August 12th, 2014
04:37 PM ET
6 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.

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. Shhhh

    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 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  2. don in albuquerque

    Serious Truth
    But the fact that the Middle East is exploding is W's fault. When you invade a sovereign nation expect their neighbors to react with "shock and awe". This invasion and occupation is a mistake we will be paying for for decades. And all for nothing. Well I guess making the war machine huge profits is not nothing......keeps the GOTP employed.

    August 12, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  3. woodie

    I'm sure the Republicans will find plenty of stuff to make up about Obama.

    August 12, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  4. NameGoose

    Obama and Clinton must go – vote republican 2016!

    August 12, 2014 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  5. rickcor2014

    I would rather vote for Elizabeth Warren, but I'll vote for Hilary if she is the only option against Republican'ts

    August 12, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  6. Doon

    Hillary is out of focus. She needs to clean her stupid remarks up and refocus on the Republicans. This type of thinking is why she did not win in 2008. She is full of herself and not very nice. That said, I will vote a woman, but not her.

    August 12, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  7. billbl

    Maybe she can use other warmongers such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham for vice-presidential candidate.

    August 12, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  8. Pete

    Man I can't wait not to vote for her. 2020, maybe then there will be a legitimate candidate that I WANT to vote for and see success.

    August 12, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  9. Dave

    Yes Men may be what Republicans consider leadership, but we're not all on board with that philosophy.

    August 12, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  10. markmckeeexp

    Silly Hilly.... Remember when Al Gore decided to distance himself from your husband? Gee that worked out well...

    August 12, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The potential presidential candidate called Obama on Tuesday 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.
    -----------------------------------------------------
    As I stated in my post earlier today, no matter how low his polls THIS President still has tremendous pull and support.
    Hill is a smart woman and she knows that she CANNOT, SHOULD NOT, and WILL NOT alienate those that support THIS President with their cash, their volunteerism on his behalf, and their ca$h.
    And if that means telling Bill to zip it and pulling him from the campaign trail when his lips are flapping faster than donations are coming in, then that's what Hill will do.
    She's already measured the curtains folks, she lived there....and she wants to go back and change that Oval Office desk to something more to her liking.
    Bill can put up mini-blinds.

    August 12, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  12. Silence DoGood

    @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.
    -------------
    Most of those urban legends and conspiracy theories have now been debunked.
    Maybe you can start a new Birther movement and ask for Clinton's birth certificate.

    August 12, 2014 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  13. Peter

    Like we don't see Republicans disagreeing with each other.

    Ted Cruz and Rand Paul?

    In the end, they will stand together.

    This is nothing new.

    August 12, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  14. sly

    Listening to the Republican observers on here is like watching the Super Bowl with Seattle and Denver and listening to the Houston Texans fans criticize and say "our QB is better than Peyton and Wilson and our Texans would beat either of those teams"

    August 12, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  15. Peter

    bdby wrote: "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...."

    The dust bin of history.

    How come all you right wing team fan boys are so reliant on cue card phrases that somebody else originated, which you repeat endlessly like a bunch of mindless parrots.

    August 12, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  16. Nameuncdig

    Hilary showed her true colors – yellow – chickened out on a firm position by calling Obama & saying "I didn't mean it". Typical Hillary – guess we know that anything she says has one truth – she'll say anything to get elected.

    August 12, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  17. randy

    Run Elizabeth, run! Please.

    August 12, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  18. opinion8it

    She needs a little practice at just telling the truth, no matter how unpopular, instead of telling people what they want to hear.

    August 12, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  19. AndyDaniel

    I voted for Obama and I continue to support him, but there's nothing wrong with Hillary saying that she disagreed with some of his policies. I don't agree with everything he did, though armchair quarterbacking after the fact isn't too difficult. I don't think there WAS a good solution on Iraq for Obama – stay in forever and watch the U.S body count grow, or pull out and watch the government collapse? Same with Afghanistan – did we learn nothing from the Soviets, who crawled home after 10 years with their tails between their legs? Regardless of the choices he made, the GOP could easily complain abut the result.

    August 12, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  20. Lardoggy

    For the win of the party and not for the good of the people lets hug,Great!

    August 12, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  21. fungust0ad

    Ok, we all get it that she is the inevitable next POTUS. So, are we just kinda gonna hurry it up a bit because she isn't getting any younger?

    August 12, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  22. Cin99

    Much ado about nothing. Next made up scandal . . . . 5, 4. 3, 2, 1

    August 12, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  23. Joe Pullman

    Two losers. One a pathetic liar, the other a murderer. Nothing to see here.

    August 12, 2014 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  24. JFS3

    How sweet. Not. On to real news, CNN.

    August 12, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  25. GI Joe

    You people amaze me. I thought all along that Obama was directing his remarks toward Maliki and that Hillary was backing him on it.

    You see what you want to see. Idjits.

    August 12, 2014 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
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