August 12th, 2014
11:32 AM ET
5 years ago

David Axelrod smack-tweets Hillary Clinton

(CNN) - Zing!

David Axelrod, former adviser to President Barack Obama, hit back Tuesday against Hillary Clinton's recent criticism of Obama's foreign policy.

In an interview with “The Atlantic” published over the weekend, Clinton argued the decision not to arm Syrian rebels early on had led to Islamic militants taking over swaths of territory in the region.

The former secretary of state also took a swipe at an oft-repeated phrase Obama uses to sum up his foreign policy choices - “Don’t do stupid stuff.”

"Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle," Clinton said.

In his tweet, Axelrod appears to be knocking Clinton's 2002 vote as U.S. senator in favor of the Iraq War. (Of course, his tweet can also be aimed at Republican hawks who support a harsher response to the current situation in Iraq.)

The PAC for the progressive group MoveOn also tweaked Clinton.

“Secretary Clinton, and any other person thinking about seeking the Democratic nomination in 2016, should think long and hard before embracing the same policies advocated by right-wing war hawks that got America into Iraq in the first place and helped set the stage for Iraq’s troubles today,” Ilya Sheyman, the PAC’s executive director, said in a statement Tuesday.

Clinton later said she regretted supporting the authorization of the Iraq war.

"I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had," Clinton writes in her new book. "And I wasn't alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple."

The recent tension between Clinton and Obama's team invokes memories of their 2008 battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, when the two candidates butted heads over foreign policy.

A White House official said Monday that the White House is not getting amped up over Clinton's interview. They don't see this as her break-away moment, according to the source, though they anticipate she will move away from Obama over time.

The President and his former chief diplomat will have a chance to talk things out Wednesday night; the two are expected to attend the same event in Martha's Vineyard.

Clinton is also getting hit by the Republican National Committee, which accuses Clinton of playing politics on the issue.

"You can't distance yourself from this administration’s foreign policy when your job for four years was to lead its foreign policy," RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said.

CNN's Ashley Killough, David Chalian, Dan Merica, Jim Acosta, and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: David Axelrod • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (277 Responses)
  1. Brad

    Wow..."You can't distance yourself from this administration’s [failed] foreign policy when your job for four years was to lead its [failed] foreign policy,"

    August 12, 2014 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  2. tom l

    I honestly don't know the answer to this and have no idea why I'm coming in here to ask but it seems odd that Obama can bomb Iraq (ISIS) and didn't ask for nor need Congress' approval but he had to ask for Congressional approval for intervening in Syria. I thought once all of our forces were out of Iraq it would be treated the same way as Syria since we no longer were involved there. Seems odd to me that our president would ask for approval in one case and not the other.

    August 12, 2014 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  3. john alport

    I think we have to be honest in rating presidents, regardless of party. Reagan and Bill Clinton were really very good on foreign policy, even coming from different ideologies. Carter, Bush II, and now Obama have been the worst on foreign policy. Carter was an embarrassment and Bush II was a disgrace.

    But Obama joins the Peanut Farmer and the Decider at the bottom too. Let's really take a look.

    Obama campaigned that he would close GITMO and has not.
    He was handed Iraq but has done poorly with it up until ISIS. Regarding ISIS, Obama delayed several months before dealing with the situation.

    Obama has done nothing brilliant with Afghanistan.

    He totally failed in several ways in Syria. First, as Hillary notes, he failed to arm the Syrian rebels when he could have made an impact. Second, he kept moving his line in the sand so that few countries believe him. Third, he was totally boxed in a corner by Lavrov and Putin and was forced to get into an agreement that let Assad off the hook for his chem weapons attacks.

    On Iran, Obama started off well. Sanctions don't always work, but our sanctions crippled Iran. We could have left the sanctions in place and literally watched Iran crumble. But no. Obama gave away the sanctions for almost nothing.

    Now there are those who will point to Obama's great success in capturing bin Laden. Even if I grant that, this pales in comparison to the negative record above. Franky, I won't even grant that. NSA and CIA and military worked the case for almost a decade. On Obama's watch, Leon Panetta presented the case to the president (who happened to be Obama), and the president (who happened to be Obama) said go for it. Exactly how much credit do you want to give Obama for that?

    Obama's foreign policy record is detailed and negative.

    August 12, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  4. cjb

    If Hilary is the best the libs got, the GOP has it in the bag.

    August 12, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  5. Jim Brown

    Hey Axelrod...hear that sound? Its the timer going off. Your 15 minutes of fame are over.

    August 12, 2014 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  6. Big Jim

    These are the fools that are currently running the country? We are all doomed! Obama is totally incompetent and Hillary is totally out for herself.

    August 13, 2014 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  7. Todd

    Obama played this right. This is what the American people voted for!

    Iran just don't have a government. Now if anyone says why didn't we PLACE a government? You're making the USA become the USSR.

    August 13, 2014 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  8. Rwehiyet

    I am a lefty and she frightens me. She is the type of person who will shift her position on everything to stay on the correct side of the issue. And btw, she doesn't do a good job of running her own house. Just saying.

    August 13, 2014 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  9. luke, AZ

    Elizabeth Warren would "smack" Hillary Clinton in a debate without blinking an eye.

    August 13, 2014 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  10. KipPDX

    Removing Saddam was a good idea. Not having a plan after he was removed from power was not a good idea and sticking around to nation build was an even worse idea. People in America apparently forgot that Saddam started a war with Iran that killed 1.4 million over 8 years. He had plans to become a nuclear weapons power until Israel had the guts to bomb his French nuclear reactors. Saddam also invaded Kuwait and fired SCUD missiles into Israel and Saudi Arabia two close US allies. Saddam also murdered thousands of Shia's and gassed the Kurds so I don't get those who apparently wanted to leave Saddam in place. Hitler was an orderly fellow I am sure but I don't think the allies were OK with leaving him in power. The problem now is Obama is President and Commander in Chief and he has failed to address any of the recent crisis (Libya dissolving, Ukraine, ISIL in Iraq, etc.). Obama's arrogance and dogmatic approach coupled with talking to a handful of advisors with zero military experience are causing him not to be able to adapt and improvise. To stop ISIL we need to have a lot of boots on the ground in Northern Iraq and our strategic air power in the air. We should be using B-1 bombers dropping fuel-air and cluster munitions on ISIL not hitting a few pickup trucks and mortars with expensive Hellfire missiles from a drone or 500 pound laser guided bombs from an F-18. We should be using Ospresys and Chinooks to get thousands of people off the mountain in northern Iraq before they all die of thirst. We should also help the Kurds and tell the Turks to butt out as they are the only real warriors in Iraq. My sons were field grade Army officers with four tours in Iraq and they will tell you the Iraqi Army has always been inept and cowardly and the Kurds can be trusted to fight if they have equivalent weapons and training and are backed by US air power. It would be like our successful campaign in Afghanistan after 9/11 using our Special Forces as a laser designators for our airpower, the Northern Alliance as infantry and B-52's to destroy the enemy.

    August 13, 2014 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  11. vrytix

    Axelrod conveniently forgot to note that President Obama and VP Biden both have said they inherited a "stable" Iraq. According to Biden, Iraq was so much better that it would be a feather in the cap of the current administration.

    Yes, Bush was wrong to believe that Saddam Hussein had WMD's. Many on the Left accuse him of lying about that. If he lied, why did the CIA Director then, George Tenet, insist that Saddam had WMD's?

    Facts are not important to people like Axelrod.or Mrs. Clinton. She has said she took responsibility for the death of American diplomats in Benghazi. But, she also said she had nothing to do with diplomatic security. Does that make any sense?

    August 13, 2014 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  12. Thom

    The GOP field is SO BAD, that Clinton can probably win no matter what she said or did.......... Everything in DC is CALCULATED.

    August 13, 2014 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  13. Thom

    Everybody voted for the war in 2001....because they were all lied to............and most of them regret it, even some on the right.

    August 13, 2014 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  14. cbp

    We have paid a price for entering into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. What we do not need is these headlines which do not really have any relevance whatsoever. Mrs. Clinton was part of this administration she cannot distance herself now. Mistakes are made and our people in power are human. Instead of working together we are continually critiquing. If you have a better idea then share it with those in power and do what is best for us all. These wars have taken a huge toll on our military and on those who must make these life and death decisions everyday.

    Can we leave race out of this and can we, for once, react as adults and not be so political and more humane.

    August 13, 2014 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  15. Christian

    Hillary's excuse for Iraq is other's got it wrong. How about this for turning back the clock Hillary. The world was teling you that Iraq didn't have WMD.

    Hillary, Are you saying that only George W. Bush and the US senators that voted for it where the dumb ones in the rooms? If so, good to know in what side of the room you were.

    August 13, 2014 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  16. Christian

    Hillary's excuse for Iraq is other's got it wrong. How about this for turning back the clock Hillary. The world was telling you that Iraq didn't have WMD.

    Hillary, Are you saying that only George W. Bush and the US senators that voted for it where the only ones in the rooms and the world that were not aware of this? If so, good to know in what side of the room you were.

    August 13, 2014 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  17. SameoldSameold

    Hillary Benghazi Clinton will say anything and do anything to get back into the WH,

    August 13, 2014 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  18. IpseCogita

    Attack Clinton? For what? To support what's his name the veep? Does anyone actually want Biden to be president?

    August 13, 2014 03:53 am at 3:53 am |
  19. adam

    Being more aggressive with Assad would have driven him to use more chemical weaponry and murder many more civilians. There are no simple answers. Destroying Iraq's military and toppling Saddam Hussein wasn't so bad. It was the occupation, the disenfranchisement of the Sunnis, the rebuilding, the democratization, etc.. that was total folly. No one predicted that the Bush administration would be so stupid.

    August 13, 2014 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  20. Kata Strophic

    Hillary Clinton always hypothetically sounds like a great candidate, but when the pedal hits the medal it's her cheap shots that make me insane: "Clinton argued the decision not to arm Syrian rebels early on had led to Islamic militants taking over swaths of territory in the region."

    Real armchair quarterback there, perfect hindsight since talking's always the easy part. But no, Hillary, rebels were NOT initially the problem at all. The Syrian GOVERNMENT was, along with some rather understandable confusion on WHICH rebels should be armed anyway. I don't even get this. Didn't that start coming down when she was Secretary of State, and thus probably got regular memos on it and so forth?

    She also soundis like the annoying doppelganger of PotatoHead McCain, who never met an intervention he didn't like. Perhaps both might reflect yet ANOTHER reason Syria was off-limits, and without doubt the most compelling of all, was because if we had thrown our hat in the ring so might have Russia and China which might then have been angry enough to send weapons, or at a further point even quite a bit more, to al-Assad.

    A more prudent President appears to have possibly reflected on a few little drawbacks into drawing a nation sick of wars–and still stuck in the longest in its history–into yet another conflict, and one which still holds a most definite promise of escalating international tensions with the world's two other superpowers.

    This is campaign rhetoric, and it's dumb. Democrats will be reminded why we didn't want her taking 3 a.m. phone calls in 2008, and no Republican is going to cross and vote for a female married to a Clinton. Sounds to me like another of her seat-of-the-pants political calculations–big on ambition but deplorably lacking in facts–gee, kind of like how she was so craven as to throw away principles and logic and go for a higher popularity rating by voting for the Iraq war in the first place.

    August 13, 2014 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  21. cfd

    The village !diot is bickering with the village !diess, priceless

    August 13, 2014 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  22. @RI_Roger

    David Axelrod is one of the biggest reasons this country is where it is. If he concentrated on governing rather than blaming the country would be in a much better place economically and in world standing. Someone who is good at running a political campaign has no clue how to govern a country.

    August 13, 2014 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  23. Tom

    60% of all Democratic Senators voted for the 2002 Iraq resolution - it was hardly just a resolution only supported by 'right wing war hawks'..

    August 13, 2014 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  24. humtake

    And here is more proof of CNN's Liberal pandering. When two Republicans disagree, it becomes headline news stating how the Republican party is all in disarray and how they are never going to get anything done and blah blah blah. When two Democrats disagree, CNN tries to rationalize it and make it sound as warm and fuzzy as possible.

    August 13, 2014 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  25. KR

    I certainly hope Elizabeth Warren is a contender for the next presidential race.

    August 13, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
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