A day after deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, Hillary Rodham Clinton cast herself as the country’s strongest commander in chief in a scary world, even as she defended her own role in the rise of Islamic terrorists.
“This election is not only about electing a president, it’s also about choosing our next commander in chief,” Clinton declared Saturday night in the Democrats’ second debate of the presidential campaign. “All of the other issues we want to deal with depend upon us being secure and strong.”
Clinton faced criticism of her national security record, when Bernie Sanders traced the instability in the Middle East to the U.S. Senate’s vote — including Clinton’s — to authorize military action in Iraq in 2002. He said the U.S. invasion “unraveled the region.”
The former Secretary of State fought back, saying terrorism has been erupting for decades. She rejected the idea that she and the rest of the Obama administration underestimated the growing threat of the Islamic State group.
The back-and-forth revealed a foreign policy split within the Democratic Party, with Sanders playing to the anti-war activists who boosted then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama to the presidential nomination in 2008.
The debate began with a moment of silence followed by the previously unplanned foreign policy questions. All the candidates denounced the attacks, but they gave some fodder to their Republican rivals who coupled condemnation of the Paris attacks with sharp criticism for Obama and Clinton.
All three Democrats criticized the term “radical Islam” used by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and other Republican candidates as unnecessarily offensive to American Muslims.
“We are at war with violent extremism, we are at war with people who use their religion for purposes of power and oppression,” said Clinton.
GOP candidates seized on the remarks. “Yes, we are at war with radical Islamic terrorism,” stated former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.