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Hillary Clinton

Last modified: October 26, 2016

Hillary Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008, losing to eventual President Barack Obama, who then appointed her secretary of state. She is the consensus favorite to win the Democratic nomination. She announced her campaign in May 2015.

A key element of Clinton’s rise to political prominence has been former President Bill Clinton, who is enormously popular with Democrats and moderates alike. His moderate reputation, combined with her penchant for hawkishness, have the potential to broaden the appeal of what would be an otherwise conventionally progressive candidate.

As first lady, Clinton was heavily involved in policy matters, most notably her health care reform plan. As a senator she voted with her Democratic colleagues on most domestic issues, including voting against the George W. Bush tax cuts as well as against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito. On foreign affairs she staked out more hawkish ground early in her tenure, supporting the Iraq invasion, but backed away from her support for the war as public opinion turned against the venture. Her tenure as secretary of state produced few tangible successes, although the time out of the political spotlight allowed her to burnish her image. Upon leaving the post, she enjoyed generally high approval ratings with the public.

Clinton’s inner circle includes current Center for American Progress head Neera Tanden, who served as Obama’s director of domestic policy, was Clinton’s policy director, and was instrumental in constructing Clinton’s universal health coverage plan. Other key allies include former campaign manager Maggie Williams, noted fundraiser Patti Solis Doyle, and personal confidante Huma Abedin.1

After barely managing to eke out a win in the Iowa caucuses and suffering a 22-point loss in the New Hampshire primary, Clinton beat her lone opponent in the Nevada caucuses by 5 percentage points and followed that up with a 48-percentage point win in South Carolina. On Super Tuesday she won seven of 11 caucuses and primaries and has generally fared well since then. She has a strong and experienced political organization supporting her; is much more popular among the non-white voters that play a bigger role in later states; and has the backing of the overwhelming majority of the Democratic party establishment, including the crucial superdelegates that might decide a close race.

Although she continues to face a well-funded opponent, her recent victories have given her a substantial delegate lead and she remains the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

Background dropdown arrow

Hillary Diane Rodham was born on Oct. 26, 1947, in Chicago to Hugh Ellsworth Rodham and Dorothy Emma Howell. Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, she got an early start to her political career, campaigning at the age of 13 for Richard Nixon and then Barry Goldwater in 1964.

Raised as a conservative, she attended Wellesley College, where she became president of the Young Republicans. Her views shifted leftward in response to the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, which she came to oppose, supporting the candidacy of antiwar Democrat Eugene McCarthy. In 1968, she left the Republican Party for good after attending the Republican National Convention.

After graduating from Wellesley in 1969, Clinton entered Yale Law School, where she took an early interest in child advocacy. Throughout her law school career, she worked on various campaigns until 1971, when she met her future husband, Bill, and the two campaigned together on behalf of George McGovern’s failed 1972 presidential bid.

Upon completing postgraduate study, Clinton joined her husband in Arkansas, a decision partly motivated by the fact she failed the District of Columbia bar exam and passed the bar in Arkansas. In 1975, the couple married (Clinton retained her maiden name of Rodham), and in 1976 Bill Clinton was elected attorney general. In 1979, Hillary Clinton became first lady of Arkansas following her husband’s election to the governorship.

As Bill Clinton’s political star continued to rise, she took his last name to officially become Hillary Clinton. During the 1980s, she was able to use her position in the governor’s mansion to attract high-level clients to the Rose Law Firm, where she billed over $200,000 per year. The firm’s clients included Walmart and TCBY, and Hillary Clinton served on the board of directors for both companies.

In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president, and Hillary Clinton became a lightning rod as an activist campaigner and first lady. She generated controversy by criticizing women who “stayed home and baked cookies”2 and endured criticism for her willingness to parlay her husband’s political fortunes into personal gain. But she was also a powerful asset, and her “60 Minutes” appearance in the wake of the Gennifer Flowers scandal has been credited with salvaging his presidential bid.

In 1993 Hillary Clinton was appointed to head the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. Her task force proposed a sweeping overhaul of American health policy that would provide universal health coverage by compelling employers to provide it to employees. This was the first concerted effort to pass a universal health care law, and it earned Clinton sweeping condemnation. Throughout the remainder of her husband’s presidency, Clinton would see a diminished role in advocating policy.

After Bill Clinton’s tumultuous second term in office, in which he was impeached and confessed to marital infidelity, Hillary Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate, replacing Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Weathering charges of carpetbagging (the Clintons had never lived in New York, nor had they been active in New York politics), she scored a 12-point victory over challenger Rick Lazio and became senator in 2001.

In spite of a low-key tenure as senator, Clinton’s presidential ambitions were plain. After a landslide re-election victory, she transferred $10 million in funds toward her presidential campaign. In a bitter battle with Obama, who would eventually win the presidency, Clinton managed a split of the popular vote for the nomination, while Obama managed to accrue more delegates, especially the coveted superdelegates.

Obama appointed Clinton to be secretary of state, a position she held until 2013. Like her Senate career, her tenure as secretary was largely unremarkable, save for the death of Osama bin Laden and gradual troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the controversy surrounding the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, along with 3 other U.S. personnel, in Libya.

Clinton and her husband have a daughter, Chelsea, a former television correspondent who now works for the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative.

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Character dropdown arrow

Raised in the United Methodist Church, Clinton has long sought ways to reconcile her faith with her political values. She once described herself as having the mind of a conservative and the heart of a liberal3

While her policy views have changed frequently depending on the political winds, such as her shifts on immigration and trade,4 she has been steadfast in supporting government programs she believes help children. She outlined her vision in the book It Takes a Village.5

Clinton’s private work has often been at odds with her proclaimed policy views. To cite just one example, she served on the board of Walmart, one of the more staunchly anti-union businesses in the country, but continually portrays herself as an ally of organized labor.

More recently, Clinton has spoken in strongly populist tones regarding income inequality, suggesting the wealthy are somehow responsible for the plight of the poor, while earning six-figure speaking fees and seeing her own family’s wealth grow considerably after her husband left the White House. Shortly after unveiling part of her plan to stop climate change, she boarded a private jet with a significant carbon footprint.6

In terms of ethical issues, Clinton has no shortage, including the recent mass deletion of e-mails from the privately controlled server hosting the e-mail account she used as secretary of state, questionable profits from commodity trading in the late 1970s,7 the disappearance and then discovery of legal billing records related to a failed savings and loan run by a business partner of the Clintons,8 the firing of the White House travel staff,9 and the Whitewater scandal that snared convictions of the Clintons’ business partners as well as the governor of Arkansas at the time, but not the Clintons.10

Most recently, serious allegations have been raised in a new book documenting numerous instances where large contributions were made to the Clinton Foundation or speaking fees paid to Bill Clinton by foreign governments, companies, and individuals at the same time they were seeking, and receiving, favorable decisions from the State Department when Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.11 At a bare minimum, it appears the Clinton Foundation failed to honor its agreement with the Obama administration to reject or seek approval of foreign contributions.12

She has both supported and opposed trade relations with Cuba. She initially opposed NAFTA but ultimately supported it. More recently she appears to have backtracked on trade again, voicing concerns over the Trans Pacific Partnership that her own State Department played a major role in negotiating.13

Although they were stalwart supporters of teachers unions and strong opponents of homeschooling and school choice, Clinton and her husband nonetheless sent their daughter to an elite private school. While she is certainly not alone in this particular brand of hypocrisy, Clinton’s vocal opposition to education choice is particularly glaring.

Clinton stood up to what could be described as knee-jerk disdain of lobbyists in her 2008 campaign, saying, “A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans. They represent nurses, they represent social workers, yes, they represent corporations that employ a lot of people.” Given that she was speaking to a far-left conference at the time, Clinton deserves credit for taking the heat on espousing an unpopular view.14

Clinton also supported her husband’s decision to sign welfare reform in 1996, legislation that was deeply unpopular with liberals.15 As first lady of Arkansas, she served on an education reform commission and supported its call for competency testing of teachers, which was vigorously opposed by teacher unions.16 Her support for the North American Free Trade Agreement was also opposed by labor.17

According to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served under Obama while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, Clinton admitted that her opposition to the troop surge in Iraq was based on political concerns and her 2008 presidential campaign.18 Clinton has denied the charge, saying Gates misunderstood what she had said.

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Leadership Skills dropdown arrow

Clinton is a capable and experienced speaker. She has spent more than two decades in the national spotlight and been the subject of often withering criticism from political opponents. With significant political experience dating back to at least the mid-’70s, Clinton may be the most experienced candidate in the 2016 cycle. By nearly all accounts she did very well in the first Democratic debate,19 showing skills and experience likely honed in more than two dozen debates during the 2008 campaign.

Yet for all her experience, Clinton has been known to be tone-deaf20 and displays little of the same skill as a campaigner as her husband. In one recent example, she said that problems many veterans had accessing health care through the Veterans Administration were not widespread and accused Republicans of being driven by a political agenda, which forced her campaign to quickly walk back her comments after they came under sharp criticism.21

22 Her language can be legalistic and sound like she’s parsing words, such as her defense of the use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state,23 and she has been criticized frequently for her evasive responses in interviews24 and generally making herself inaccessible to the press.25 She has been overly cautious in her statements on a variety of issues,26 failing to state her position on items like the Trans-Pacific Partnership for several months27 and what the federal minimum wage should be.28 After saying for months she would not take a position on the Keystone XL pipeline because she was part of the review process as secretary of state, Clinton bent to political pressure and declared her opposition.29

A noted fundraiser, not just for herself, but for the Democratic party at large, Clinton embarked on a massive tour throughout the United States in support of Democratic candidates leading up to the 2014 midterm elections. While it could be argued those visits did little good for the candidates in a Republican wave election, it speaks to the respect she has within her party that she was so frequently called upon at a time when Obama was avoided. These visits have given her exposure in key states such as Iowa, a fact certainly not lost on the expert campaigner.

In a moment indicative of Clinton’s zealotry and ambition, her staff crafted a “hit list” of politicians who had wronged her during her 2008 presidential bid; many observers suspect if she did not order this list created, it was certainly done in an environment she fostered.30 This may call into question her ability and willingness to bury the hatchet, much less work across party lines. When Sen. Claire McCaskill made a disparaging remark about Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton instantly canceled a fundraiser she had planned for McCaskill.

Outside of her tenure in the Senate, Clinton has been more of an advocate than an executor. For this reason, she lacks a singular accomplishment that defines her political career, and it is even difficult to ascertain what she might want those accomplishments to be. In order to be a successful candidate and president, she will have to define herself outside of the presidents she has operated under.

As a senator, her track record is light. She authored no major legislation and did not secure major coalitions for or against any signature legislation.

Clinton has authored a number of bestselling books. Her most recent, Hard Choices, chronicles her service as secretary of state and has all the hallmarks of a pre-presidential memoir. She embarked on a lengthy book tour in support of the book.

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Free Markets dropdown arrow


As a senator, Clinton voted against President George W. Bush’s major tax-cut packages.31 Once they were enacted, she did generally vote to extend many of the existing cuts.

She has endorsed the so-called “Buffett Rule,” which aims to make high-income earners pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes, without providing many details other than a 5 percent surtax on personal income over $5 million, unveiled in early January 2016.32

As part of her economic agenda, Clinton has announced several targeted tax changes she would push as president, including a hike in capital gains taxes on investments held less than six years and unspecified changes concerning executive compensation in order to limit what she calls “short-termism” and “quarterly capitalism,” what she believes is an unhealthy focus on short-term profits at the expense of long-term growth.33 In order to limit corporate inversions, she has called for raising to 50 percent the stake that an overseas merger partner must own of the combined firm, as well as an “exit tax” to collect taxes on profits held overseas.34 Responding to a question at a campaign event, she said she would be willing to use patents owned by multinationals as “leverage” against companies with profits held overseas, but she has not offered details on what this would entail.35

She also has proposed giving businesses a 15 percent tax credit for profits they share with workers,36 as well as a tax credit for businesses that offer apprenticeships.37

In order to pay for her five-year, $275 billion infrastructure spending proposal, Clinton has said she would raise taxes on businesses (which she terms “reforms”), but she has not specified what taxes would be raised.38

Clinton announced in late November that she would push for targeted tax cuts aimed at people who care for dependent parents, worth up to $1,200,39  as well as up to a $5,000 credit for those who have out-of-pocket medical expenses exceeding 5 percent of their income.40

Clinton voted in favor of a bill to extend the moratorium on Internet taxes.

According to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, Clinton’s tax policies would raise approximately $1.1 trillion over the next decade, with the top 1 percent of earners paying nearly three-quarters of those new taxes.41

Budget & Spending

Clinton has been sharply critical of the budget sequestration enacted as part of the debt limit deal in 2011, focusing in on the reduction in spending on scientific research.42 She also praised the 2013 Ryan-Murray budget compromise deal to increase spending in the short term in exchange for promised cuts in later years.43

Like Obama, Clinton proposed a stimulus package during her 2008 campaign. Her $110 billion plan would have focused on helping low-income families.44 She has long been opposed to a balanced budget amendment, though she did vote in favor of a one-year moratorium on earmarks.45 In 2001, she voted in favor of an additional $123.1 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.46

Clinton has proposed a $30 billion program to alleviate economic damage to coal-producing areas from her climate change policies. Her plan would provide more subsidies for “clean energy” production, entrepreneurs, and broadband access in hard-hit areas,47 as well as expand funding for infrastructure projects.48

She also proposed an infrastructure spending program of $275 billion over five years, with a focus on improvements to roads, bridges, airports and shipping ports,49 and more recently proposed another $50 billion be spent on youth jobs programs, re-entry programs for released prisoners, homeownership support targeted at poor and minority homebuyers, and “to support entrepreneurship and small business growth in underserved communities.”50


As a senator, Clinton supported a so-called card check bill, which would allow unions to dispense with the need for a vote to organize at a particular company. The bill also curtailed an employer’s ability to influence the outcome of organization efforts.51

As part of her plan to provide assistance to communities hit by climate change policies on coal, she has proposed having the federal government provide taxpayer bailouts to union-negotiated pension and health plans at coal and other companies that go bankrupt.52


As a senator she voted to increase the minimum wage.53. She has announced her support for a $12 federal minimum wage,54 well above the current $7.25 standard but below the $15 level many progressive activists prefer. She supports requiring paid family leave for new mothers.55

She also voted in favor of the Sarbanes-Oxley bill to impose heavy accounting and bookkeeping regulations on certain industries and was a co-sponsor of legislation after the housing crisis that would have imposed a temporary moratorium on foreclosures.56 She endorsed Obama’s call for tough “net neutrality” regulations to be imposed on Internet service providers.57

As part of a proposal to reduce energy use in the U.S., she announced she would work to establish energy-efficient model building codes, expand the number of products covered under Energy Star ratings, and subject more appliances and equipment to energy efficiency mandates.58

Energy & Environment

Clinton is on the record speaking of the benefits of fracking, though she favors regulating the practice.59 She nominally supports exporting natural gas and oil production and sees gas as a clean, job-creating alternative to coal.

After months of declining to weigh in on whether the Keystone XL pipeline should be approved, citing her role as secretary of state in helping guide the assessment process,60 Clinton finally announced in September 2015 that she opposed construction of the pipeline.61

Clinton opposes drilling in the Arctic Wildlife National Reserve (ANWR) and voted in favor of an amendment to that effect. She does support some offshore drilling, but again calls for heavy regulation by government in that arena.62 In August 2015 she announced her opposition to an Obama administration decision to allow drilling in the Arctic Ocean.63 She has also said that she would prevent any further development of fossil fuel resources on federal lands, although it wasn’t clear if she would allow extraction to continue on sites that have already been developed.64 In a March 2016 forum, she said a Clinton administration would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”65

Clinton strongly favors efforts to curb carbon emissions in response to what she perceives to be a threat posed by global warming. A firm supporter of cap-and-trade schemes, she also supports the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. As a senator, she supported a bill that would have expanded federally protected lands and waters.66

As part of her 2016 campaign, Clinton has called for a goal of 500 million additional solar panels installed across the country and for renewable resources to generate enough electricity to power every home in the country.67


While not overtly opposed to NAFTA, given that it was a signature priority for her husband, she did state that she thought there ought to be higher priorities, such as health care. She went on to criticize NAFTA during her 2008 campaign for the presidency.68 She also opposed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), though she favored trade agreements with Singapore, Chile and Oman.69 More recently, Clinton has expressed reservations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal recently concluded by the Obama administration, and announced she would have to study the deal to decide whether to support it.70

Corporate Welfare

Clinton supports maintaining the Export-Import Bank, a taxpayer-supported institution that primarily benefits large U.S. corporations including Boeing and General Electric. At an event for the biotechnology industry, she suggested the federal government should subsidize companies in the industry against the risks they face as investors,71 and she proposes doling out to generic medicine manufacturers funds that have been collected from pharmaceutical companies that don’t in her view invest enough in research and development.72

As part of a $25 billion program aimed at supporting small businesses, particularly those owned by women and minorities, she has pledged that she will “encourage banks, businesses, and foundations to match capital and financing” to entrepreneurs who have gone through government-approved training and support programs, which could put the government in the business of directing private investment into favored firms.73

As a senator she previously opposed an ethanol mandate requiring an increasing amount to be blended into gasoline, but in 2015 she reversed her position to favor the mandate.74

Clinton voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2008, generally described as a bailout for large banks, when she was still in the U.S. Senate.75

Health Care

Clinton has said she does not support a single-payer plan but meeting notes from her early health care reform efforts during her husband’s presidency show she favored it at that time.76

She has expressed her support for Obamacare and said she is open to making changes to it, and she proposed repealing the so-called “Cadillac tax” imposed on expensive health plans with the caveat that the lost revenue should be made up elsewhere.77 She has also laid out specific proposals to limit out-of-pocket health care costs, including requiring insurers to provide three “sick” visits to the doctor at no out-of-pocket cost, offering a tax credit for out-of-pocket costs, and capping out-of-pocket drug costs at $250 a month.78 

She reiterated her support for a “public option” in Obamacare, a government-run insurer that would compete with private insurance companies in the market.79 She supported this idea in her 2008 campaign as well.

She also would require pharmaceutical companies to invest a specific percentage of their profits in research and development, eliminate the tax deductibility of consumer advertising, give Medicare the power to set drug prices for the program,80 and reduce the number of years biological medicines received patent protection from 12 to seven.81

Her campaign has suggested that funds collected from pharmaceutical companies that fail to invest the required percentage in research and development be given to generic medicine manufacturers to encourage competition.82

In December 2015, Clinton proposed spending $2 billion a year over 10 years to find a cure to Alzheimer’s disease.83

Clinton was also instrumental in passing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a program that provides federal matching funds to states to provide health insurance for low-income families with children.84

Clinton joined most of her Democratic colleagues in the Senate in voting against President Bush’s expansion of Medicare to create a prescription drug plan, largely based on a belief it was not generous enough to seniors and did not do enough to control drug prices.85

During her 2008 presidential campaign, Clinton proposed a plan that would mandate insurance coverage for all Americans. The plan’s cost, estimated (by her campaign) at $110 billion, would have been funded by repealing the Bush tax cuts.86

Entitlements & Welfare

One area Clinton did focus on during her Senate career was entitlements. In the past she supported keeping the cap on taxable income for Social Security,87 but more recently has suggested she might consider extending payroll taxes at income above the cap.88 She has proposed an initiative that would create retirement accounts for Americans but opposes any effort to privatize Social Security by allowing individuals to control their own accounts.89 She has said she wants to “enhance” Social Security, thought to mean offering more generous benefits to poorer retirees,90 but has not provided specifics or addressed the question of whether benefits should be increased for all retirees. She has said she would not rule out raising the retirement age for some people in the future, although she also said she doesn’t favor it.91

In 1996, she was heavily criticized for supporting her husband’s decision to sign the welfare reform bill,92 and she supported a bipartisan plan to increase work requirements for welfare recipients.93 She has proposed an initiative that would create retirement accounts for Americans but opposes any effort to privatize Social Security by allowing individuals to control their own accounts.94

She has proposed an initiative that would create retirement accounts for Americans, but opposes any effort to privatize Social Security by allowing individuals to control their own accounts.95,96,97 She has said she wants to “enhance” Social Security, thought to mean offering more generous benefits to at least some retirees, without providing specifics.98


Clinton strongly favors immigration reform. She supported a comprehensive immigration reform plan in 2007 that would create a new type of visa allowing anyone in the U.S. without a valid visa to remain in the country for the rest of their lives. After 13 years, these immigrants would then be eligible for citizenship. 99 She voted for the construction of a fence between the United States and Mexico and supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here,100 which she calls “essential” to reform.101

More recently, she vowed to go beyond President Obama’s executive orders on immigration to expand the ability of illegal aliens to stay in the U.S.102

She has criticized the “sanctuary city” policies that prevent or hinder the deportation of illegal immigrants who commit other serious crimes.103


She has seldom weighed in on agricultural issues. She did vote in favor of an amendment limiting subsidies to a married couple to $250,000,104 and more recently said she would double funding to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program, which provides training and assistance to people new to agriculture.105

Banking & Finance

Clinton revealed a Wall Street reform agenda in October 2015 that would extend the statute of limitations for financial crimes, devote more Department of Justice and SEC resources to investigation and prosecution of financial crimes, place a “fee on risk” aimed at leverage and short-term loans by financial firms, and impose requirements that bonuses paid to senior managers and executives be returned if the bank later loses money and has its financial health imperiled.106 She has also called for giving regulators the authority to re-organize or break up large firms, without providing details, as well as imposing a tax on high-frequency trading.107

She voted in favor of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation imposing new accounting and investment regulations on companies108 and has opposed efforts to reform or repeal the Dodd-Frank regulations of the financial industry.109 She has also opposed efforts to bring back the Glass-Steagall Act’s separation of investment and commercial banking.110

She has also proposed increasing the potential rewards for Wall Street whistleblowers who come forward with information, currently capped at $1.6 million,111 and banning “golden parachute” payouts to persons in the financial industry who go to work for government.112

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International Relations

As a former secretary of state who was active in crafting foreign policy along with her husband during his presidency, Clinton certainly has significant foreign affairs experience. Even before her tenure as secretary, she served on the Armed Services Committee in the U.S. Senate.

She accused NATO of sliding into “military irrelevance” and fought for tougher sanctions against Russia.113 She supports financial and military aid for Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists and has described Russia’s annexation of Crimea in harsh terms, comparing it to Nazi aggression.114 She has also said she favors imposing more sanctions on Russia if it assists Hezbollah in Syria.115

Clinton has endorsed the Obama administration’s decision to resume normal diplomatic relations with Cuba and also called for the embargo on trade to be lifted.116

Asked in the first Democratic debate what the top national security threat was, she said, “The continued threat from the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear material that can fall in the wrong hands.”117

War on Terror

While she opposed many elements of the war on terrorism as a senator, she is generally thought to be more hawkish than most members of her party, having voted for military intervention in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Even within the Obama administration, Clinton was considered to take a relatively proactive posture on military efforts abroad.118 Clinton says Gates misunderstood her comments, which were describing the political difficulties of getting the American public to support a surge.

In 2008 Clinton argued that the Iraq War had diverted focus from the fight in Afghanistan and said she would send more troops to that country,119 and as secretary of state she supported President Obama’s decision for an 18-month “surge” to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida.120 More recently she has said she agrees with Obama’s decision to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan through at least 2017.121

She also voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 and again in 2005. She has suggested (possibly inaccurately) that Edward Snowden, who leaked classified documents exposing domestic surveillance programs before fleeing to China and later Russia, could have come forward as a whistleblower and received protection, but instead broke the law and should face criminal sanctions if and when he returns to the U.S.122

As secretary of state, Clinton supported military intervention in Libya and the training of Syrian rebels, positions which compelled the administration to take a more aggressive pose.123

She has spoken against the use of U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS124 and recently called for the U.S. to accept 65,000 refugees from the war-torn area.125 She has also backed the establishment of U.S.-enforced “no fly zones” in Syria126 and said she would increase the number of U.S. Special Forces personnel on the ground in Syria and Iraq as well as step up airstrikes against ISIS.127

She has also called for United Nations sanctions against Iran, and stated that the use of military force against that country should not be taken off the table.

In March 2015 she sharply criticized the Republican senators who signed a letter to the Iranian leadership warning them on the limits of a deal that was not ratified by Congress,128 and she praised the deal that Obama agreed to with Iran in July 2015.129

It was recently revealed that as secretary of state it was her decision (presumably approved by the White House) to shift the U.S. negotiating position to allow some Iranian enrichment of uranium to be permitted, reversing the previous position of zero enrichment.130

Military Preparedness & Budget

As a senator, Clinton proposed a bill to increase the size of the Army by 80,000 soldiers.131

She was dismissive of allegations of widespread problems with the Veterans Health Administration, saying that veterans who get care are generally pleased with it and accusing Republicans of criticizing the agency due to an “ideological agenda.”132 Following severe criticism from veterans groups and others about her comments, she retracted her statement and weeks later while unveiling her VA reform plan called the problems “serious, systemic, and unacceptable.”133 Her plan would allow veterans to seek care outside the VA system in certain circumstances but she has pledged she would oppose plans to privatize most services.134

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American Exceptionalism

When asked in a 2014 interview with CBS News if she believed in American exceptionalism, Clinton said, “I do. I believe even more today than I did when I became secretary of state.… We are, number one, the longest surviving democracy, but not just in the way we were created but in the way we’ve evolved … we had to fight a Civil War, we had to amend a Constitution … and we’re still making changes to try to move us towards that ‘more perfect union.’ I don’t know of any other nation that is as self-correcting, self-aware, as willing to make change, in order to live up to our founding principles, as we are.… We know we’re not perfect, we don’t claim to be perfect, but we are exceptional. And I think we have to both understand that and we have to safeguard it.”135

Judiciary & Crime

As a U.S. senator, Hillary Clinton voted against the nominations of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, as well as to Roberts’ elevation to the role of chief justice.136

Clinton has praised the court’s opinions in King v. Burwell (Obamacare subsidies)137 and Obergefell v. Hodges (same-sex marriage).138 139 She has called the court’s opinion in Citizens United v. FEC “a grave error” and has promised to “do everything I can to appoint Supreme Court justices who protect the right to vote and do not protect the right of billionaires to buy elections.”140 She has said her Supreme Court nominees must support overturning Citizens United.141

In terms of the type of nominee she would appoint, she cited those who “respected precedence, felt what life was like for normal Americans, and had a career path outside of school and a conservative think tank.”142

She has also promised to “appoint judges to our courts who understand that Roe v. Wade isn’t just binding legal precedent,” but “the touchstone of our reproductive freedom, the embodiment of our most fundamental rights, and no one – no judge, no governor, no Senator, no President – has the right to take it away.”143

Clinton has described the U.S Constitution as a “living and working” document.144

On crime, Clinton has said she supports the death penalty in “egregious cases” that she thought would be “limited and rare.”145 She also suggested she favors significant changes to the criminal justice system to address “mass incarceration” and intends to offer specific policy proposals in the future.146

Free Speech & Religious Liberty

She has made an amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and limit political speech a centerpiece of her campaign,147 and has proposed providing taxpayer dollars to political candidates who agree to lower contribution limits.148

Clinton supported the Family Entertainment Protection Act,149 legislation that would regulate the video game industry for violent content.

Clinton criticized Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that would have allowed individuals, companies, and other organizations the opportunity to claim a religious exemption from having to follow certain laws.150 She said a Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage was “breaking the law by denying other Americans their constitutional rights.”151

She also denounced the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case that protected the rights of religious business owners to not have to include certain forms of contraception in their employee health plans.152 She was a co-sponsor of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, along with a bipartisan group of U.S. senators including Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, and Chuck Schumer,153 but has also endorsed the so-called Equality Act,154 which could trample the religious freedoms of individuals and organizations who object to same-sex marriage.155


In the aftermath of the Bush v. Gore decision following the 2000 election, Clinton stated that the electoral college should be scrapped in favor of a national popular vote.156 She is also on the record asserting Congress ought to be more respectful of presidential authority.


As first lady of Arkansas, Clinton worked to establish teacher testing and tougher state standards for curriculum and classroom size. She also voted in favor of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), though she opposes school choice and any sort of voucher program for low-income students.157 She has also voiced concerns over what she considers excessive testing of schoolchildren required under NCLB.158

Clinton has been a supporter of charter schools for several decades, although she has recently criticized them, saying that “most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them.” She further explained that she views the role of charter schools as a way to “learn what worked and then apply them in the public schools.” She remains a backer of charter schools, however.159

She has proposed providing federal funds to states that offer universal kindergarten.160

She has endorsed Obama’s call for community colleges to be free161 and has proposed a $350 billion plan to make college more affordable that includes federal funds to states who increase their spending on higher education, reducing loan rates, and requiring colleges to repay some portion of defaulted student loans.162

Social Issues

Clinton has generally favored stricter gun control laws, although she has endorsed the idea that the Second Amendment protects an individual right.163 She supports passage of a new “assault weapons” ban similar to the one passed in 1994,164 and favors allowing states and localities to determine their own gun laws, possibly including complete bans such as Washington, D.C., once had.165 She voted against legislation that would have prohibited lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers if their product were used in a crime.166 In 1993 she said she would support a 25 percent sales tax on firearms.167

In her 2000 U.S. Senate race she backed federal legislation that would have required gun owners to be licensed and handguns to be registered,168 but by her 2008 presidential campaign had backed off her support for this.169 More recently she has called for allowing lawsuits against firearm manufacturers and dealers if their products are used in a crime, eliminating the requirement that gun sales be allowed if a background check doesn’t clear the system in 3 days, and imposing background checks on private firearm sales170 through executive action.171

She has been a consistent advocate for abortion rights, most recently criticizing a House bill that would prohibit the procedure after 20 weeks.172 Her “HillaryCare” proposal in 1994 included language requiring abortion to be covered by all insurance plans.173 She has said she could not support any U.S. Supreme Court nominee who didn’t support the Roe v. Wade decision.174

Clinton recently shifted her longstanding position against same-sex marriage, endorsing it in March 2013175 after opposing it during the 2008 campaign.176 She praised the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.177

Clinton has supported affirmative action policies in the past, and is credited with helping to push Bill Clinton’s administration to fill half of all positions with women.178


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If opponents are looking for scandal to leverage against Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, they won’t have to look very far. Whitewater, travel office allegations, her time with Walmart and the Rose Law Firm, and any one of the myriad business dealings from her time as first lady of Arkansas could become a hot-button issue.

If those scandals are old chestnuts, the Benghazi embassy attacks are not. Evidence suggests that, under her watch, the administration repeatedly ignored requests for more security. These allegations could diminish one of her obvious assets on the campaign trail: her tenure as secretary of state and her likely claim that she’d be ready to handle America’s foreign relations from day one.

Congressional investigations into Benghazi have also uncovered e-mails and conversations Clinton had with her daughter179 and foreign officials180 the night of the attack showing it was known or at least thought almost immediately that it had been a pre-planned terrorist attack and not, as was being claimed in the media at the time, a protest and mob action inspired by an Internet video.181

Clinton’s failure to use a State Department e-mail for her official work as secretary of state is likely to trouble many voters, as it raises concerns over both transparency (because the private e-mail account helps shield her communications from Freedom of Information Act requests,182 and national security (because using a private system may have been less secure from foreign espionage and hacking attempts183). Recent reports have confirmed that Clinton’s e-mail system contained classified information, a potentially serious violation of federal law.184 The FBI is currently investigating the matter.185

A batch of e-mails released in early January 2016 included one in which she instructed an aide to remove classification markings from a document and send it to her through an unsecured system if the secure system was not working, contributing to the perception that she mishandled and was careless with classified material.186

Another recent scandal sure to be brought up during the campaign is the acceptance of millions of dollars in donations by foreign governments, companies and individuals to the Clinton Foundation while she served as secretary of state, including many by those seeking favorable decisions from the Clinton State Department.187 Recently unearthed e-mails suggest the workings of the foundation may have been intertwined with the foundation, such as taxpayer funds steered to the foundation for the reconstruction of Haiti following a devastating earthquake.188

The allegation that Clinton only opposed the troop surge in Iraq due to political reasons, as claimed by former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, could be problematic for her, particularly as she pursues the military vote.

As it was for Al Gore in 2000, affiliation with Bill Clinton is a double-edged sword. The former president is enormously popular with moderates. However, he has the potential to overshadow Hillary Clinton while simultaneously reminding voters of her role in various scandals throughout his governorship and presidency. Further, there is compelling evidence her husband’s popularity hasn’t necessarily carried over. Recent polling suggests her unfavorable ratings are stronger than her favorable ratings.189

While the supposed “inevitability” of her nomination will likely boost Clinton’s early chances, it may prove a detriment in the long term. Democratic primary voters tend to shy away from establishment candidates (as they shied away from Clinton in 2008), and she opens the door for a competitor in the general election to take the political outsider mantle.

There are potentially serious questions about Clinton’s health. After she sustained a concussion in 2012, doctors discovered a blood clot between her brain and skull. While she made a full recovery, there will be questions as to whether the rigors of nearly continuous campaigning have caught up with her.190

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