Donald Trump’s campaign is running a TV ad in Colorado hoping to portray Hillary Clinton as a disastrous secretary of state, with claims that stretch the facts.
“Hillary failed as secretary of state and now the world is unraveling,” a narrator says to solidify the theme.
As you might suspect, it can be tough to pin an entire administration's problems on one cabinet member. And that’s where this ad gets into trouble.
CLAIM: Clinton’s Russian reset provoked Putin and led to wars in Europe.
This is a stretch.
It's True that Hillary Clinton was the face of the Obama administration's "reset" with Russia. She even brought a physical reset button for a 2009 photo op with her Russian counterpart. The button was infamously misprinted with the Russian word for "overload" instead of "reset."
In any event-- things seemed to go well at first. Russia started letting U-S troops pass through its territory to get to Afghanistan. The U-S scrapped a missile defense system that Russia was angry about.
But there were reports of mistrust in the Russian government shortly afterward.
Still, things really started to fall apart when Russia went into Crimea. But that didn't happen until early 2014, a full year after Hillary Clinton left office as Secretary of State.
CLAIM: Clinton’s bad decisions led to ISIS and horrific terror.
ISIS has roots that go back to the George W. Bush administration and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It declared itself the Islamic state almost a year and a half after Hillary Clinton left office as Secretary of State.
But the bigger point is: to the extent the United States could have stopped the rise of ISIS, it would have been with military action in Iraq and Syria.
We don't have diplomatic relations with the so-called Islamic State. Clinton was in charge of diplomacy. The President is in charge of the military.
Clinton did speak in support of President Obama's military approach, which is useful for voters to know.
But the military decisions weren't hers to make, as the ad would have you believe.
CLAIM: Hillary Clinton failed. Iran got nuclear access.
This claim is really opinion, one that is shared by critics of the Iran nuclear deal.
Clinton worked on that deal and she supports it.
We don't know what's going to happen as a result. The deal is an agreement not to make weapons for ten years, designed to make it take longer for Iran to build a weapon after that, and that has penalties for cheating.
Clinton has said she'd consider a military response if Iran cheats.
It's also worth noting that Iran already had access to nuclear material before the deal.
CLAIM: In Benghazi, Americans died because Clinton did nothing.
If you're going to accuse someone of *causing deaths, you'd better be able to prove it. Trump can't.
Even the Republican committee on Benghazi found no wrongdoing on Clinton's part.
The ad specifically cites a 2013 report by CBS, which details delays in getting troops to the incident at the US compound in Benghazi after it was attacked. Clinton was not in charge of dispatching troops to the incident. The only mention of Clinton in the article is her early explanation that the motive of the attack was an online video, which was later debunked.
The GOP committee also found no evidence that a military response could have reached the area in time to do anything, as summed up by the New York Times:
“The report, which included perhaps the most exhaustive chronology of the attacks to date, did not dispute that United States military forces stationed in Europe could not have reached Benghazi in time to rescue the personnel who died—a central finding of previous inquiries.”
What you can say is that the people in Benghazi asked for more security features and staff, and didn't get all they asked for. This is detailed as a trend as the temporary mission to Benghazi morphed into a longer-term presence there in part III of the GOP committee report.
Clinton has said that requests for heightened security never made it as far as her desk as they were not uncommon for the State Department to receive.
In any event, this is what keeps us from labeling the claim that Clinton caused the deaths in the attack patently “false.”
Is it possible that giving the mission there everything it wanted for security would have prevented deaths? Yes.
Can you prove it would have prevented the deaths? No.
BOTTOM LINE: Hillary Clinton had a role to play in the stories this ad brings up and her record on these issues is fair game.
But the ad stretches the truth and oversimplifies those issues to try to pin all of the blame on Hillary Clinton.