POLITICS

Former White House Aides: Clinton Overstates Foreign Policy Role

03/28/2008 02:46 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sen. Hillary Clinton claims that her experience in dealing with foreign affairs qualifies her to handle a crisis call at 3 a.m. and be commander in chief.

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign accuses Clinton of exaggerating her foreign affairs experience. It says that nothing in her background shows that she's more prepared to handle an international crisis than he is.

No question is more central just now to their rivalry for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton has said that Obama hasn't passed the "commander-in-chief test," but that both she and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain have.

To bolster the claim, she's trumpeted her role as first lady in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, helping to open Macedonia's borders to Kosovo refugees and challenging China on women's rights, all as proof that she has what it takes to manage a foreign crisis.

Yet while it's impossible to know how much she conferred privately about such matters with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, when he was in power, public records and interviews with former Clinton administration officials and others strongly suggest that Clinton overstates her role.

Leon Panetta, Bill Clinton's White House chief of staff, and Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton's national security adviser, both said that Hillary Clinton wasn't privy to the president's daily intelligence brief, nor did she sit in on National Security Council meetings.

It's unclear whether Clinton had a national security clearance when she was first lady. Several former top-level Clinton White House officials couldn't recall, and a Clinton campaign spokesman didn't respond when asked on Tuesday.

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