Hillary Clinton was probably expecting it. Republicans are already hitting hard about her foreign policy track record from her time as secretary of state during Barack Obama's first term.
According to some, foreign policy carries little weight during an electoral campaign. Local issues, the economy, and the environment are the overarching themes in the United States, like elsewhere — except there was Sept. 11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the fight against terrorism. George Bush was re-elected in 2004 on the theme of "you don't change captains in the middle of a storm," while Barack Obama was elected to be "the captain who brings the ship back home."
Since Obama's ascension to power in 2009, the international situation has remained just as turbulent (Ukraine, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Mali, Islamic State) or uncertain (Iran, China, Russia), and Republicans are placing the blame on the outgoing president and Hillary Clinton.
If those two had had more guts (read: dropped more bombs), all those ayatollahs and Putins would be hiding under their beds, they think. This simplistic view of world affairs is largely shared by next year's Republican presidential candidates, like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who are both already on the starting line. When potential candidates Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush present some ideas, they usually draw from this framework. Rand Paul, an official candidate, has been elusive.
Though Republicans seem to have united around extremist foreign policy, they are divided about who could apply it once in power. Senator John McCain thinks Ted Cruz is a "wacko bird." One of Rand Paul's colleagues stated that the agreement the candidate would have signed was worse than the one Obama endorsed.
It's not just individual candidates. The Republicans as a whole seem more like a rabid bunch, ready to threaten the United States' interests just to destroy the Democrats' legacy. An editorial in last Sunday's New York Times summed up the situation very well: "As Barack Obama’s presidency heads into its twilight, the rage of the Republican establishment toward him is growing louder, angrier and more destructive."
Republicans have acted disloyally twice on the Iran issue, which raises questions about their ability to govern the world's superpower. They invited Israel’s prime minister to speak before Congress and criticized Obama's efforts to forge an agreement on Iran's nuclear program. Can you imagine the Democrats inviting Jacques Chirac to come and denounce the war against Iraq? One of them, two-month senator Tom Cotton, convinced 46 of his colleagues to sign a letter addressed to Iranian leaders. It warned them that the GOP would do anything to derail the Lausanne agreement. This kind of behavior has never been seen before.
This lost, excitable group, which is shooting at everything that moves, has before it a Hillary Clinton strong with a quarter-century of experience in foreign affairs. During the ‘90s, she was by her husband Bill's side as he advanced the peace process in Bosnia, and in Israel and Palestine. As senator for New York and secretary of state, she traveled to over 120 countries to mend the ties that the Bush administration severed by waging the Iraq War.
She was at the heart of the negotiations that led to re-establishing relations with Cuba and developing a détente with Iran. She supported reorienting America's foreign policy toward the Asia-Pacific region. But she failed to renew relations with Russia, and the adventure in Libya was a catastrophe.
Hillary Clinton's legacy is nothing to scoff at. She's high in the saddle before her Republican adversaries, whose vision of the world is marked by extremism.