August 12th, 2014
04:37 PM ET
1 month ago

'Hugging it out’: Hillary Clinton calls Obama to calm tensions

Updated 12:55 p.m. ET, 8/15/2014

Washington (CNN) – Hillary Clinton reached out to President Barack Obama on Tuesday to tell him that headline-grabbing comments she made about his foreign policy were not meant as a political attack.

The potential presidential candidate called Obama to “make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him, his policies, or his leadership," Nick Merrill, a spokesman for the former secretary of state, said.

In an interview with the Atlantic published Sunday, Clinton dramatically distanced herself from Obama’s approach to foreign policy.

In it, she trashed his self-coined mantra for a cautious foreign policy: "Don't do stupid stuff."

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

She later labeled Obama's decision not to arm Syrian rebels, something she disagreed with, a "failure."

According to Merrill, though, Clinton "was proud to serve” with Obama.

"While they've had honest differences on some issues, including aspects of the wicked challenge Syria presents, she has explained those differences in her book and at many points since then," Merrill said. "Some are now choosing to hype those differences but they do not eclipse their broad agreement on most issues."

David Axelrod, Obama's former top adviser who now acts as his biggest defender outside the White House, rebuffed Clinton with a tweet that knocked her for her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq War.

Clinton said in the interview that “don't do stupid stuff" did not really reflect Obama’s big-picture thinking.

“I think that that’s a political message. It’s not his worldview,” Clinton said. “I’ve sat in too many rooms with the President. He’s thoughtful, he’s incredibly smart, and able to analyze a lot of different factors that are all moving at the same time. I think he is cautious because he knows what he inherited.”

Clinton’s comments put into sharper focus an effort to put more space between herself and Obama, something she’s been doing slowly in speeches and interviews since releasing her book, “Hard Choices,” in June.

Obama's poll numbers are slipping and Clinton, who is widely considered the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, needs to separate herself from the negative numbers.

After criticism of Obama policy, Hillary Clinton to party with President

In her book, Clinton outlines how she and Obama disagreed on arming Syrian rebels. And during the book’s promotional tour, she has drawn small divisions with him over second-term leadership and partnering with Iran to combat extremism in Iraq.

But the reaction to Clinton's comments, which inflamed the left, show how careful she has to be when trying to separate herself from her fellow Democrat while he’s still in office. It’s a task made even more complex by the fact that she served as America’s top diplomat under him for four years.

MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy and organizing group, also warned Clinton about taking too hawkish a tone, something it accused her of doing when she ran for president in 2008.

David Axelrod smack-tweets Hillary Clinton

Clinton’s call to Obama came a day before they were expected to attend the same party at the Martha's Vineyard home of Vernon Jordan, a former close adviser and golfing buddy of her husband.

"Like any two friends who have to deal with the public eye, she looks forward to hugging it out when they see each other tomorrow night," Merrill said.

A White House official declined to comment, saying they will leave it to Clinton's aides to handle this for now.

CNN's Ashley Killough and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

Related: With vocal support of Israel, Clinton rankles pro-Palestinian Americans


Filed under: 2016 • Foreign Policy • Hillary Clinton • President Obama
soundoff (233 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    Hug it out! But remember this Hillary: You shouldn't throw stones when you live in a glass house. A lot of us progressives really want to elect someone to the left of you, so don't go making stupid comments. That being said, I'd vote for you over the republican nominee in a heartbeat.

    August 12, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  2. Chris..E.Al

    Watch out for bombs dropping all around and that dangerous sniper fire And just darn the reset button broke and man that video was so bad i hope 0bama pays my way im broke and all and everthing i hope i didnt make 0bama upset boo hoo i am so smart . Dont pick on me ?

    August 12, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  3. Steve

    Nothing better than watching liberals fight it out. Nasty people attacking each other is the true reality TV. Chicago 1968 all over.

    August 12, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. Bruce Jackson

    She knows she better clean it up if she wants black voters

    August 12, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  5. gravatarfocus

    Anything is an improvement over the GOP's Great Recession. We've seen where Republican "leadership" got us.

    August 12, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  6. Roy

    Geez, we still have to go through over 2 years more of this stuff before the next election. I don't think I can stand it.

    August 12, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  7. Charlie

    not a political attack? just for this stupid comment, she should not run for the Presidency.

    August 12, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  8. HEYDUDE

    Dont do stupid stuff. LOL. Way to use that udumacation.

    August 12, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  9. Mark

    "She later labeled Obama's decision not to arm Syrian rebels, something she disagreed with, a 'failure.'"

    We not know that many of the Syrian rebels are violent radicals, such as ISIS. Obama did the right thing and Clinton still doesn't see it? I'm disappointed.

    August 12, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  10. paul

    Europe and USA are a mess, particularly USA , sticking thier nose in every country,s business, Get out of Ukarania and let the russians solve ukarainia,s problems, I guess if the USA isn,t fighting with every other country in the world they would be fighting them selves, They had better deal effectively with the ISIS problem or as thier video said thier flag will fly over the whitehouse, The american public had a choice to engage the USA politicians or Pat Robertson, they chose the politicians, BAD MISTAKE

    August 12, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. ynotblue

    Why does that vote preceding the Iraq invasion keep coming up? Anybody who voted for that particular resolution should have their heads examined, left or right. I believe most never read the fine print and didn't realize they're giving the president a near card blanche to invade. The vote was sold as putting teeth behind UN inspectors, not a guaranteed invasion no matter what. Obviously Bush thought that's what he got and ran with it. The real travesty is that congress didn't stop Bush once it became evident he was going to invade despite the fact the Iraqis stopped obstructing the UN inspectors and complied with their mandate.

    August 12, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. sly

    No one blogging here has the solution in the middle east, and future President Clinton was stating the obvious: We need a good policy there.

    I agree with President Obama's decision to not provide weapons to ISIS, which is the foreign policy decision we are discussing here.

    Future President Clinton has nothing but respect for President Obama, who has proven to be the best foreign policy president since FDR. She simply has different opinions on how to resolve extremely complicated international issues.

    August 12, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  13. Ken

    If a liar tells a liar that they didn't lie does the liar believe the liar when they lie directly to the liar over the phone?

    August 12, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  14. bcrunner

    People on the right want to make this such a huge deal!! Huge rift between Obama and Clinton.. They should worry more abou Ted Cruz and the other crazies on the right. Obama and Clinton will be fined. They understand and respect each other very well.

    August 12, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  15. Serious Truth

    Funny that democrats still keep blaming Bush for everything. Any personal responsibility there Mr. President or Hilary? Not your fault, of course!

    August 12, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  16. Luke

    It was a cheap shot by Clinton at a time when Obama's got his hands full. I get her point about 'organizing principles' but the timing was bad and I doubt it was an accident. Her comments about Israel though have me concerned. Dems will not like their Prez handing middle east foreign policy over to the Likud Party. I'm a rock solid Obama supporter. I'm a concerned voter when it comes to clintons nature to 'have it both ways'. Still I'll vote straight dem but this could shake loose some people for considering a primary challenge. I like Mark Warner I think....

    August 12, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  17. Politattack

    Beer summit?

    August 12, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  18. Silence DoGood

    @bcrunner
    People on the right want to make this such a huge deal!! Huge rift between Obama and Clinton.. They should worry more abou Ted Cruz and the other crazies on the right. Obama and Clinton will be fined. They understand and respect each other very well.
    ---------------
    The new conservative myth. They need this narrative since the radical right is so nasty violent, it has become an embarrassment for sure. It is just the next version of "oh yeah, you are too" and it is getting old.

    August 12, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  19. Phil T. Listener

    How can one believe almost anything she says? It wasn't an "attack" she states, but she dissed and diminished his foreign policy, then calls his stance on Syria a failure. Then in a few days her bi-polar political stance reverses itself and she looks to clean things up. If this continues, it will backfire just as her schizophrenic 2008 campaign did.

    August 12, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    @Steve: "Nothing better than watching family-values folks fight it out. Nasty people attacking each other is the true reality TV. thepalinchannel all over."

    FIFY

    August 12, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  21. Ronnie was a RINO!

    Hillary: If I want to get elected I need to distance myself from you.
    Obama: No problem. I can't wait to retire and leave this mess to someone else.

    August 12, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  22. jerry

    oh hillary, you told another lie and obama said your denial was BS… so now another media manipulation. We know who you are and that 20% will vote for you no matter what, but the rest fall under the 'you can fool us once'… just go away, time for an accomplished leader…and accomplished does not mean success at promoting yourself into power.

    August 12, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  23. don in albuquerque

    Ken
    Gee, I dunno....Maybe we should call W.

    August 12, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  24. bdby

    Once you throw someone underneath the bus you can't just easily yank him back.

    Good work Hillary.....you actually did something right for a change.

    83 days and counting until REID and PELOSI are relegate to the dust bin of history....

    August 12, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Hillary Clinton and her husband have too many skeletons in their closet to be saying anything bad about anyone else. I'm still waiting to find out If Hilary Clinton's going to run for president do we start the body count now or do we continue the body count from when her husband was in office.

    August 12, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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