Most of Clinton's 656-page memoir of her tenure as secretary of State, "Hard Choices," is pretty much what you'd expect: a sober narrative of her four years wrestling with global problems, a spirited defense of decisions she made, plus a sprinkling of humanizing anecdotes — like the time Obama drew her away from a summit meeting to whisper, "You've got something in your teeth."
But there's also a recurring theme that runs through the story, and it's this: She has not marched lock-step with the president and has frequently taken a more hawkish position than Obama's.
And in Clinton's telling, she almost always turned out to be right.
A few examples:
In Syria, Clinton and others urged Obama to send military aid to rebels fighting the repressive regime of
In Afghanistan, Clinton thought Obama's 2009 decision to set a public deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops was a mistake. "I worried that it might send the wrong signal to friend and foe alike," she writes. Obama has stuck to his timetable on that one; Clinton doesn't say it explicitly, but the tone suggests she still thinks he's wrong.
In Egypt, Clinton thought the U.S. should try to slow down President
In Israel, Clinton warned in 2009 that a public demand by Obama for a freeze on Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank would be counterproductive; Obama overruled her. The result? A confrontation with Israel and deadlocked negotiations.
And in Russia, Clinton warned in 2013 that President
That isn't to say Clinton disagreed with most of Obama's big decisions; far from it. She frequently praises the president she served, including his tough call to launch the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Vice President
But connect the dots and the message is clear: A Clinton presidency would have been more consistent in standing by U.S. allies, tougher on U.S. adversaries and readier to consider the use of military force (though she does say her
Clinton's book isn't the first time she's distanced herself from Obama's record. She also did so in an economic speech last month, in which she contrasted growing economic inequality "since 2000" with the better days that came before — when the president of the United States was named Clinton.
Taken together, the two statements clear up the mystery of how Clinton will separate herself from Obama's legacy if she runs for president: She's already done it. She'll run to his left on economic policy — and to his right on foreign policy.
Democrats on the left wing of the party will probably remain skeptical.
"For progressives, the biggest thing about Hillary is a question mark," said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, the political organization founded by 2004 antiwar candidate