Hillary in Tunisia Answering Question About U.S. Presidential Candidates Pandering to ‘Zionist Lobbies’: 'It's a Fair Question'

February 27, 2012 - 5:32 AM

Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes part in a town hall meeting with students in Tunis, Tunisia on Saturday, February 25, 2012. (Photo: State Department)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows at the weekend with comments in Tunisia predicting that President Obama would be re-elected, but less attention was given to the context of her remark--which came in reply to a question about U.S. presidential candidates pandering to “Zionist lobbies.”

In fact, given her response, it’s hard to believe that Clinton understood (or possibly correctly heard) the question.

Taking part in a town hall with students in Tunis on Saturday, Clinton was asked how an elected president would regain the trust of Arabs after having run a campaign with stances in favor of “his enemy” – an apparent reference to Israel.

“We noticed here in Tunisia that most of the candidates from the both sides run towards the Zionist lobbies to get their support in the States,” said the questioner. “And afterwards, once they are elected, they come to show their support for countries like Tunisia and Egypt … How would you reassure and gain his trust again, once given the fact that you are supporting his enemy as well at the same time?”

In her reply, Clinton did not touch on the reference to “Zionist lobbies” or “enemy.” If taken at face value, her response implied that Republican and Democratic presidential candidates’ pro-Israel stances are merely campaign rhetoric that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

The full question, and her full reply, as posted on the U.S. State Department website follows (full transcript):

Questioner: After the electoral campaign starts in the United States – it started some time ago – we noticed here in Tunisia that most of the candidates from the both sides run towards the Zionist lobbies to get their support in the States. And afterwards, once they are elected, they come to show their support for countries like Tunisia and Egypt for a common Tunisian or a common Arab citizen. How would you reassure and gain his trust again, once given the fact that you are supporting his enemy as well at the same time?

Clinton: Well, first, let me say, you will learn as your democracy develops that a lot of things are said in political campaigns that should not bear a lot of attention. There are comments made that certainly don’t reflect the United States, don’t reflect our foreign policy, don’t reflect who we are as a people. I mean, if you go to the United States, you see mosques everywhere, you see Muslim Americans everywhere. That’s the fact. So I would not pay attention to the rhetoric.

Secondly, I would say watch what President Obama says and does. He’s our president. He represents all of the United States, and he will be re-elected president, so I think that that will be a very clear signal to the entire world as to what our values are and what our president believes.

So I think it’s a fair question because I know that – I sometimes am a little surprised that people around the world pay more attention to what is said in our political campaigns than most Americans, say, are paying attention. So I think you have to shut out some of the rhetoric and just focus on what we’re doing and what we stand for, and particularly what our president represents.

Either Clinton misheard or misunderstood the question, or she announced to her audience that presidential candidates’ pro-Israel positions “don’t reflect the United States, don’t reflect our foreign policy, don’t reflect who we are as a people.”

Judging from a comment in a subsequent television interview, Clinton apparently had not grasped the student’s question.

Asked by a CNN interviewer Sunday about the appropriateness of a secretary of state making “kind of a campaign statement,” Clinton said:

“Well, remember the context of it. I was asked whether the comments in the primary campaign, some of which have been quite inflammatory, represented America. And I represent America, and I know what happens in campaigns. I’ve been there, done that. And I know that things are said that are not going to be put into practice or policy. But I did think I needed to point that out to the audience. And probably, my enthusiasm for the president got a little out of hand.”