Hillary will have to emerge to face them.
It’s possible to overplay the Saudi Arabia card, too, and Paul nearly fell into that trap. On Meet the Press, Paul made the identical argument and used the identical anecdote to illustrate it. The interviewer this time asked a pertinent follow-up question after Paul suggested a “boycott” of Saudi Arabia, but Paul neatly sidestepped it:
NBC: So you want a boycott. So if you’re president [snaps finger] ‘Saudi Arabia — you’re no longer an ally. You’re done.’
PAUL: Well, I think that’s different from what I’m saying. I’m talking about — you remember with South Africa. You know, there was much of it that was a voluntary boycott, saying, ‘You know what? Personally, I’m going to try to tell my university not to invest in this country,’ because of what they [Saudi Arabia] do to women. And see, I think — I would expect Hillary Clinton, if she believes in women’s rights, she should be calling for a boycott of Saudi Arabia. Instead, she’s accepting tens of millions of dollars, and I think it looks unseemly, and there’s going to be some explaining to do.
This is, of course, one of the ironies on college campuses these days, too. Activists have demanded divestment from Israel on the basis of human rights, a movement that our friend William Jacobson has documented in detail at Legal Insurrection. However, Israel still remains the only nation in the region that guarantees full rights for women and minorities, including suffrage and representation, within its borders. No one’s starting a BDS movement with Saudi Arabia as its target, least of all Hillary Clinton and her family foundation. When it counts, Hillary took money from oppressors — not for reasons of national security, which is eminently defensible considering the region, but for her own political benefit.