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Vox Foreign Editor Takes Apart Clinton Debate Answers On Foreign Policy

- November 15, 2015

Vox's Max Fisher takes apart Clinton's debate performance and answers on national security.

The worst answer of the night came from Hillary Clinton

No one shined in this part of the debate and everyone failed. But possibly the worst answer of the night, from Hillary Clinton, came in response to the most easily anticipatable question: Americans are not thrilled with the Obama administration's effort against ISIS, and yet you were a senior member of the Obama administration, so why should Americans trust you to take on ISIS? …

She rambled incoherently, at some points simply listing things - irrelevant lists of buzzwords were a major theme of the evening - and offered neither policy ideas nor even vague rhetorical themes. She half-attempted to put the onus of responsibility on George W. Bush over his administration's understanding with Iraq on not leaving American troops there, but the way she described it was so confusing and dissembling that I doubt most people even knew what she was talking about.

The closest Clinton came to putting together a coherent sentence was when she said "it cannot be an American fight" as part of a quote that I guarantee you will appear on Republican attack ads if she wins the nomination. … [T]he point is that Clinton conceded some political ground for basically nothing - she neither scored political points nor articulated a foreign policy position. It was all downside.

The rest of Clinton's answers had the political merit, at least, of being far too nonsensical to do her much damage. Consider, for example, a few more of her quotes.

On whether her support for US-backed intervention in Libya was a mistake:

The Libyans turned out for one of the most successful fairest elections that any Arab country has had. They elected moderate leaders. Now there has been a lot of turmoil and trouble as they have tried to deal with these radical elements which you find in this arc of instability from north Africa to Afghanistan. And it is imperative that we do more not only to help our friends and partners protect themselves and protect our own homeland, but also to work to try to deal with this arc of instability, which does have a lot of impact on what happens in a country like Libya.

On whether her vote in support of the 2003 Iraq invasion was mistake:

Well, I think it's important we put this in historic context. The United States has, unfortunately, been victimized by terrorism going back decades. In the 1980s, it was in Beirut, Lebanon, under president Reagan's administration, and 258 Americans, Marines, embassy personnel, and others were murdered. We also had attacks on two of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. When my husband was president. Again, Americans murdered. And then, of course, 9/11 happened, which happened before there was an invasion of Iraq. I have said the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. But I think if we're ever going to really tackle the problems posed by jihadi extreme terrorism, we need to understand it and realize that it has antecedents to what happened in Iraq and we have to continue to be vigilant about it.


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