No one can say what kind of candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will be once she starts actively campaigning later this year. Last summer’s book tour and later public appearances highlighted the degree to which she is both rusty as a candidate and still grappling with the message for a 2016 campaign.
Beyond quiet advice to the candidate, there is an even more important role that Podesta could play in a Clinton 2016 campaign. Because of his stature, personality and long-standing relationship with the Clintons, he can speak authoritatively for the candidate, internally and externally. He brings order – to the extent that anyone can – to an operation that otherwise could be plagued by freelancing among the Clintons’ vast and extended network. He has the opportunity to draw clearer lines of authority and enforce the rules.
As President Obama enters the uninhibited twilight of his presidency, some of what we are witnessing from him is shocking yet informative. In the past week, Obama’s words and actions have revealed the thought process behind how policy decisions are made in his administration. Some of these recent incidents demand urgent responses from our Republican leaders, who are obligated to oppose the president when he crosses the line. But also, Republicans need to do what they can to pull Hillary Clinton into the fray. She has been getting a pass while Obama lurches to the left and Republicans generate distracting headlines. First, the president’s comments yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast were jaw-dropping. He said, “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” Why would the president tell the Islamic State, a terrorist group, that he is keeping its actions in perspective? This is an incredible and alarming statement; Republicans need to voice their strong objections and force Democrats to state whether or not they agree with the president.
And as the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, Clinton should also let us know where she stands. Does she think today’s actions and sentiments toward the Islamic State should be shaped by the Muslim-Christian battles of more than 900 years ago? Does she also want us to keep those battles in mind, get off our high horse and temper our objections to the Islamic State? Second, the president seems to be pressing for a unilateral deal with Iran on its nuclear program, despite the objections of our allies, Congress and former administration officials. As the Post editorial today states, “[The] Obama administration has declined to counter increasingly aggressive efforts by Iran.” The Post doesn’t say it, but I think Obama is seeking a friendly agreement with Iran that it will not construct a nuclear bomb until after he leaves office. Obama appears willing to leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place and accept at face value the Iranian government’s laughable assurances that it wants only peaceful nuclear technology. He is choosing to ignore all Iran’s previous lies. Maybe deep down he sees a form of “fairness” in letting Iran have nuclear weapons. After all, we have them – and since he dismisses American exceptionalism, he probably doesn’t think we are worthy stewards of these weapons. Israel has them, and this president has made clear that he thinks very little of Israel’s defense posture. And besides, if Obama can explain away the behavior of Islamic State terrorists by rationalizing it as a quid pro quo for the ancient behavior of some Westerners, he can certainly rationalize why Iran wants to have a nuclear weapon. The president is already maneuvering to escape congressional oversight or approval of his agreement with Iran. Am I extrapolating too much? I hope so, but the stakes are high. Skeptics can’t be ignored. Again, Republicans and Democrats in Congress need to voice their opposition. And potential 2016 candidates should speak up. Would Clinton embrace the Obama deal and similarly pretend that Iran won’t acquire nuclear weapons, or will she vow to stop Iran? Third, the release of the president’s surreal, liberal dream-budget gives us a government blueprint that shows what he would do if he were King of America. It is almost Chavez-like in its confiscation of wealth, higher taxes, new borrowing and uninhibited spending. Obama wants to reach into the pockets of U.S. companies everywhere, raise taxes on just about every form of wealth and spend more and more on social schemes that corral citizens into the care of the state and freely heap new debt on future generations. Presidents are supposed to lead, guide and convince. Instead, Obama makes excuses for our enemies, ignores economic reality and acts unilaterally. I know this may sound harsh or partisan, but I don’t feel like I’m straining to reach these conclusions. It is up to Republicans to stand firm, pass alternatives to the president’s policies in Congress and not just be hecklers in the crowd. And Hillary Clinton, Democratic leaders in Congress and their candidates everywhere all need to be asked whether they are Obama-ites or something different.