U.S. Election: Hillary Clinton an open book, thanks to 'Hard Choices'

David Kilgour
David vs. David
Hillary Clinton and Laura Ensler listen as an instructor reads a story to children April 1, 2015. (Reuters)

Hillary Clinton is expected to launch her second campaign for the White House this weekend. She can expect little difficulty in winning her party nomination despite problems in projecting warmth to large crowds and other rusty campaign skills. An intellectual, she remains the overwhelming favourite on the Democratic side over the closest other contenders, Vice-President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

According to Public Policy Polling’s latest survey result on April 7, Clinton leads Florida Senator Marco Rubio 46/43 per cent and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker 46/42. An earlier average of various polls had her leading former Florida Governor Jeb Bush by about seven per cent.

What might Americans and the world expect from a Hillary Clinton administration?

Clinton’s 2014 book, Hard Choices, is in effect a 600-page campaign platform, doubtless reflecting advice from some of the best policy specialists in America and internationally. It frequently goes beyond what the author has earlier indicated during her tenures as first lady, twice-elected U.S. senator from New York, and Barack Obama’s first secretary of state. On some issues, she puts as much distance as feasible between herself and the increasingly controversial Obama.

[ Opposing view: GOP candidates have major disadvantages going against big-name Clinton ]

There will be more reorienting of American foreign policy towards “smart power,” by which Clinton means choosing the best combination of diplomatic, economic, military, political, technological and cultural tools in any situation. The U.S. remains understandably the “indispensable nation” for her, but she seems more committed than other recent 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 unfortunately is rarely mentioned in Hard Choices, but in a section on Europe and her tribute to NATO she says: “Many Americans may take our relationship with Canada for granted, but our northern neighbour is an indispensable partner in nearly everything we do around the world.” Many Canadians think the Obama administration should be paying much more attention to a number of bilateral issues, and more attention to both Mexico and Canada with NAFTA and other matters. A Clinton administration should—but might well not—aim much higher on a range of neighbourhood issues, including the Arctic.

On China, for example, 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.” Her authorizing as secretary of state of 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 a good indication of a tougher policy to come if she is elected. To the author’s credit, Hard Choices, is effectively banned by party-state censors in Beijing.

She is clear-eyed as well about the nature of “state capitalism” and other features of governance in China, Russia and elsewhere, giving as an illustration what almost happened to Corning Inc. and thousands of New Yorkers’ jobs. The rules of the World Trade Organization, the book asserts, must be respected by all member nations.

Her work with Russia, China and other governments on Resolution 1929 in the UN Security Council successfully imposed the toughest economic sanctions ever on Iran’s regime. As secretary, she then used ‘smart power’ to apply them effectively. Whatever the merits of the proposed nuclear agreement with Tehran, no one doubts that it was these sanctions that made the negotiations possible.

The final section of the book— “The future we want” —should win Clinton new friends at home and abroad. On trade, she is positive overall about it as a means of lifting 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, including an estimated 20 million American ones, have disappeared in more than two decades because moving production to China and elsewhere meant that decent wages and environmental standards could be avoided.

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 her country 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.