- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2015

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made official her long-awaited entry into the presidential race Sunday, announcing in a video that she is running because she wants to be a champion for “everyday Americans.”

Mrs. Clinton’s statement in the video was brief, but she made clear that she will run on economic issues and adopt populist rhetoric demanded by the Democratic Party’s liberal base.

“Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” she said. “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion so you can do more than just get by — you can get ahead and stay ahead, because when families are strong, America is strong.”

The former first lady, senator and top diplomat became the first Democrat to enter officially the 2016 presidential race, though others have taken preliminary steps.

Republicans immediately assailed Mrs. Clinton, often focusing on her record as secretary of state. They said she lacked accomplishments and was at the center of what they considered to be President Obama’s foreign policy failures.

In his own video message Sunday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said America “must do better than the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has damaged relationships with our allies and emboldened our enemies.”

SEE ALSO: Mitt Romney: Americans have doubts about Hillary Clinton for president

If successful, Mrs. Clinton would make history as the first female president of the U.S. She is expected to play up the history-making aspect of her run more so than she did in 2008, when she lost the nomination to Barack Obama, who became the country’s first black president.

The video, which was sent via social media and posted on Mrs. Clinton’s new campaign website, HillaryClinton.com, contrasted sharply with the video announcement from her 2008 campaign. Back then, the camera remained locked on Mrs. Clinton as she sat on a couch and outlined her agenda for ending the Iraq War, achieving energy independence and reforming health care.

This time, the roughly 2-minute video labored to take the focus off of Mrs. Clinton and counteract the air of inevitability that surrounds her, although she remains the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination.

She doesn’t appear until nearly three-quarters through the video, after a montage of a dozen ordinary Americans making plans for their lives.

The careful selection of people in the video also reflects the constituencies Mrs. Clinton hopes to attract, such as young voters, women and Hispanics — the same groups that fueled President Obama’s two election wins.

The video includes a young mother planning to move to a new neighborhood to get her daughter into a better kindergarten, a young homosexual man planning to marry his partner, two Hispanic brothers preparing to open their first business and a female college student applying for jobs.

“I’m getting ready to do something too. I’m running for president,” Mrs. Clinton says as she appears, wearing a bright red shirt and a tailored blue jacket.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, welcomed Mrs. Clinton to the race.

“As First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has been a forceful advocate for women, children, and families, and an effective ambassador on the global stage,” Mrs. Wasserman Shultz said in a statement.

“While we expect a competitive primary for the Democratic nomination, one thing is for certain — next November, voters will face a choice between Democrats who will continue to build on the middle class economic success of President Obama, and Republican candidates who want to bring back the failed, trickle-down economics of the past,” she said.

Besides Mr. Bush, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas went after Mrs. Clinton on foreign policy — despite disagreement between the two senators and Republican presidential rivals over how hawkish and aggressive the U.S. should be abroad.

“Hillary Clinton represents the failed policies of the past and there’s going to be a very clear choice to make in 2016. Does America want a third Obama term or are we ready for strong conservative leadership to make America great again?” Mr. Cruz said.

“Her announcement raises a critical question: Is the world a safer place because Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State? The answer is obvious. No,” he said.

Mr. Paul used against Mrs. Clinton her own 2008 TV attack on Mr. Obama, which questioned whether he would be ready to answer an emergency 3 a.m. phone call to the White House.

“I think Benghazi was the 3 a.m. phone call that she never picked up,” Mr. Paul said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The remarks were a harbinger of attacks Mrs. Clinton is bound to encounter over the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. She was secretary of state at the time and over the flag-draped coffins of the four Americans falsely blamed the terrorist attack on an anti-Islam video.

In her brief video announcement, Mrs. Clinton did not touch upon foreign policy or her record as America’s top diplomat. But her experience as secretary of state will be key to her argument that she is the best-qualified candidate to occupy the Oval Office.

Rallying to Mrs. Clinton’s defense, Sen. Barbara Boxer said she had a glowing record as secretary of state.

“When she was secretary of state, the reputation of America was down as low as it’s ever been in history. And she restored the reputation of our nation,” the California Democrat said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I think she brings to this [campaign] every quality you’d want to have. And the Republicans are going to beat her up … morning, noon and night, and I think she will stand up to it,” said Mrs. Boxer. “She’s been around the block a few times on this, and I think it will bring more people to her side.”

But Mrs. Clinton still must work to win over her party’s liberal base.

Despite her nod in the video to the economic agenda of her party’s left wing, liberal activists hesitated to back Mrs. Clinton and continued their calls for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to challenge her for the nomination.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who helped get Mrs. Clinton elected to the U.S. Senate from New York, refused to endorse her Sunday when pressed on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Not until I see — and again, I would say this about any candidate — until I see an actual vision of where they want to go,” he said. “I think she’s a tremendous public servant. I think she is one of the most qualified people to ever run for this office. And by the way, thoroughly vetted, we can say that. But we need to see the substance.”

Liberal groups such as MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, which have organized a campaign to draft Mrs. Warren despite her oft-stated refusal, have demanded that Democratic candidates adopt an agenda that includes breaking up Wall Street banks, expanding Social Security benefits and making a college education affordable without taking on heavy debt.

“We’re looking forward to hearing more about Secretary Hillary Clinton’s vision for the future of our country and, in particular, how she plans to address our nation’s income inequality crisis and stand up to the wealthy and powerful interests on Wall Street and elsewhere that dominate our political process,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America.

“Secretary Clinton has earned the respect of Democracy for America members because of her deep commitment to the rights of women and children, two groups impacted immensely by income inequality, the issue that will define the 2016 election,” he said. “We also know that a vigorous competition for the best ideas, the best people, and the best campaign practices will leave our party, our eventual nominee, and our country stronger, which is why we continue to urge Senator Elizabeth Warren to enter the 2016 race for president.”

Mrs. Clinton will make her first official campaign stops this week in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation nominating contest, visiting a college in Monticello on Tuesday and a produce distributor in Norwalk on Wednesday.

She is expect to venture later to the first primary state of New Hampshire. She reportedly plans to meet voters in small groups and try to forge more personal connections than she did in her failed 2008 run.

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