Anyone who believes that Hillary Clinton will not run for President in 2016 should examine her recently-published book,
Hard Choices, which in places reads like a campaign manifesto. The 600 pages of text offer much more, but on myriad domestic and international issues readers can readily predict her positions as president, even beyond what she has already indicated as first lady, senator from New York, and Barack Obama’s first secretary of state.
With the escalating violence in Israel and Gaza, for example, her chapter on the Middle East indicates in detail how she dealt with key regional leaders in earlier crises and would be likely to do as president. She has the measure of many issues and personalities and probably knows how to apply all available pressures to prevent, minimize or halt bloodshed after 2016.
[ David Jones: Hillary will run, she will win, but she will struggle ]
In all likelihood, Clinton will win her party nomination and subsequent national election. Against likely opponents for the Democrats’ nomination, one national poll earlier this month placed her far ahead of Vice-President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. In a presidential election against former Republican Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a Rasmussen poll this spring had her winning 47-33 per cent. Against Republican Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, she would win 47-38 per cent.
The more interesting question is thus perhaps what the world might expect from a Hillary Clinton administration.
More reorienting of American foreign policy towards “smart power”, by which Clinton means choosing the best combination of tools – diplomatic, economic, military, political, technological and cultural – in any situation. America understandably remains the “indispensable nation” for her, but she seems more committed than Obama and other past presidents to reach out to her own civil society and those of other nations to build a world, as she puts it, with “more partners and fewer adversaries”.
Canada is unfortunately rarely mentioned inHard Choices, but in a section on Europe Clinton inserts in parentheses in a tribute to NATO: “Many Americans may take our relationship with Canada for granted, but our northern neighbor is an indispensable partner in nearly everything we do around the world.” Many Canadians think Obama should be giving much more attention to a range of serious bilateral problems, including approval for the Keystone XL pipeline after six years of study, and more attention to both Mexicans and Canadians with NAFTA and other matters. A Clinton administration should aim higher on a range of neighbourhood issues.
On China, Clinton is likely to adopt a firmer and more sophisticated approach, and one with, as she puts it, “buy-in from our entire government, beginning with the White House.” Authorizing as secretary of state the blind human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, to obtain refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing shortly before a 2012 U.S.-China summit was only one indication of a more universal values-oriented and tougher policy to come. Interestingly and to the author’s credit, Hard Choices was effectively banned by party-state censors last month in China.
On Iran, Obama appears so committed to achieving a probably unenforceable agreement on nuclear weapons that everything else, including human rights, is overlooked. Clinton seems to have learned from past American mistakes, including remaining silent after the 2009 massively-rigged election as the regime crushed the Green Movement. Her work with Russia, China and other governments on Resolution 1929 in the UN Security Council successfully imposed the toughest sanctions ever on Iran. As secretary, she then used ‘smart power’ to apply them effectively.
Clinton has positioned herself over many years and in her latest book as a quintessential American, defender of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and an “idealist realist” leader.
The final section of the book – “The future we want” – should win her new friends at home and abroad. On trade, she is positive overall about it as a means of lifting millions of families out of poverty around the world, but voices concerns, including, “ending currency manipulation, environmental destruction, and miserable working conditions in developing countries.” She is well aware that millions of manufacturing jobs have disappeared during more than two decades in the U.S. because moving production abroad to China and elsewhere meant that decent wages and abiding by essential rules on pollution could be avoided.
Clinton is clear-eyed as well about abuses by “state capitalism” and other features of current misgovernance in China and Russia, describing as an illustration what almost happened to the Corning Glass company and thousands of New Yorkers’ jobs. The rules of the World Trade Organization, she asserts correctly, must be respected by all members.
In short, Clinton has positioned herself over many years and in her latest book as a quintessential American, defender of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and an “idealist realist” leader. She indicates eloquently how she thinks America can, in fellow Illinois native Abraham Lincoln’s words, continue to be “the last best hope of earth.” She might also shatter what she has termed “the highest, hardest glass ceiling” and go on to become an excellent president.
David Kilgour is co-chair of the Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran and a director of the Washington-based Council for a Community of Democracies (CCD). He is a former MP for both the Conservative and Liberal Parties in the south-east region of Edmonton and has also served as the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa, Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific and Deputy Speaker of the House.