Clinton’s Foreign Policy Experience

Despite all her whining that the press is biased toward Obama, Hillary Clinton has actually been the beneficiary of favorable media coverage. During 2007 they played along with her claims of being the inevitable candidate, and didn’t cease doing so until her inevitability claims were shattered by losing. Although Clinton has far less actual experience than Obama they also repeat her claims of being the more experienced candidate. Occasionally a journalist will actually take a look at Clinton’s claims on experience, as the Chicago Tribune did today. They begin by quoting one member of the Clinton administration who is now advising Obama:

“She was never asked to do the heavy lifting” when meeting with foreign leaders, said Susan Rice, who was an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration and is now advising Obama. “She wasn’t asked to move the mountain or deliver a harsh message or a veiled threat. It was all gentle prodding or constructive reinforcement. And it would not have been appropriate for her to do the heavy lifting.”

The article next looks at some specific claims which Clinton has made. They mention that she “cited ‘standing up’ to the Chinese government on women’s rights and a one-day visit she made to Bosnia following the Dayton peace accords.” In other words she made a speech. She claims that is meaningless that Obama made a controversial speech against the war when running for the Senate, but believes she was courageous for making a speech in China, when she had nothing at stake. The Chinese were hardly going to arrest the First Lady of a visiting country as a dissident. Susan Rice also questions whether this makes her qualified to answer the phone at 3 a.m. “How does going to Beijing and giving a speech show crisis management? There was no crisis. And there was nothing to manage.”

Clinton claimed to have had a role in the negotiations in Northern Ireland.

But Tim Pat Coogan, an Irish historian who has written extensively on the conflict in Northern Ireland, said the first lady’s visits were not decisive in the negotiating breakthroughs in Northern Ireland.

“It was a nice thing to see her there, with the women’s groups. It helped, I suppose,” Coogan said. “But it was ancillary to the main thing. It was part of the stage effects, the optics.

“There were all kinds of peace movements, women’s movements throughout the ‘Troubles.’ But it was more about the clout of Bill Clinton,” added Coogan, who said Clinton administration decisions to grant visas to leaders of the Irish Republican Army’s political wing and appoint a U.S. negotiator were the keys to changing the political climate.

Clinton has also exaggerated the significance of her Macedonia visit:

In 1999, Clinton visited Albanian refugee camps in Macedonia during the NATO bombing campaign to force Slobodan Milosevic’s troops out of Kosovo. Macedonia had sealed its borders in an attempt to stop the arrival of refugees but, under Western pressure, reopened them the day before Clinton visited the camps.

A former Clinton administration official sympathetic to her candidacy said her presence “played a very important role in helping to shore up support for the Kosovars.”

But Ivo Daalder, a former Clinton NSC official with responsibility for the Balkans and author of a history of the Kosovo conflict, said the border opening had nothing to do with her negotiating skills.

“It was her coming that helped. But she had absolutely no role in the dirty work of negotiations,” said Daalder, an Obama supporter. “This had nothing to do with her competence.”

Congressional Quarterly has also questioned Clinton’s claims regarding experience.  The New York Times had a similar review in December, noting that she did not even have security clearance.

Despite Clinton’s claims of being more experienced, Obama has more years of legislative experience than Clinton. Obama’s legal experience is also more significant. While Clinton was a corporate lawyer,  remaining quiet on Wal-Mart’s board as they fought unions, Obama was teaching Constitutional law. This likely has a bearing on Obama’s positions on  separation of church and state and the differences in their views on presidential power and executive privilege. Obama’s experience as a community organizer helps explain the differences in their view of government, with Obama taking less of a top-down approach than Clinton, and influences his political strategy, allowing him to beat the supposedly all powerful Clinton machine.


  1. 1
    makatak says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article! I have been actively engaged with colleagues and friends about these very items. It is rewarding to see the specific factual details of my arguments. So again, my thanks.

    Recently Senator Clinton stated that Senator McCain brings a “lifetime” of experience, she brings “35 years” of experience, and Senator Obama brings a “speech from 2002.” How, exactly, does the “lifetime” and the “35 years” become validation or qualification of experience for two of the candidates and the “20+ years” of Senator Obama become a “speech”? If two of the three candidates count experience over the course of their “working years” that began upon successful completion of a collegiate career, why then does the same not apply to Mr. Obama? If “experience” begins upon arriving in Washington, would it then be correct to say that Senator McCain’s military service is not qualified experience because it occurred before Washington? Or, further, that Senator Clinton’s work with the Children’s Defense Fund (18 months or so) and the like is not qualified experience because it occurred before Washington?

    A rule that won’t measure but one way won’t due to build by. This was something my grandfather taught his children and grandchildren. This was to teach us the value of principle, integrity, and fairness. The “experience” that both Senators Clinton and McCain hold up for voters to admire as the foundation for being president of the United States is significantly diminished if “before Washington” is the standard that “we the people” are to take their measures.

    Because president of the United States is a unique job which only offers “experience” to those who have held the job, how does experience in any public, private, non-profit, or volunteer endeavor earn any presidential candidate “experience”? Besides, the Constitution of the United States specifically outlines the qualifications / requirements to be president: “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States”. My reading of the Constitution offers no “experience” requirement.

  2. 2
    Kyle E. Moore says:

    Great post. Now, it would be REALLY nice if the rest of the media would finally get off its butt and start challenging her on this “experience” crap.

    Seriously, I do not see how anyone can make the claim that the media is biased against Clinton when nobody seems to take her to task for trying to sell us on this “35 years of experience” snake oil.

    Hell, five minutes on the internet is all that’s needed to show that Obama’s been an elected official longer than her.

  3. 3
    Christopher says:

    The Borg Queen visited 80 countries.

    So what? This doesn’t make her a foreign policy expert. The truth is, no one enters the presidency with all the answers.

    The job of a president is to ask the very best men and women to serve the American people by accepting cabinet positions. Obviously, this hasn’t worked too well the past 8 years, but that is another subject.

  4. 4
    Probus says:

    If the Clinton campaign has any sense they will tell her to drop her “35 years experience” statement from her speeches because it is false. Also experience means nothing if the wrong decision is made time and again. Namely the IWR vote and the Kyl-Lieberman vote. She is wrong for this country. I was happy to learn that Obama actually got more delegates out of TX 98 than she did 95 even though she won it. (Olbermann’s Countdown)

  5. 5
    David Drissel says:

    This post was very important in pointing out Hillary Clinton’s relative lack of foreign policy experience. Let me now make a positive addition to this argument by noting that Barack Obama is very prepared to engage in international relations as President.

    These are my top ten reasons why I strongly believe that a President Obama would be highly successful in international relations, much more so than either Hillary Clinton or John McCain.

    1. There’s no doubt that Sen. Barack Obama has more global appeal than any other candidate for President. He’s the son of an African immigrant and a woman from Kansas, which represents an obvious departure from the past.

    2. Obama has lived in other countries and traveled abroad extensively, and as a result fully understands many other cultures particularly in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

    3. Obama studied international relations in college and consequently understands important nuances of foreign policy. He has brought his academic expertise to the U.S. Foreign Relations committee and has worked in a bipartisan fashion to chart a new American foreign policy. For example, Obama spearheaded the effort – along with Republican Senator Richard Luger – to emphasize the importance of helping eliminate “loose nukes” in Russia and Eastern Europe – a project that had been vastly under-funded by the Bush Administration.

    4. He has seen poverty and related social problems firsthand on a daily basis as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago and will have a greater understanding of comparable Third World issues as a result. His experience at the grassroots level in the U.S. will enable him to devise viable, innovative solutions to global problems as poverty, hunger, lack of adequate health care, infant mortality, AIDS, organized crime, and homelessness.

    5. He has credibility in the world because he opposed the Iraq War from the very beginning (unlike Hillary Clinton) and understood in 2002 that Bush’s pre-emptive war in Iraq would seriously hurt America’s standing in the world. After all, the Iraq War is the Number One reason why the U.S. has become so incredibly unpopular in recent years.

    6. Obama has clearly demonstrated good judgment in such foreign policy decisions, unlike Hillary and McCain – who made the worst foreign policy decision in decades when they voted to authorize Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

    7. Obama is highly diplomatic in his personal style and never shrill or temperamental (unlike McCain and Hillary), which will help win back good will around the world. He doesn’t lose his cool or cry “shame” when he disagrees with someone. Rather, Obama knows how to bring people together and forge compromises – and this characteristic will help him immensely in any diplomatic initiatives he undertakes with foreign governments.

    8. Obama is willing to meet with virtually any leader in the world without unnecessary
    bureaucratic preconditions (unlike Hillary and McCain), thereby signaling a new, more open, stance for American foreign policy. He understands that the U.S. never stopped meeting with Soviet leaders during the Cold War, so why should we not meet with our enemies today? He contends that adequate preparation for such meetings is absolutely necessary, but continuing the obstructionist saber-rattling cowboy antics of the Bush Administration (as Hillary seems to favor) will get us nowhere.

    9. Obama knows how to prioritize national security concerns (unlike Bush, McCain, and Hillary) and will act accordingly in shifting the emphasis in the war on terror back to Afghanistan/Pakistan, where it truly belongs. Of course, he will also use his diplomatic skills to help bring together disparate Iraqi factions and fully involve Iraq’s Muslim neighbors and the United Nations in a multilateral effort to achieve lasting stability in the region.

    10. Electing Barack Obama as President will be a clear and unambiguous signal to the world that the U.S. is charting a brand new course. Rather than looking backwards, the U.S. will be moving forward with fresh new ideas and innovative bipartisan approaches in foreign policy.

  6. 6
    Probus says:

    Truly Obama would be the best choice for the presidency instead of Clinton who likes to scare people into voting for her. It’s the only way she can win. Her frequent attempts to twist the truth about Obama makes her unqualified to be president. The more desperate she gets in her quest to become president the more willing she is to hurt the democratic party by praising McCain experience and deriding Obama’s experience which is significant. Experience itself means nothing if the wrong decision is made over and over. Clinton’s vote for the IWR is unforgivable as is her inability to apologize for it or to call it a mistake.

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