Clinton's Experience On World Stage: "Scant Evidence"
With a debate raging over which presidential candidate has the most experience and best judgment on world affairs, the Chicago Tribune examines Sen. Hillary Clinton's record:
Pressed in a CNN interview this week for specific examples of foreign policy experience that has prepared her for an international crisis, Clinton claimed that she "helped to bring peace" to Northern Ireland and negotiated with Macedonia to open up its border to refugees from Kosovo. She also cited "standing up" to the Chinese government on women's rights and a one-day visit she made to Bosnia following the Dayton peace accords.
Earlier in the campaign, she and her husband claimed that she had advocated on behalf of a U.S. military intervention in Rwanda to stop the genocide there.
But her involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process was primarily to encourage activism among women's groups there, a contribution that the lead U.S. negotiator described as "helpful" but that an Irish historian who has written extensively about the conflict dismissed as "ancillary" to the peace process.
The Macedonian government opened its border to refugees the day before Clinton arrived to meet with government leaders. And her mission to Bosnia was a one-day visit in which she was accompanied by performers Sheryl Crow and Sinbad, as well as her daughter, Chelsea, according to the commanding general who hosted her.
Whatever her private conversations with the president may have been, key foreign policy officials say that a U.S. military intervention in Rwanda was never considered in the Clinton administration's policy deliberations. Despite lengthy memoirs by both Clintons and former Secretary of State and UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, any advice she gave on Rwanda had not been mentioned until her presidential campaign.
CNN, meanwhile, examined her statements case-by-case:
"I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland," Clinton said on CNN's American Morning on Wednesday. Video Watch more of Clinton's comments on the race »
A Washington Post blogger accused Clinton in January of exaggerating her involvement in Northern Ireland.
But former Democratic Senate majority leader George Mitchell, who was a U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland, told CNN that while Clinton was not directly involved in negotiations, she did play a helpful role in bringing in women's groups that made a difference.
Mitchell is a Democratic superdelegate and has not publicly endorsed Clinton or Obama.
Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York, was also involved in the process. He recalls one late-night meeting with former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Clinton and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
"There was a discussion of how the IRA would decommission its weapons. And I know that Sen. Clinton was part of that meeting," King said.
"I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo," she said on CNN's American Morning.
In May of 1999, she was in Macedonia visiting refugee camps near the Kosovo border and meeting with Macedonia's president and prime minister.
Sources with knowledge of her visit say she discussed the refugees' plight with those leaders. It's not clear how much she helped since CNN reported at the time that Macedonia reopened its border to Kosovar refugees before Clinton's visit.
"I've been standing up against, you know, the Chinese government over women's rights and standing up for human rights in many different places," she said on CNN's American Morning.
During a 1995 visit to Beijing, at a time when her husband's administration was trying to press China on human rights, Sen. Clinton made a speech condemning abuses.
"No one should be forced to remain silent for fear of religious or political persecution, arrest, abuse or torture," she said.
But a former National Security Council official in the Clinton administration says Clinton didn't attend NSC meetings. So while her experience is extensive, she rarely carried an official portfolio.