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. Anonymous

    I'm not usually a grammar nazi on the chat boards, but I expect a newspaper to have articles written in proper English, Is it just me, or the standards at CNN have been slipping dramatically? Do they not have proofreaders anymore?

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

    "Clinton’s call to Obama care 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." –> "Clinton's call to Obama CAME a day before...."

    August 12, 2014 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  2. jim bagrowicz

    It was quite irresponsible what Hilary Clinton said about Obama's foreign policy. After she apologized...I do not think so she will be again in the White House...

    August 12, 2014 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  3. petroskies

    Who are believes , They are just two bad hypocrites .

    August 12, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  4. Jerry

    What a joke. Now every Dem wanting re election will say they never agreed with Obama. They should all be in jail for how they have ruined America.

    August 12, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  5. MollyBee

    The press should spend more time reporting news and doing in depth journalism/exposes than they do analyzing every single work, action, poll, mind-set, etc. etc. etc.

    August 12, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  6. Glynda

    Had any of these incompetent "yellow journalist" bothered to read the interview they would know that Ms. Clinton was critcizing George W and NOT Prez Obama's foreign policy. But, hey, by the looks of most of these comments, neither did these yahoos bother to read it either.

    August 12, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  7. markiejoe

    If Hillary is going to become an interventionist "U.S. can fix everything" hawk, she just lost my vote.

    I think either Martin O'Malley or Liz Warren would make a terrific next Democratic President of the United States.

    August 12, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  8. NC

    Voted for President George W. Bush once, President Obama twice. Have no intention to vote for Hillary Clinton we just need someone else. I appreciate everything Hillary Clinton has done for our country but it is time for new ideas. No more Clintons or Bush's. Hillary Clinton like she did in 2008 is putting the cart before the horse.

    August 12, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  9. kenman14

    Well, here's another fine example of what a decisive leader the old Hillary is, she can't make up her mind if she's being critical of Obama's feckless style or not.. Or maybe it's another John Kerry type moment, she was for him before she was against him!?

    August 12, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  10. John Mustardd

    This country would go to h3ll if Hillary were to become president.

    August 12, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  11. sol

    Boy, two faced, talking out the side of he moth, and evidently half brain dead.
    Imagine, affirming how poor a job she did as Secretary of State and then deflecting it to Obama's administration..LOL.

    August 12, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  12. Keith

    I hope Hillary is not the candidate because I don't think I could vote for her, and I am almost sure the Republicans will choose another id/ot. I may have to cast my second third party vote, Remember Ross Perot was right, that big sucking sound was our jobs going away.

    August 12, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  13. F. Davis

    Hillary Clinton is all about Hillary. All she wants is to go into history as the first women elected President. She has nothing to offer to the country. She is out of touch with the issues that middle class and baby boomers are experiencing today.We got Obama in the White House as the first black President, expecting him to be a Jordan President and we got a Kwame Brown President. Besides not just Bill embarrass her in front of the world, she has fail in every aspect of her personal and public life. Remember she is where she is because of Bill. Now I have a $100 millions dollars question for her. You stated in your book that you left the White House dead broke, so why does you want to return, are you a masochist? By the way, I have the right theme song for your campaign, Hector Lavoe, " Un Periodico de Ayer".

    August 12, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  14. Robin

    Have you people not had enough of the Bushes, Clintons and Soetoros? Don't you get it yet? They are mere puppets placed in positions of power to make you think you have a choice. You don't, You DON'T have a choice! Both sides are controlled just like the so-called main stream media! Wake up fools, quit watching television, read some books and think for yourselves! By looking up to a degenerate politician, you place yourself below them! Take back your courage, self-respect and dignity by not supporting any of the criminals in D.C. (District of Criminals).

    August 12, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  15. Tewrobert

    I think its time to replace our senate. Why are they not trying to do something? Afraid of the race card? and then we are going to mafia Hilary....

    August 12, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  16. Tewrobert

    Thats enough to make a dog sick

    August 12, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  17. dwayne

    Note everyone that voted for a democrat happens to be a liberal ..
    Get a clue .

    August 12, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  18. Bill

    Hilliary is full of it. Just for the record, it was during Bill Clinton's administration, while he was enjoying the Peyton Palace, that 911 was being planned, and terrorist cells entering the US to start their flying lessons. George Bush was in office exactly eight months when 911 occurred. His response was to attack both Iraq and Afganistan with most of the effort in Iraq. So Bush inherited a lot from Bill Clinton whose honesty, loyalty, and ethics are highly questionable. Then Obama comes in and inherits the war on terror, the war in Iraq, the war in Afganistan, the Wall Street meltdown, and failing banks, mortgage companies, and the fall of the American Auto Industry from the moment he said I do. So where does he stand after being in office, alone with no help or anything from the do nothing congress of idiots.

    August 12, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  19. Larry L

    Hillary had better be careful. Trying to distance herself from the President could cost her some votes. I'm still looking at candidates and lack of loyalty isn't a virtue for me.

    August 12, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  20. jasonhunt007

    The battle of the Presidents.

    August 12, 2014 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  21. liberal disease

    is this the best we can do? embarrassing!

    August 12, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  22. guy250677

    Hillary has to distance herself from the second Obama term. You would have to be in total denial to claim that Hillary's absence in the State Department has not left a void of leadership with regard to foreign affairs . Hillary was the glue, and the hammer to the nail that kept foreign affairs in order. World leaders respect and in many ways fear her much more than they do the President. I am an Obama supporter, but there is no way to escape the truth of what has been happening to American foreign relations.

    August 12, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  23. manhandler1

    What a totally CLUELESS interview. that's all she needs to do to insure that Republicans take control of the Senate in the mid-terms....supply them with ammunition to use against him. How could she be so dumb? i supported Hillary big time. Donated to her in 2008 and even wrote her name in on the ballot. No more. Bring on Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren.

    August 12, 2014 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  24. guy250677

    Hillary's leadership and her cache of respect that she has with world leaders is sorely missed in the Obama Administration. I have twice voted for President Obama, but it is clearly obvious that without Hillary the second term has been a fiasco on the International stage. To those of you that want to bash Hillary as not being far enough to the left, you need to examine yourselves. The Republicans thought neither Mccain or Romney were far enough to the right and look what happened. The Clintons are first class politicians, the best at the game. They know that in order to win the General election, they will need to foster a centrist image. That requires angering the left. Remember Bill's attack on Queen Latifa during his initial run for office?

    August 12, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  25. samuel

    i will not vote for democrats come 16. let the republican candidate be a christian and moderate not racist then i think we can work together. i am an independent used to lean democrat but thinking of going republican because of the democrats stance on social issues and booing GOD at the last convention. however i am equally scared of the tea party nutjobs who am i to vote may be a third party is ripe.

    August 12, 2014 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
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