Politics

Connecticut Senator Aims To Be The Elizabeth Warren Of Foreign Policy

Harking back to Howard Dean, Chris Murphy opens space on Hillary Clinton's left flank. "Progressives have been adrift on foreign policy and it means presidential candidates don't feel a lot of pressure to move away from the right-wing orthodoxy."

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Chris Murphy is arguing online and behind the scenes that Democrats need to assertively pursue a more progressive foreign policy ahead of the 2016 election.

Progressives like Elizabeth Warren have elevated a slew of domestic issues like the big banks and the wealth gap — and have had early success in pushing their potential presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, to the left on those issues. Murphy — who studiously avoided directly criticizing Clinton in an interview, and indeed said that he "trusts" her foreign policy instincts — said that, similarly, progressives need to do a better job articulating and pushing forward their foreign policy views "for the party."

"I think it's really important to have a well-articulated progressive foreign policy vision going into the 2016 election," Murphy told BuzzFeed News when asked if Clinton needed to be pushed to the left on foreign policy.

"Progressives have been adrift on foreign policy and it means that presidential candidates don't feel a lot of pressure to move away from the right wing orthodoxy that still tends to rule this town," he said. "I think it's really important over the next six months for non-interventionists, internationalists to get their act together."

Clinton has become in recent years a stronger advocate for intervention than some other Democrats, a vocal supporter of Israel, and advocated as secretary of state for arming Syrian rebels.

Shortly after BuzzFeed News spoke with the senator, Murphy posted an op-ed titled "Desperately Seeking: A Progressive Foreign Policy Vision." The document blasts the "neoconservative worldview" and "this philosophy of knee jerk military intervention."

Murphy does not mention the 2016 elections, or Clinton by name, and while he calls for a "coherent progressive response," he does not actually present one. But he argues that the progressive wing of the party has its recent roots in foreign policy — opposition to the invasion of Iraq, which Clinton voted to authorize — and has moved too far away from it.

"Today's progressives were molded in the fire of foreign, not domestic, policy," he writes. "Oh, how far we have traveled."

A website, "chanceforpeace.org" asks people for input on what they'd like to see in a progressive foreign policy platform and was blasted out to supporters on Thursday afternoon.

"Progressives have become at best, reactive, and at worst, absent, from serious, meaningful foreign policy debates," he wrote. "Part of this retrenchment is understandable given that with a Democrat in the White House, progressives are always going to be in the shadow of the Commander-in-Chief when it comes to articulating views on international events."

While his office pushed back on the idea that the senator's efforts were in anyway related specifically to Clinton, it was clear in an interview that he was thinking about it in the context of the next presidential election and their candidate. Murphy said he was trying to bring "a lot people to the table" to figure out the next steps.

"I don't lose sleep at night worrying where Hillary Clinton is on foreign policy — I just think it would be important to have a more coherent foreign policy vision going into the next election," he said, noting that both Democrats and Republicans are "forgetting the mistakes we made in Iraq and Afghanistan."

"I trust her instincts on foreign policy because I watched her perform well for four years at State I just wanted to make sure that …there is home for people who want to think in a different way about exerting a different world view in the party," he added.

Kate Nocera is the managing editor for BuzzFeed’s Washington, DC bureau. Nocera is a recipient of the National Press Foundation's 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting on Congress.

Contact Kate Nocera at kate.nocera@buzzfeed.com.

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