Former US Secretary of State - and potential 2016 presidential candidate - Hillary Clinton. Photo: AFP
Washington: Hillary Clinton has distanced herself from Barack Obama’s decision not to arm moderate Syrian rebels early during that nation’s ongoing civil war that has now spilled over the border into Iraq.
“"It was important to make clear that we would try to support moderates", the former Secretary of State said during a town hall-style question-and-answer session with CNN to promote her new book, Hard Choices.
The book is widely seen as the launching pad for the former Secretary of State’s expected bid for the White House in 2016.
In the book she writes: “The risks of both action and inaction were high, [but] the President [Obama]'s inclination was to stay the present course and not take the significant further step of arming rebels."
"No one likes to lose a debate, including me. But this was the President's call and I respected his deliberations and decision," she wrote, according to CBS News.
Mrs Clinton also faced questions on the issue for which she was most criticised as Secretary of State, the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi that lead to the deaths of four Americans.
Asked how she would respond to the mother of one of those killed, Sean Smith, who earlier told CNN she was not satisfied with the public answers Mrs Clinton had given about the incident, she said, “I totally relate to her as a mother or to any of the family members of the four Americans who were killed that night. I can see why she and others are inconsolable.”
Mrs Clinton added she is “still looking for answers” herself about the Benghazi attack “because it was a confusing and difficult time”, and said “I would hope that every American would understand, number one, why we were there, because we need to be in dangerous places and number two, that we’re doing the best we can to find out what happened and I hope that fair-minded people will look at that seriously.”
Just hours before the appearance the Obama administration announced alleged mastermind of the attack had been apprehended in Libya by US special forces and was en route to the US for prosecution. Some Fox News commentators said they believed the timing was designed to assist Mrs Clinton in the Q and A.
Australia’s mandatory voting was raised by the moderator, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who said that the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had explained to her how the system stopped people with extreme views from dominating the political debate, as has been the case in America for some years.
Ms Gillard’s presence has been felt in DC after Mrs Clinton’s comments to the ABC about the “outrageous sexism” meted out to her were widely reported here. By coincidence Ms Gillard appeared a few blocks away from Mrs Clinton just a few hours earlier, moderating a session at the Brookings Institution. Ms Gillard referred to Mrs Clinton as a global example of what it means to be a female leader today.
Asked if it was a hard to chose between spending time as a grandmother and potentially becoming the first female president of the United States Mrs Clinton responded that plenty of grandfathers had served as President.
Mrs Clinton signalled that as a candidate she would be willing take on the powerful National Rifle Association. She said in regards to gun control that the “minority opinion” should be allowed to “terrorise” the majority and that she supported universal background checks for gun owners and bans on high-capacity magazines.
Asked if she believed with those who argued that some of the criticism President Obama has faced is due to racism she said she could not place herself in the minds of his critics, but that many of the attacks he had weathered appeared to be particularly virulent and “detached” from his performance.
On gay marriage she used similar language to Barack Obama, saying she supported it and that her views on the issue had “evolved”.
She said she had still not yet decided if she would run for presidency.