Legacy at State Depart­ment could haunt Clin­ton am­bi­tions in 2016 Beng­hazi, Rus­sia re­set, Boko Haram can arm ri­vals

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton brings a quar­ter-century of pub­lic ser­vice to her po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, but it’s her most re­cent job as sec­re­tary of state for Pres­i­dent Obama — over­see­ing re­la­tions with Rus­sia, han­dling the ter­ror­ist at­tack in Beng­hazi and ne­go­ti­at­ing over the war on ter­ror­ism — that could come back to haunt her.

Many of Mr. Obama’s cur­rent po­lit­i­cal prob­lems also could af­fect Mrs. Clin­ton, in­clud­ing the han­dling of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and the de­ci­sion not to slap the ter­ror­ist la­bel on Boko Haram, a group re­spon­si­ble for kid­nap­ping hun­dreds of Nige­rian school­girls last month.

Even the Key­stone XL pipe­line, which Mr. Obama has been re­luc­tant to green­light, went through Mrs. Clin­ton’s depart­ment, which de­layed the project.

“I’m sure she’s go­ing to go on brag­ging about her time in the State Depart­ment. She’s also go­ing to have to be held ac­count­able for its fail­ures, whether it’s the failed re­set with Rus­sia or the fail­ure in Beng­hazi that ac­tu­ally cost lives,” Sen. Marco Ru­bio, Florida Repub­li­can and po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, said Sun­day on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I don’t think she has a pass­ing grade. … If she is go­ing to run on her record as sec­re­tary of state, she’s also go­ing to have to an­swer for its mas­sive fail­ures,” Mr. Ru­bio said.

Mrs. Clin­ton’s sup­port­ers, who are build­ing a fundrais­ing and grass-roots or­ga­niz­ing ma­chine in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a White House run, dis­pute the no­tion that a cam­paign would cen­ter on her ac­tions of the past, not on her ideas for the fu­ture.

“If she chooses to run for pres­i­dent, she will run a cam­paign that is about the fu­ture and how to con­tinue to make lives bet­ter for all Amer­i­cans,” said Adri­enne El­rod, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor at Cor­rect the Record, an arm of the lib­eral su­per PAC Amer­i­can Bridge 21st Century that re­sponds to con­ser­va­tive at­tacks on Demo­cratic can­di­dates.

Con­fronting the past

While Mrs. Clin­ton puts off a de­ci­sion on whether to run, she leaves the pub­lic dis­cus­sion to her al­lies and op­po­nents, and that means a heavy fo­cus on her past. Some ques­tions go back decades. Last week, af­ter for­mer White House in­tern Mon­ica Lewin­sky spoke out in Van­ity Fair mag­a­zine about her re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, some con­ser­va­tive pun­dits won­dered aloud whether Mrs. Clin­ton or­ches­trated the story for her own po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fit.

Get­ting Ms. Lewin­sky’s story out now, rather than dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial pri­mary sea­son, could keep the cam­paign fo­cus on Mrs. Clin­ton’s pol­icy pro­pos­als and qual­i­fi­ca­tions, not her hus­band’s in­fi­delity, some the­o­rized.

“I re­ally won­der if this isn’t an ef­fort on the Clin­tons’ part to get that story out of the way,” Lynne Cheney, wife of for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney, said dur­ing an in­ter­view on Fox News.

The for­mer first lady’s age, 69, also has come into ques­tion.

Repub­li­can strate­gist Karl Rove has hinted that Mrs. Clin­ton’s hos­pi­tal­iza­tion last year may have been more se­ri­ous than she let on. The New York Post quoted Mr. Rove last week ques­tion­ing whether Mrs. Clin­ton had a “trau­matic brain in­jury” stem­ming from a fall in late 2012. The in­jury de­layed the sec­re­tary of state’s tes­ti­mony to Congress on the as­sault in Beng­hazi, Libya.

Mr. Rove then seemed to tem­per his re­marks by sug­gest­ing he meant only that Mrs. Clin­ton’s age may be­come an is­sue in a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, just as it did for Ron­ald Rea­gan and oth­ers.

The Clin­ton camp ac­cused Mr. Rove of try­ing politi­cize the in­jury.

“From the mo­ment this hap­pened 17 months ago, the right has politi­cized her health,” said Nick Mer­rill, a spokesman for Mrs. Clin­ton. “First they ac­cused her of fak­ing it. Now they’ve re­sorted to the other ex­treme — and are flat-out ly­ing. … All [Mr. Rove] wants to do is in­ject the is­sue into the echo cham­ber, and he’s suc­ceed­ing.”

Unan­swered ques­tions

Most of the re­cent ques­tions have cen­tered on Mrs. Clin­ton’s time in the State Depart­ment, where she largely was out of the lime­light of the po­lit­i­cal press.

The House last week voted to es­tab­lish a se­lect in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee to look deeper into the deadly as­sault in Beng­hazi, ar­gu­ing that too many ques­tions re­main unan­swered. Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Repub­li­can, was named as chair­man.

Democrats fear the panel will be used to keep pres­sure on Mrs. Clin­ton for months to come.

Mrs. Clin­ton has called the se­lect com­mit­tee an un­nec­es­sary use of time and re­sources.

Her hus­band rushed to her de­fense Wed­nes­day.

“In my opin­ion, Hil­lary did what she should have done” in re­sponse to the

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