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Clinton To Tout Her Foreign Policy Experience In California Speech


And Hillary Clinton's campaign says she'll deliver a major foreign policy speech in California today. Michele Flournoy thinks Clinton will define herself against Donald Trump.

MICHELE FLOURNOY: And I think given some of the outrageous things that Trump has said with regard to foreign policy - that we should scrap our alliances, just give people nuclear weapons so they can defend themselves, keep all Muslims out of the United States - and I would expect that she would take some of that on.

GREENE: Flournoy was under secretary of defense during President Obama's first term. And many believe she could be tapped as defense secretary should Hillary Clinton win. Flournoy says Trump's foreign policy is short on specifics.

FLOURNOY: He's not been very clear about exactly what would he do and really working through the details because the details matter on these kinds of issues because so much is at stake.

GREENE: But what about her? What would she do? If she was asked by someone who has listened to the idea of a wall, who says I'm very nervous about my border and wants to know the details from Secretary Clinton, I mean, what would she say she would do in detail?

FLOURNOY: You know, I'm not speaking for her or for the campaign. But I've been watching what she's said and listening. And she's had several major foreign policy speeches where she has laid out her policies on ISIS, on Iran, on Israel, other Middle East challenges. And plus, she has a record as secretary of state, as a senator who served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And I think her inclinations on foreign policy, her record is very, very clear.

The challenge with Trump is that he doesn't have any experience in this area, doesn't have a record unless you count, you know, the Miss Universe contest as foreign policy experience. But, I mean, he really doesn't have a record.

GREENE: But if she is going to criticize him for not offering specifics, I mean, do you think it's fair for Americans to listen to the speech and demand specifics from her?

FLOURNOY: Absolutely. And I think she could provide specifics. I mean, you know, having watched her in the Situation Room for hundreds of hours, she has dealt with just about every issue that you could imagine that would come before a president.

GREENE: If I can, let me get a little specific into one issue. I mean, let's say you have an American who is very concerned about his or her security, is very afraid of terrorism and has listened to Donald Trump talk about some of the policies you have mentioned. What would you tell that person to say, you know what? I understand you want some action here. This is what we could do that might make you feel better.

FLOURNOY: You know, I think there are very strong steps that we can take to improve our homeland security, to ensure that we disrupt terrorist threats against the country. And there's more that we can be doing to fight ISIS.

GREENE: But is there a specific that you have supported in the past or you would support now that would make someone feel like, OK, that sounds like an aggressive move to go after ISIS, I could get behind that?

FLOURNOY: Well, I think we have to do more to put pressure on them from every dimension - a more intensive air campaign, more advisors and folks who are working with the partners and the opposition groups on the ground to make them more effective in taking territory away from ISIS and reestablishing legitimate governments among Sunni areas, going after their finances even more aggressively, trying to be proactive, getting out ahead of things in places like Libya and Southeast Asia where they are trying to get a foothold. I mean, there are all kinds of things that we could do to beef up our counter-ISIS strategy. But what Donald Trump is recommending is not on the list of effective measures.

GREENE: I want to ask you about a word that the campaign used in announcing this speech. They said that Secretary Clinton would lay out the exceptional role that the United States has played and will continue to play. And I guess I wonder about the idea of exceptionalism in the context of what we've seen in the Arab Spring. I mean, Secretary Clinton was supportive of removing a leader in Libya, hoping for a better life for people in that country. And, you know, that's a country in chaos at the moment. And I wonder if there are any lessons learned from experiences like that that might lead her as president to make a different decision.

FLOURNOY: You know, I think one of the things that I appreciate about Secretary Clinton, having watched her up close for, you know, the first Obama administration, is that she is thoughtful on these issues. She actually thinks about, you know, what happened in Iraq, what went right, what went wrong - same with Afghanistan, same with Libya, same with any place where we have committed American troops or substantial American prestige. That's an issue of temperament that she's willing to think these things through, learn and try to ensure that we do better the next time.

GREENE: When it comes to using force and using American power, you know, the New York Times, when they profiled Secretary Clinton and her foreign policy a few weeks ago, suggested that she is the only hawk left in the race, that she would be more ready to use the military and use American powers. Is that a fair assessment?

FLOURNOY: Actually, I think what I've seen in her is someone who is always looking to integrate the different tools of our national powers. So she understands that diplomacy is more effective when there is some coercive elements behind it. So getting to - Iran to the negotiating table was going to be more effective. That diplomacy was going to be more effective because of sanctions, because we had a real military plan to use force if we had to, even though nobody wanted to go that direction. To me, it's that smart use of all the instruments of power is what I think she spends her time thinking about. I don't think she is trigger-happy. I don't think she is cavalier. I don't think she takes the use of force lightly.

GREENE: Michele Flournoy, it's always great to talk to you. Thank you so much for joining us as always.

FLOURNOY: Thank you. Thanks very much.

GREENE: She is former under secretary of defense. She's now CEO of the Center for a New American Security. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.