The contrast Clinton drew there was a reference to Obama’s famous interview that aired the morning before the Islamic State massacre in Paris last month when he assured that the group had been “contained.” Obama has spent the last month assuring Americans that he intends to “defeat” them.
But Clinton’s distancing operation did not end there. She also emphasized in the debate, as she has done many times in recent months, that she urged the president to support moderate rebels in Syria in 2012, when she was in her last year as secretary of state. Obama has bristled at the suggestion that he could have done more to support those opposition figures then, but eventually he did authorize a covert CIA program and an overt Pentagon program to train and equip such rebels — as Clinton had recommended.
Clinton’s final stiletto for Obama came in a colloquy with Martin O’Malley, the former Democratic governor of Maryland. In response to O’Malley’s criticism that too much foreign policy thinking these days is mired in the cold war, Clinton disagreed. She said that “finally” the U.S. was “where we need to be” in terms of the strategy to defeat the Islamic State, referencing a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a political transition in Syria that passed this week.