In recent weeks, as the standoff over Ukraine escalated, Hillary Clinton did something that she never did as secretary of state: She put considerable distance between herself and the president she served loyally for four years. While Barack Obama cautiously warned Vladimir Putin to back off his claims on Ukraine, Clinton rolled out a rhetorical cannon, comparing the Russian president's moves to the seizure of territory by Adolf Hitler that set off World War II. Her comments were so harsh and controversial that she was forced to walk them back a bit, saying, "I'm not making a comparison, certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before."
Clinton's remarks appeared to be an indication of two things. One, she's concerned enough about shoring up her reputation for toughness that she may indeed be thinking about running for president in 2016. Clinton offered up, in other words, a rare and enticing hint about the question that everyone in the politics game is asking these days. Undoubtedly she knows that the effort she led as secretary of state in 2009, an attempted "reset" of relations with Russia that included a new arms treaty, now looks naive in the face of Putin's repudiation of Obama over Ukraine and his lack of cooperation on other issues, such as resolution of the Syrian civil war. Two, Clinton could be worried that by the time the next presidential season rolls around, what was once seen as one of Obama's stronger points—foreign policy—could easily become a liability to whomever is seeking the Democratic nomination.