By Cinzia Croce
Before I address the substance of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy speech (I am using the term “substance” loosely, since the speech was another regurgitation of old, worn out talking points), I want to comment on the theatrics. It is quite clear that Hillary has decided to position herself as the adult in the race – it didn’t work for Jeb Bush in the primaries but the bet is that it will work in the general election – yet the staging of her speech was anything but serious. It featured an audience hooting and hollering, booing the opposing team, marching band music as if were a high school pep rally. A couple of cheerleaders with pompoms and the picture would have been complete. If the objective of the speech was to impress upon the American people the gravity of the decision before them, the stagecraft today was an utter failure.
If I had to summarize Hillary’s speech in four words, they would be: ‘Preserve the Status Quo!’ For those who believe our foreign policy is essentially on the right track and that only minor adjustments need to be made: she spoke to you. For those of us who believe a complete foreign policy reassessment is long overdue, Hillary represents more aimlessness, more blunders, more American blood and treasure spent for no specific reason other than some vague notion of “staying true to our values”, or worse — a preoccupation as to whether the world will blame us or not. Nowhere in her speech did she mention or define American interests – which is key to formulating an effective foreign policy – but she did talk about Trump’s comments about illegal immigrants, women and John McCain.
Hillary Clinton clearly believes that making lists and presenting 10 or 15 points plans addressing this or that problem equals having a coherent foreign policy. During her speech she never outlined an overall vision or doctrine that would guide her while making the “hard choices” she will face as president. After four years as Secretary of State and thousands of miles traveled, she should be able to be more specific than “we need to embrace all the tools of American power, especially diplomacy and development, to be on the front lines solving problems before they threaten us at home,” which is almost word for word the same line she used during her confirmation hearing. Her rival Donald Trump has no foreign policy experience and yet has managed to meet the minimum threshold of clearly stating his guiding principle. During his April 27 speech Trump said: “My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else. It has to be first. Has to be.That will be the foundation of every single decision that I will make.” Trump overriding theme is “America First”, Hillary’s theme is making a list and checking it twice.
Overall it was a speech that any member of the current foreign policy establishment would have given; the only indication that it was a Democrat delivering it was the emphasis on climate change. I suspect that Republican hawks, who find themselves politically homeless, will applaud the speech. Like them, Hillary is reflexively committed to preserving and maintaining the international order that was established after WWII. She has given no thought as to whether institutions that were created in response to the Soviet Union are still relevant and deliver positive results for the American people — or need be replaced with a new framework reflecting the post Cold War world. Despite increased conflicts, instability, and the growth of ISIS under her watch, Hillary never pauses to assess her actions, decisions. She just carries on unthinking, reciting clichés about American leadership. That is why she is the dangerous candidate in the race.