It was not exactly a globe-girdling excursion. But for about an hour Wednesday night, seated on a stage at a university in Florida, Hillary Rodham Clinton offered some of her world view and a glimpse of what might constitute a 2016 run for president.
She encouraged her young, and supportive, audience to engage in the campaign process, to press their would-be leaders for specificity and to avoid the slough of political cynicism. “No one can or should sit on the sidelines,” Clinton said.
She defended the role of government as a force for the common good, opened no daylight between herself and President Obama, the erstwhile rival she served as secretary of state, and staked a few very broad policy positions.
But pressed by a question from the audience, she revealed nothing about her intentions regarding the next presidential race. The “TBD” in her Twitter biography would have to remain just that, she joked, saying she had run out of the characters allotted by the micro-blogging service.
The stop at the University of Miami in Coral Gables was part of an active schedule of public and private appearances Clinton has maintained since leaving the Obama administration a year ago. Earlier Wednesday, she spoke behind closed doors to a healthcare group in Orlando where, according to a CNN reporter in attendance, she endorsed corrective though unspecified changes to Obama’s signature healthcare law.
“I think we are on the right track in many respects but I would be the first to say if thing aren’t working then we need people of good faith to come together and make evidence-based changes,” Clinton said.
In Coral Gables, she opened her remarks by praising Republican Gov. Gov. Jan Brewer for vetoing Arizona legislation that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians. Brewer recognized, Clinton said, that “inclusive leadership is really what the 21st century is all about.”
Led by the gentle questioning of moderator Donna Shalala, the university president and a member of her husband’s presidential cabinet, Clinton focused more on foreign affairs Wednesday night. Presidential campaigns are rarely decided by matters of global policy but Clinton’s role as the nation’s chief diplomat means a greater portion of her presidential campaign, should she run, may focus on her time on the world stage.
She took a veiled swipe at former President George W. Bush and his administration, mentioning the war in Iraq—which she backed as a U.S. senator—and alluding to the controversial treatment of prisoners in the global war on terrorism. “Lapses from our values and legal principles” helped undermine America’s image aboard, Clinton said, and Obama “has done a lot in the last five years to try to move away from that.”
She called for more U.S. engagement in the Americas, criticizing the leadership of Venezuela, and, choosing her words carefully, expressed disappointment with efforts to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. “A lot more international pressure is going to be brought on the Assad regime to finish the job,” Clinton said.
She made the case for young people—the so-called “invincibles”—to enroll in the federal healthcare program, saying it makes as much sense as having car insurance. “Yes, the vast majority of young people will get through their 20s” without a serious accident or disease, Clinton said. “But a significant minority percentage will not. You don’t know what category you’re in. And you don’t know whether that would bankrupt your family trying to care for you.”
Asked about alternative energy, she scoffed at “deniers” of climate change and said the government should do more, through subsidies, to promote research and development of renewable fuels. “Because there are big economic stakes in this debate, we have allowed ourselves to do much less than we could,” Clinton said.
The final question, about her future plans, brought a roar of approval from the crowd of several thousand students and faculty and a throaty laugh from Clinton. Surely, it was suggested, she has had time to ponder her next move.
Revealing nothing, Clinton smiled and said, “I will certainly ponder that.”