It’s widely known that when Hillary Clinton was in high school, she was a big fan of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. But would Hillary, if elected POTUS, take after the 20th century’s uber-conservative, Ronald Reagan, at least in terms of a hawkish foreign policy? Elias Isquith made that case in a Saturday article in Salon.
Isquith scrutinized the ideas Hillary expressed in her foreign-policy-themed interview with the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg and found them wanting next to the modesty of the current president: “Obama, unlike Clinton, doesn’t talk about the world as if it were the stage for a great struggle between slavery and freedom. He knows that kind of talk was discredited by the results of our foreign policy from 2002 to 2008.”
On the other hand, Isquith alleged that one of Hillary’s remarks in the interview “sound[s] another dog-whistle for the unreconstructed neo-imperialists” and argued that a Reaganesque foreign policy “supposedly spread[s] freedom, but really helps capital by meddling in the lives of poor people who live far, far away.”
From Isquith’s piece (emphasis added):
For all the ways he’s disappointed when it comes to ending the neo-imperial era of American foreign policy, President Obama…doesn’t go for the kind of rhetoric that places the U.S. as the protagonist and hero in a geopolitical drama of good vs. evil…Obama, unlike Clinton, doesn’t talk about the world as if it were the stage for a great struggle between slavery and freedom. He knows that kind of talk was discredited by the results of our foreign policy from 2002 to 2008.
Weirdly, Clinton’s decision to speak about the U.S.’s role in global politics as if she, in contrast to Obama, was an unapologetic, “old-fashioned” believer in American exceptionalism made her sound like no one so much as Ronald Reagan, the last president who told a humbled America to buck up and forget its recent mistakes. Indeed, as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes noted this week when he hosted historian Rick Perlstein, whose new book on Reagan depicts him as absolver-in-chief, Clinton is seemingly “channeling Reagan in a very similar political moment” as that which confronted “the Gipper” after the trauma of the chaotic ’60s, Richard Nixon and Watergate. Pushing back against what Perlstein described as Obama’s attempt to inject “nuance” and “complexity” into our foreign policy debates, Clinton instead wants us to reclaim the “old-fashioned” belief that conquering “evil” is the special job of the exceptional USA.
…[S]he’s signaling her intentions to return to a former status quo — it just happens to be one that poorly served most Americans as of late. Since the era of Reagan, and for much of the century before, most national-level politicians have exploited Americans’ characteristic optimism and belief in their country’s virtue to push a foreign policy that supposedly spread freedom, but really helps capital by meddling in the lives of poor people who live far, far away.
So here’s a prediction about Hillary Clinton and the 2016 presidential race. At one point or another, there will be a television ad in which Hillary Clinton will speak of bringing back the former glory of the United States. She’ll say it’s time to mark an end to nearly 20 years of terrorism, depression, war and defeat. It’s time to feel good again about being the leader of the free world. It’s morning in America; and everything is great.