August 12th, 2014
04:37 PM ET
8 years 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.

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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., 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. TSB8C

    Hillary has to call and patch things up as the Clintons are planning to visit Obama at Martha's Vinyard on is umpteenth vacation at tax payer expense. Does anyone care that in the 2008 campaign, then-Senator Obama promised he would not be a "recreational president," insisting, "The bargain that any president strikes is, you give me this office and in turn my fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure is gone. I am giving myself to you." He has surpassed GW in fund raisers by 40%, with more than two more years left to go. The only planned interruption to this "love fest" is Obama's scheduled trip back to DC on Monday to sign the executive order fats tracking citizenship for illegal immigrants.

    August 13, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  2. tsl

    someone help us if this woman ever gets elected, we are doomed but then again "what difference does it make"?

    August 13, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC


    Hillary has to call and patch things up as the Clintons are planning to visit Obama at Martha's Vinyard on is umpteenth vacation at tax payer expense
    Pres. Obama has taken about 125 vacations this far into his two terms. George W. Bush had taken 405 vacation days.

    August 13, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  4. Michelle

    Shame on you CNN! You would have NEVER headlined this " Hugging it out" if Clinton's first name was Harold instead of Hillary! Please join us here in 2014 where woman leaders deserve the same respect as their male counterparts. She nor anyone else for that matter has to "nurture" the leader of the free world! Obama is strong enough, smart enough to not get his "feelings" hurt because someone disagrees with his decisions for our nation.

    August 13, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  5. pierce

    Hillary's been the Democrats' presumptuous candidate for eight years. time for a change. biden, warren, Jerry Brown, anybody but Hill.
    If the Democratic party can do no better than this hanger-on who thinks we owe her the presidenccy, shame on the Democrats.
    Not ready for Hillary but ready for change. Real change and not just a stand-by-your-man perpetual candidate.

    August 13, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. ObamaHillaryLies

    This country should be done with these two liars. They can hug it out all they want because no one really cares. At this point they should just resign and not seek public office in the future. It's time to send them packing.

    August 13, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. Angus Bill

    How cute, some of the most incompetent idiots hugging and kissing. I am so impressed!

    August 13, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  8. sly

    Hillary has to call and patch things up as the Clintons are planning to visit Obama at Martha's Vinyard on is umpteenth vacation at tax payer expense
    Pres. Obama has taken about 125 vacations this far into his two terms. George W. Bush had taken 405 vacation days.
    Noble try, but using any form of intelligence with Republicans is a waste of time. After all – their only accomplishment in 8 years was to 'Shut Down American Government'.

    Truly, "the Party of Stupid".

    August 13, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
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