FALLS CHURCH, Virginia — While giving a speech endorsing Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia gubernatorial bid at a small concert and theater venue just outside Washington, D.C., former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took several veiled shots at President Barack Obama and the way her 2008 Democratic primary opponent has run Washington since being first elected five years ago.
While Clinton never mentioned Obama by name, she used innuendo and some indirect references to try to separate herself from the president ahead of what is widely expected to be another run at the White House for her in 2016.
“I thought hard about what I wanted to say to Virginians today,” Clinton opened her remarks by saying. “I’ve been out of politics for a few years now. I’ve had a chance to think a lot about what makes our country so great, what kind of leadership is required to keep it great.”
Later in the speech, Clinton noted her work as Secretary of State and said she has come across leaders worldwide who divide and leaders who unite, a reference to Obama’s aloof and divisive style of politics and leadership.
“I’ve spent four years traveling across the globe, a great honor and privilege to represent all of you,” she said. “I’ve learned even more about what it takes to make the decisions, what it takes to bring people together to build the kind of future that we all want for our children and grandchildren. I’ve seen leaders who are divisive. And I’ve seen leaders who are unifiers. I’ve seen leaders who are exclusive. And I’ve seen leaders who are inclusive.”
A few minutes later, Clinton got even more direct in her criticism of current leadership in Washington, D.C., presumably a reference to both how Republicans and Democrats have handled ongoing policy battles.
“Now recently in Washington, unfortunately, we’ve seen examples of the wrong kind of leadership,” Clinton said. “When politicians choose scorched earth over common ground, when they operate in what I call the ‘evidence-free zone’ with ideology trumping everything else. We’ve seen that families in Virginia and across the country have felt the consequences, workers furloughed, businesses suffering, children thrown out of Head Start, poor mothers worried they won’t get the help they need to buy formula and food for their babies, that is not the kind of leadership we need in Virginia and America today.”
Clinton then touted bipartisanship, something that has been Obama’s weakest trait since being elected–a fact that has been on display even more so in recent weeks during the government shutdown and debt ceiling debate.
“Virginia has a history of getting it right, of electing problem-solving governors like Mark Warner and Tim Kaine,” she said. “We know well that both Mark and Tim reached across the aisle, focused on getting answers to the questions that Virginians had. That is the kind of leader Terry is. That is the kind of governor he will be.”
“For example, when Gov. McDonnell worked with the legislature to make historic investments in transportation that are vital to Virginia’s future, Terry supported him and the legislature every step of the way,” she explained. “Some might say: ‘Why would he do that? It’s a Republican governor and a Republican legislature.’ Well, there’s a simple answer: It was the right thing to do.”
Clinton also took a shot at people who are corrupted by ideology, by special interests, or both–another sideswipe at Obama. Much of the liberal base of the Democratic Party is upset that Obama has not been stricter with Wall Street and is similarly upset that he seems more consumed with ideology than with solving problems.
“If it’s only about yourself, if it’s only about you wanting to get a job and get the perks that go with it and, you know, have people stand up when you come into a room, that’s not enough anymore because it’s hard,” Clinton said. “Politics is hard, as the lieutenant governor and attorney general candidates know, because people are weary.”
“They’re wondering ‘Could I give this person my vote and will he then remember me? If I vote for him or her, will they do what I heard them say they will do? Will they get diverted by big money or ideology or power will they remember who put them into office?'” she continued. “I can tell you, you don’t have to worry about that with Terry McAuliffe.”