Clinton Hails Restoration of ‘Essential’ U.S. Global Leadership, While Sen. Rubio Will Ask If Such Leadership Is ‘Even Necessary’

By Patrick Goodenough | April 24, 2012 | 5:02 AM EDT

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) listens as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a news conference prior to a town hall-style meeting in Aston, Pa., Monday, April 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

( – Amid growing speculation that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney may choose Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as his running mate, Rubio plans to deliver “a major speech on the future of U.S. foreign policy” on Wednesday.

“Rubio’s remarks will focus on whether U.S. global leadership is sustainable and even necessary in the 21st century,” the senator’s office said in a brief statement.

Given that theme, Rubio’s speech at the Brookings Institution could offer an intriguing counterpoint to comments made on Monday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who focused on what she characterized as the Obama administration’s success in “reestablish[ing] American leadership around the world.”

Clinton – who herself dismissed recurring rumors that she could replace Vice President Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket this year – was addressing an audience at Syracuse University.

The event, entitled “America and the World,” took the form of a discussion between herself and Jim Steinberg, dean of the university’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, who served as Clinton’s deputy at the State Department until last July.

“Coming into the office along with President Obama and the administration, I was surprised at how much work we needed to do to reestablish American leadership, to reassure people that the United States would get through the economic crisis, that we would continue to provide leadership on the full range of issues that affect us as well as the rest of the world,” she said.

“What surprised me most, Jim, was how much work we had to do in those early months to reestablish American leadership around the world. And I think we’ve done that,” Clinton continued.

“That doesn’t mean everybody agrees with us, and it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot of work to do, primarily here at home. Because any leadership that we try to convey elsewhere has to be rooted in strength at home – economic strength, political strength.

“But I think we’ve made the case in the last three-plus years that there may be difficult times ahead for the world, but the world will be well-served if American leadership remains as essential today as it has in the past,” Clinton said.

Among the range of subjects addressed, the secretary of state spoke about the challenges of tackling foreign governments on their human rights records.

Clinton has drawn fire on occasion for appearing to downplay the issue, for instance when she told reporters during a 2009 visit to China that differences over human rights could not be allowed to interfere with priorities like “the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises.”

“Sometimes, publicly criticizing a government over human rights abuses is not the best way to achieve the results you’re seeking,” she said on Monday. “So we have to modulate how we say what we say and when we say it and who we speak to, because, again, otherwise you won’t be able to protect the people you’re trying to protect in many instances, and you may not be listened to if it just becomes a mantra, a public rhetorical mantra.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow