Hillary Clinton’s Flat and Misleading Foreign Policy Speech

DEM 2016 Clinton
Wrapping herself in the flag: Hillary talks foreign policy in San Diego, Calif. (AP Photo/John Locher)

W.J. Astore

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton gave a foreign policy speech in San Diego that was notably flat and misleading.  It’s been getting decent reviews in the mainstream media for the zingers she tossed at Donald Trump.  But when you listen to the speech (you can watch it here) and think about it, you realize how insipid and unoriginal it really was.

Here are my thoughts on Clinton’s speech:

1. The speech featured the usual American exceptionalism, the usual fear that if America withdraws from the world stage, chaos will result.  There was no sense that America’s wars of choice in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. have greatly contributed to that chaos.  Oh, there was also the usual boast that America has the greatest military.  That’s what Imperial and Nazi Germany used to boast — until the Germans lost two world wars and smartened up.

2.  Hillary mentioned we’re electing “our” next commander-in-chief.  No, we’re not.  The president is a public servant, not “our” commander-in-chief.  The president serves as the civilian commander-in-chief of the military, and the military alone.

3.  Hillary mentioned the US has a “moral obligation” to defend Israel.  Why is this?  Sure, Israel is an American ally, but why is Israel the one country we’re “morally” obligated to defend? There’s only one country we’re morally obligated to defend, and that’s the USA, assuming our government is actually honoring the US Constitution.

4.  The speech had no new ideas.  It was a laundry list of neo-conservative principles about making America stronger, safer, and so on.  As a friend of mine put it, “Nothing that I heard her say deviated in any way from her hawkish record of recommending bombing at every opportunity.”

5.  Hillary seems to have two speech-giving styles: a somewhat bored monotone and a somewhat agitated yell.  A line like, “this isn’t reality TV, it’s reality,” should have been a big applause line, but her delivery was flat and her timing was off.  In this case, style and substance met as one.

Hillary Clinton reminds me of the grey leaders in the USSR before Gorbachev.  She’s like a Brezhnev or an Andropov. A cookie-cutter product of the system with no fresh ideas.

For many people who are leery of a Trump presidency, Hillary’s hawkish and colorless conformity to the Washington system is more than enough to qualify her.  If she wins the presidency, she will be much like Brezhnev and Andropov, senior apparatchiks of an empire in denial of its own precipitous decline.

9 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton’s Flat and Misleading Foreign Policy Speech

  1. This list of experienced wrongness was exposed during the first democratic debate by O’Malley but was never picked up by the media as a discussion topic. I have often thought of the politburo watching how the DNC has operated during the whole primary process, simply discouraging.


  2. I didn’t see the speech, but in reading some of the reviews by those who did, this remark by Robert Parry of Consortium News seemed to sum up You-Know-Her’s approach to foreign policy:

    “Clinton sprinkled her speech denouncing Trump with gratuitous insults aimed at Putin and undiplomatic slaps at Russia, such as, “If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin. We cannot let that happen.”

    Happy Russians. Can’t have that. No way. American misery for everyone!


    1. I remember that line. To me, it just seemed so dated. Something from the early 1980s and the Cold War. Tired and flat and stuck in the past.


      1. As someone from the Chinese government said recently: “Some people live physically in the 21st century while their minds are stuck in the 20th.” I don’t know if the speaker had You-Know-Her in mind, specifically, but the quote seemed well directed at current and aspiring officials of the U.S. government in any case. Furthermore, not a single candidate for the U.S. presidency has, at least to my knowledge, reamed You-Know-Her for suggesting back in 2011 that Americans should “Start Thinking Of Iraq As A Business Opportunity”. I mean, if you can’t slice and dice her for that one, then I guess she wins by default of decent competition.


  3. Imagine what tyrants will have to pay Bill Clinton for a speech when it is President Hillary. The Clintons will have the great-great wealth they clearly crave.


    1. Trump and the Clintons have one thing in common: they are narcissists. It’s all about them.


  4. Hi. Your piece has some interesting points. I just wish you didn’t lead the whole post by labeling Hillary’s speech “flat, insipid and unoriginal.” There’s no substance there. It’s just name-calling designed to shame and discredit without the burden of any actual facts or debate. The Trump camp has perfected this – though everyone seems to use it to some degree.

    “Misleading?” OK! you’ve got my attention. Let’s dig into that and have a truth-seeking conversation. I think there are some interesting positions in your piece. I just wish it didn’t come wrapped in those initial political buzzwords.


    1. Thanks. If I were Hillary, I’d find new speechwriters. Because I think the speech was flat and insipid. Sure, she got in some zingers on Donald Trump. But the rest of the speech was a tired rehashing of neo-conservative principles. It could be summed up as: America is the greatest country; we have the greatest military; we bring order to the world; we must defend Israel; all other countries are untrustworthy (mainly Iran, North Korea, Russia, China). It was a typical exercise in American exceptionalism and nationalism. Nothing fresh. And its underlying thesis that America brings order; well, that’s just flatly contradicted by the Iraq war, the Afghan war, Hillary’s intervention in Libya (“We came; We saw; He died”), and on and on.


    2. Evan Krasts — Thank you for your response to Professor Astore’s article. However, please note in all fairness that Professor Astore did not use the words “insipid” and “unoriginal” in his article title. He used the words “flat” and “misleading.” You have noted his use of the word “misleading,” which you do not find overly objectionable, but you put two of your own words into his mouth and then criticize him for using them when, as a matter of fact, he didn’t. This sort of inaccurate reading does not do justice to the point you might have intended to make.

      In my opinion, the word “flat,” as used in the article headline, deals with the style of the delivered address, which Professor Astore examined in point 5 of his presentation. The word “misleading” refers to the content of the address, the analysis of which consumed the previous points 1-4 of the article. I consider this an adequate balance, with content (80%) coming first and style (20%) coming last. Therefore, whatever one thinks of the individual words used in the title, they do seem related directly and proportionally to the details that one finds in the article. So on purely technical grounds, I would give the headline and article content a decent grade for proper construction.

      Nothing in the article, incidentally, champions or excuses in any way the many outrageous and contradictory things that Donald Trump has said over the course of many months. We do not live in a binary world where criticism of Candidate A automatically means an endorsement of Candiate B. One can criticise both and endorse neither, which I believe this article does, although it tends to focus more on the person making the speech in question.


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