In a wide-ranging interview where she put some rare distance between herself and President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted at a potential presidential run and laid out a message that sounds a lot like a campaign slogan.
Asked by the The Atlantic magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg for her “organizing principle,” she replied with an tidy alliterative three-word phrase: “Peace, progress, and prosperity.”
If it sounds like a presidential campaign slogan, that’s because it is -- or at least was in 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower ran for reelection on the promise of “Peace, prosperity, and progress.”
It’s a message that was also used by the White House of her husband, Bill Clinton, to sum up his accomplishments. And a variation -- “prosperity and progress” -- became Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign slogan.
The phrase has resonance in Clinton’s personal history as well. During her famous “glass ceiling” speech conceding the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton said she got into the race to put “our country back on the path to peace, prosperity and progress.” As secretary of state, she said America’s global leadership was essential to creating “a more peaceful, prosperous, progressive world.”
Clinton, has said she won’t decide on a presidential run until at least the end of the year, but told Goldberg that she’s about “to find out, in more ways than one” if the public agrees with her vision.
“Peace, progress, and prosperity” strikes a different tone from her 2008 messages, when she was criticized for shifting between numerous slogans that lacked emotional resonance. Some were about Clinton’s resume -- “Ready for Change, Ready to Lead,” for instance -- more than her version. While the prescriptive slogans, like “Solutions for America,” could feel somewhat technocratic.
“Peace, progress, and prosperity” could emphasize her biggest strength (her foreign policy experience), while also giving a nod to restive progressives and a hint at a vaguely populist economic agenda.
“You’ve got to take care of your home first,” Clinton explained to Goldberg about how her vision of “prosperity” circumscribes an expansionist foreign policy. “If we don’t restore the American dream for Americans, then you can forget about any kind of continuing leadership in the world.”
Meanwhile, Clinton broke with the president on foreign policy in a meaningful way. She’s been extremely careful to put almost no daylight between herself and Obama since conceding the 2008 race and joining his administration.
But in the interview, she seemed to criticize Obama’s cautious and circumstance-based foreign policy approach, saying, “Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle.”
Clinton also said the “failure” to arm more moderate rebels in Syria -- something she and other administration officials wanted to before being overruled by Obama -- helped lead to the rise of the Islamic State, the jihadi group that has taken over large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
Clinton has always been more hawkish than Obama, but kept whatever disagreements she had with the president mostly out of sight until now. If she decides to run, she will almost certainly have to cleave herself from the White House, both to keep the unpopular Obama at some distance and because of their genuinely different policy views in some areas.