Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton on Sunday dropped her shield and criticized her former boss for his strategy against Islamic militants -- forcefully rebutting her GOP critics.
On the same day President Obama is scheduled to give a rare Oval Office address following the terror attack in San Bernardino, California--where the suspects appear to have at least been inspired by ISIS--Clinton said, “We’re not winning. But it’s too soon to say that we are doing everything we need to do,” the former secretary of State told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week.
“We have to fight them in the air, we have to fight them on the ground, and we have to fight them on the Internet; and we have to do everything we can with our friends and partners to protect ourselves,” she added.
Clinton said the U.S. and it allies must first “make sure we have every tool at our disposal to destroy their would-be caliphate in Syria and in Iraq. Number two, do everything we can to dismantle this very effective, virtual, jihadist network that they are using on the Internet. And number three, do whatever is necessary to protect us here at home.”
She also called for increasing the number of special operations forces in Syria but ruled out sending American combat troops back to the Middle East.
“I think it would make things worse, not better,” she said.
Clinton seemed at ease throughout the interview, no doubt buoyed by recent polls showing her growing national lead over her top rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and her expanding likability -- something that has dogged her campaign among voters.
She pushed back against Republican critics who say the price tag for some of her proposed initiatives, like a $275 billion infrastructure investment bank, has reached $1 trillion and continues to climb.
“I think it's a little bit amusing that the Republican National Committee would go after me, since all of their candidates and their party philosophy is massive spending cuts and massive tax decreases for those at the very top with no thought to how to pay for it or the trillions of dollars it would add to the national debt,” she said, noting her spending proposals would be spread out over 10 years.
But Clinton hedged was asked if she would make a “read my lips” promise not to raise taxes on anyone earning under $250,000, a reference to a campaign pledge President George H.W. Bush made, but was unable to keep. Clinton said it was a “goal” not to hike the tax rate for that income bracket.
The former first lady ten downplayed critiques over her handling on the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and why illegal immigrants aren’t covered her healthcare plan.
Clinton perked up the most when asked to respond to a new line of attack from Donald Trump, involuntarily laughing at the mention of the former reality TV star.
“Oh, dear. A new one, huh?” she asked.
At a recent campaign event the billionaire said Clinton “doesn't have the strength, she doesn't have the stamina” to serve in the Oval Office.
“Well, who can agree with anything he says that is, you know, subject to one second of fact checking?” Clinton retorted before declining to say if Trump is the contender she wants to run against most.
“I don't have any influence over who they nominate over there and, in fact, he's not the only one saying things that are deeply distressing. A lot of the others are kind of Trump 2, you know? Oh, whatever Trump says, maybe we won't go quite as far, but we'll get as close as we can,” she said.
Clinton also had a possible explanation about why Trump remains the GOP’s frontrunner.
“He's a reality TV star. I mean tens of millions of people have watched him for more than a decade on TV and he is part of the celebrity and he will stay whatever he wants to say and if he's held account, that -- it's not true, he just brushes it off and he goes on,” she said. “There's a certain attractiveness to people that here's a guy who says exactly what he believes, untrue as it may be, inflammatory as it certainly is.
In that vein, Clinton took on critics of her 2016 White House bid, which has lost the veneer of inevitably it held just a few months ago after the controversies of Benghazi and her personal e-mail server.
“I try to take criticism seriously but not personally,” she said, paraphrasing former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who said “for any woman in the public arena, you have to grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros … I try to put lotion on it, but … I've had to grow a lot of thick skin over the years.”