But the speeches are also studded with passages that would make Bernie Sanders supporters cringe. She favors embedding U.S. troops with the Iraqi army. She favors an expanded target set in the air war. She has gone where no Republican has ventured in criticizing the Saudis, who, she told the Council on Foreign Relations, “need to stop their citizens from directly funding extremist organizations, as well as the schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path to radicalization.”
And she’s been tough on Iran too. “There will be consequences for even small violations” to the nuclear deal, she told a Brookings Institution audience. “Our approach must be distrust and verify.” Indeed, she slipped and said she wouldn’t rule out a “nuclear” response if Iran violated the deal. Justice Stephen Breyer, sitting in the audience, corrected her: “a military response,” he suggested, using the appropriate term of art; Clinton quickly redacted herself.
This is not to say that Clinton has been running a fabulous campaign. In some ways, she’s been as cowardly on domestic policy as she’s been bold on national defense, caving to her party’s special interests on trade, education and government reform. And she did make some serious foreign policy mistakes as Secretary of State, including her support for regime change in Libya. But given the dovish cast of her party, Clinton’s persistent, and intelligent, speeches on national security have been the equivalent of her husband’s Sister Souljah moment in 1992—a direct challenge to the party’s base. And the Republicans, who seem to think that merely mentioning Clinton’s name is enough to discredit any policy she favors, may be in for a general-election surprise.