Ames, Iowa — Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said during Saturday night’s debate in Des Moines that the fight against ISIS “cannot be an American fight” and that she doesn’t believe the U.S. “has the bulk of the responsibility.”
They were comments that both her rivals for the Democratic nomination seized upon, but for different reasons.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said,”this actually is America’s fight. (But) It cannot solely be America’s fight.” U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, used the comment about “responsibility” to say Clinton does share responsibility as she voted to authorize the war in Iraq, which Sanders said led to the growth of ISIS.
Clinton’s comments also became fodder for Republicans with an eye on the White House. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush struck first.
Asked if he trusted fellow Republican candidates Donald Trump or Ben Carson to be commander in chief, Bush said, “I don’t know. The words I hear them speaking give me some concern. But that’s why we have campaigns.
“I’m more concerned about Hillary Clinton thinking the United States doesn’t have a leadership role in this.”
It was with that fallout in mind that Clinton took the stage in a cattle barn here on the campus of Iowa State University to speak to the Central Iowa Democrats’ annual fall barbecue. She wasted no time getting to the point.
“The attacks in Paris, as I said last night at the debate, are a sobering reminder of the challenges and threats that we face,” Clinton said. “And the importance of American leadership. This is a world-wide fight. As I said, I know America has to lead it but we cannot and should not do it alone.”
Was it a clarification? A backtrack? Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri said the former.
“Her point is America is always going to to be the world leader in the fight,” Palmieri said. “(But), it can never be America’s alone. Iraq has to be, this needs to be their fight. You’re not going to secure the country unless Iraq owns that. It can’t all be on our shoulders. America is going to lead.”
There are real political dangers to nuance in a time of terrorism. Former President George W. Bush was criticized by hawks in his party for visiting a mosque days after the 9/11 attacks and declaring that, “Islam is peace.”
When then-U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said during his 2004 bid for president that the goal of the war on terror was to get to the point where terrorists are “nuisances.” Republicans used the statement to bash him as soft on security.
Expect to hear more about this as the campaign rolls on. For more coverage of the day in Iowa, see our full story on myajc.com.