Daniel Larison misunderstands my point about competence and a hypothetical Clinton-Paul contest:
This [my claim that Clinton will run on competence not ideology in foreign policy] jumped out at me because Clinton doesn’t have any particular claim to foreign policy competence. Her tenure at State during Obama’s first term was very busy in terms of traveling around the world, but one would be hard-pressed to identify any successful major policies that Clinton could take credit for. Obama centralized foreign policy decisions in the White House to a great degree while she was the Secretary of State, and many of the major policies that Clinton is known to have supported don’t help her to claim competence in this area. As an advocate for arming the Syrian opposition, pushing for regime change in Libya, and backing escalation in Afghanistan, Clinton routinely took the more hawkish side in every internal administration debate, and that put her on what proved to be the wrong side of some of the most important decisions of the first term. For that matter, the main reason that Clinton is ever credited with foreign policy competence is that she reliably takes the conventional and “consensus” position on every major issue. In other words, her claim to competence is that she sticks to a predictably hawkish line. She would have to emphasize ideology, since that is what her foreign policy reputation is based on in the first place.
My point was not that Clinton actually has a record of competence in foreign policy; I don’t think she does. I agree, in fact, with pretty much all of Larison’s criticisms of her foreign policy record. I just don’t think Clinton is going to run on a platform of “She’ll keep us at war.” Rather, she will claim that she has the experience to know how to negotiate effectively and get results without war, and the clout to build a broad coalition of international support when the use of force is necessary. Whereas, she’ll portray Paul as a naive ideologue who doesn’t understand how the world works. Her actual foreign policy preferences are quite close to Senator McCain’s, but she won’t make jokes about bombing Iran, and won’t present herself as the heir to “bear any burden, pay any price.”
Clinton does not need to run on foreign policy ideology, because nobody will be asking her to – except, assuming he’s her opponent, Rand Paul. Why would she give him a debate he wants to have?
Maybe I’m wrong about that, and Clinton relishes a chance to make the case for her brand of hard Wilsonian foreign policy. But I doubt she thinks that’s the way to win. And she will be focused on that objective.