Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate was a strong reminder that, after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, foreign policy is once again a top issue of the 2016 race—creating fresh problems for Hillary Clinton in both a primary and general election.
The challenge for the likely presidential nominee is to explain a decade-plus record that, in different ways, could alienate Democratic and swing voters alike. Both dilemmas were evident Saturday in Des Moines, when her rivals and moderator John Dickerson scrutinized her support of the Iraq War and President Obama’s handling of the Islamic State.
In both cases, her answers Saturday are unlikely to eliminate questions that could linger until next November.
On the Islamic State, Clinton struggled to balance a more hawkish tone while accounting for her own role as secretary of State in the Obama administration. Asked how she planned to combat the militants, Clinton appeared to rebut the commander-in-chief’s recent suggestion that ISIS had been “contained.”
“It cannot be contained, it must be defeated,” she said.
But in a telling exchange, CBS’s Dickerson grilled her further, arguing that President Obama’s own underestimation of the Middle Eastern militants called into question whether she was now similarly misreading them.