At a Democratic debate shaken and sharpened by the bloody terrorist attacks in Paris, the opening round of questions tested the candidates’ depth on foreign policy and readiness to serve as a commander in chief.
Because of the heightened national focus after a jihadist atrocity, the dialogue — and the candidates’ messaging — seemed pitched to an audience far broader than Democratic primary voters.
For Hillary Clinton, this was a double-edged sword. Clinton could use the national platform to project her resolve and demonstrate the depth of her experience. On the other hand, her answers risked telegraphing her hawkish streak to a dovish Democratic primary electorate, the same voters who rejected her in candidacy in 2008, at least partly as punishment for her support of the Iraq War.
In the end, Clinton fell far short of Rand Paul’s recent critique of her as a “neocon” — she highlighted the enormous complexities in the Middle East and advocated a multilateral approach to tamping down violence in the region.
That said, Clinton didn’t hold back in her projection of strength.
Here the ten most hawkish things Clinton said at the debate.
1. ISIS is a “barbaric, ruthless, violent, jihadist terrorist group.” —Clinton in her opening statement
2. “It cannot be contained, it must be defeated.” —Clinton on ISIS, again
3. “Turkey and the Gulf States are going to have to make up their minds: Are they going to stand with us to [confront] this jihadi terrorism, or not?” —Clinton on the commitment of regional allies to defeating ISIS
4. “Of all of the Arab leaders, Gadaffi had more blood of Americans on his hands than anybody else.” —Clinton on why regime change was justified in Libya
5. “I think we’re at war with jihadists…. You can talk about Islamists who are also jihadists.” — Clinton on whether America is at war with radical Islam
6. “So barbaric and so vicious that it doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than lust for killing and power.” —Clinton, on ISIS again
7. “We have an authorization to use military force.” —Clinton insisting that the congressional vote in 2001 to go after Al Qaeda is sufficient for a president to wage war on ISIS. (She added that she’d like to “upgrade” that authorization.)
8. “We have problems with Russia.” —Clinton citing the risk of Russian drone submarines capable of carrying nuclear weapons
9. “I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is.” —Clinton on why Wall Street has supported her with campaign contributions
10. “I took the chance to tell the president… to bring Bin Laden to justice.” —Clinton on her hardest choice