August 12th, 2014
04:37 PM ET
7 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. Yakobi

    "headline-grabbing comments she made about his foreign policy were not meant as a political attack."
    No, it was meant to pretend she had nothing to do with his foreign policy failures while she was his Secretary of State.

    Is CNN the only news outfit not totally sick of Hillary yet? Surely you democrats have someone better to offer in 2016 than another sleazy Clinton.

    August 12, 2014 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  2. YoonYoungJo

    Now does Axelrod need to let Hillary know he isn't Hillary's arch enemy? I don't know where this idea, that good friends or people with similar overall beliefs and guiding principles "have" to agree with absolutely everything or their just not your friend comes from. I know this is what the Chinese, Russian and N. Korean Govt believes but that is not what made the US into what it is today. This country has been built on debates and debating until a superior idea or compromise emerges. That is where the best ideas come from. Not from one small group, not just from one small group of individuals or one point of view. But being inclusive and considerate to many perspectives. I think the better question to ask regarding Hillary's arguments against Obama is, how many positions is she exactly the same with him? So 99 out 100 things in agreement and the one disagreement means she's anti Obama, ridiculous.

    August 12, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  3. blakenaustin

    Two phoneys. Two compulsive liars. Two giant egos. What a joke!

    August 12, 2014 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    I am a Democrat and will not vote for a GOP president. But if Hillary ran for the Democrats, I do not think I will vote for her. She's such an opportunist, so selfish and hypocritical that she should run with the GOP.

    August 12, 2014 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  5. BR

    She doesn't need to be hugging it out or anything. She is done with elected office. She is not going to be President. Heck she may not even run. America will not elect a woman. America will sooner elect a black man than a woman. Hillary should speak her mind and say what she wants to say. And she says some cool things.

    August 12, 2014 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  6. JGK

    How on earth is this woman relevant, she is incompetent and a crook.

    August 12, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  7. Erich

    It is UNFORTUNATE to see Clinton doing what she is doing now. She is holding a boomerang and maybe has forgotten what it is. She has now thrown it. It is going to come back and hurt her. I am fan of the Clinton. In 1992, I couldn't vote, but begged and convinced my then ex-girlfriend–yes, a beautiful, goddess Irish American to vote Clinton. Her parents, then were voting Rep. She voted Clinton

    In 2008, I nearly voted for Clinton. The primary reason why I did not first want to vote for the now president, was because I was honestly concerned that "they" would kill him like they killed King. But, in the end, I overcame that fear and first volunteered for then candidate Obama, then voted Obama.

    Hillary should know the value of African-American votes, and she is smart–and wise enough to know the impact her negative comments could have on her come 2016.

    August 12, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  8. Dale Dribble

    Is it Future President Clinton or Failed Secretary of State Clinton. Amazing how so many believe her SOS performance somehow catapulted her to to the top position. The problem I see with all of you partisan hacks is you're too busy pointing across the isle to smell the stench coming from your own party. That goes for Republicans and Democrats. Until you drop the party flags and start making these idiots work together and do what's best for the U.S. instead of what will keep them in power, we will continue with this stupid banter year after year.

    August 12, 2014 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  9. rd

    Here we go again stuff people do in politics

    August 12, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  10. D jones

    Hillary, you just can't have it both ways; or can you ?
    This is a funny as the moderate Republicans fighting with the Tea Party nutcases.

    August 12, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  11. fungust0ad

    @Luke I agree, Mark Warner is just the kind of centrist we need. But, unfortunately, I hear he is unlikely to throw in b/c of family. Plus I don't blame a person who wants to actually accomplish something substantial for not running to be POTUS. Neither of the Clintons accomplished anything except become media darlings. That's why they remain so viable after all these years.

    August 12, 2014 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  12. Steve

    Nothing better than watching liberals fight it out.
    Clinton, a liberal. You must be kidding, or stupid.

    August 12, 2014 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  13. are122

    No one in their right mind could possibly care what Hillary says about anything anyway.

    August 12, 2014 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  14. peterz

    The doing nothing just make noise?

    August 12, 2014 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  15. Backtalker

    CNN cannot wait until the next presidential elections so they can carry this woman to the White House. There will be a banner, full-sized, hanging from the CNN HQ celebrating if she makes it.

    In other words. How is this newsworthy? This is CNN, the most trusted source in news today! *sarcasm* * maniacal laughter*

    This is CNN, left wing and liberal operations center, giving you the world as we see fit. And, if you do not like it and post, we will moderate you! Promoting liberal ideology since the dawn of stupidity.....

    August 12, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  16. Paul Cooper

    I'm sure Obama understands blasting people for short-term political expediency. He has built his entire career on it.

    August 12, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  17. Dean

    He can't do too much stupid stuff on the golf course.

    August 12, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  18. Dark Poet

    Obama's political adviser called Hillary out on Twitter and was DEAD RIGHT ABOUT HER!

    All she can do is beg for them to remain silent.

    I don't often support Obama but in this case and many others, he has shown MORE LEADERSHIP and ACHIEVEMENT than Hillary can ever wish to be.

    August 12, 2014 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  19. Dean


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

    And here I thought Clinton, Dodd, Barney Frank and the congress from 2007 thru 2008 were Democrats>

    August 12, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  20. rick

    Better keep a watch on the liquor cabinet when shes at the party. Dont want her doing stupid things.. Like open mouth..

    August 12, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  21. Smitty

    Its clear Obumbles has failed on all fronts, very sad day for America when your prez isn't up to the job.

    August 12, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  22. peterz

    It was easy to make noise while doing nothing?

    August 12, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  23. BLUE

    She just lost my vote.

    August 12, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  24. Jeff Binder

    There is no mistaking the intent of Hillary's comments. They were clear attacks on Obama's policies. It's not as though they were misconstrued at all. In that light, I think her "make nice" is in responsive to the overwhelmingly negative comment posts here and in the NYT. This is simply more Clinton triangulation.

    August 12, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  25. mrkhrrs

    Let's support the candidate that has nothing but failures on her foreign policy record in 2016. The only candidate running that was involved in the Iraq mess on both ends. As a Senator she voted for it, as secretary of state she supported the decision to withdraw early.

    August 12, 2014 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
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