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Clinton Faces Difficult Foreign Policy Path


FILE- Hillary Rodham Clinton.

FILE- Hillary Rodham Clinton.

After announcing her intention to run for president, Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail Monday, taking with her the message of being a champion of ordinary Americans.

Lara Brown of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University says Clinton will face a difficult balancing act between conveying to the American public that she has enough experience for the job and bringing a fresh approach to U.S. policies.

"The real issue for her is going to be to try to separate her foreign policy objectives from President [Barack] Obama’s," said Brown. "She served as his secretary of state, and she will have a delicate dance, because she will not want to in any way malign or reduce President Obama’s credibility in the foreign policy arena, and at the same time she can’t really just be seen as a third term of President Obama."

Although she has not yet outlined her foreign policy platform, Clinton already has shown herself to be on the more hawkish side of the Democratic party on global affairs.

In 2009, she argued for a surge of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and for intervention in Libya in 2011. She also pushed for a more active role in Syria, advocating the arming of Syrian rebels against President Bashar al-Assad. As a senator, she voted for a resolution authorizing military action in Iraq in 2002.

Clinton has a loyal following among Democrats, and her years as the nation's first lady, then as a senator and finally as secretary of state give her considerable political heft.

That experience, however, comes at a price, says political analyst Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report.

"Her service as a senator and secretary of state will be under a microscope," said Rothenberg "We’ve already seen criticism about Benghazi and her performance there, and frankly, President Obama’s entire foreign policy will get lots of criticism from many people who are unhappy with his performance."

Potential Republican contenders are already focusing on parts of Clinton's foreign policy record, such as her response to the 2012 fatal attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Republican frontrunner Jeb Bush on Sunday was quick to criticize Clinton as a candidate who represents the past rather than the future.

"We must do better than the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has damaged relationships with our allies and emboldened our enemies," he said in a video ad.

Rothenberg says Clinton most likely will try to portray herself as a tougher version of President Obama.

"She is going to try to convey a sense of strength, because there has been some criticism of President Obama: he draws a red line, he erases a red line, he draws another one; there has been a lot of criticism about the negotiation with Iran, and how much he has been willing to give away," he said.

For now, says Brown, the most important issue for the American public is the economy. But global events could change that agenda over the next two years.

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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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