Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Ready for the 3 a.m. call?

SUMMARY: Clinton says she's skilled at foreign affairs because of her work as first lady on Northern Ireland, China and Kosovo. We check the facts to see what she did.

The Clinton campaign's TV ad featuring a phone ringing at 3 a.m. raised questions about whether Sen. Barack Obama had the foreign policy credentials to be president. But it also prompted questions for Sen. Hillary Clinton about whether she had much foreign policy experience herself.

In an interview on CNN's American Morning on March 5, 2008, Kiran Chetry asked Clinton, "Can you tell us what specific experience in handling a crisis you can point to that would make you better equipped to answer that White House phone at 3 a.m.?"

"Well, of course, I've got a lifetime of experience. Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience. Senator Obama's whole campaign is about one speech he made in 2002," Clinton said.

She said she had been involved in foreign policy and security policy for 15 years. "I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland. I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo. I've been standing up against, you know, the Chinese government over women's rights and standing up for human rights in many different places."

We divided her comments into three statements to examine:

• Northern Ireland. We interviewed people involved in the peace process and found that Clinton played a small but significant role in the peace process. We felt that "I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland" would have been an accurate statement for George Mitchell and other key players in the talks, but that it was an exaggeration for Clinton. We gave her a Half True.

• Kosovo. We checked the statements of administration officials, news coverage of her trip to a refugee camp and her itinerary. But we found little evidence that she had negotiated the open borders. We gave that a Barely True.

• China. We examined a speech she delivered in China, the coverage it received and interviewed experts on China. We found she had been praised for the speech — a New York Times editorial said it "may have been her finest moment in public life" — but we found little else to indicate she had long been active on human rights issues in China as her statement suggested. We gave her statement a Half True.