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., 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. bcrunner

    The Democrats "hug it out" like some said above. The Republicans tear each other up!!! And, to Anonymous above, start practicing saying "Madam President Clinton"...

    August 12, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  2. judiwth

    Anyone who thinks Clinton isn't a hawk has not been paying attention. But, I would still vote for her over any GOP candidate. Having said that, the next person who tries to send us to war will have one big problem on their political hands.

    August 12, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  3. jacknyd

    Opps she spoke too soon and now is in damage control mode. Just what we need a president who talks first and thinks latter. She is a disaster waiting to happen.

    August 12, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  4. jcvet33

    Both of them are a disgrace to the USA. They make me sick.

    August 12, 2014 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  5. Heinrich

    She gonna call and apologize to Putin too? She was pretty harsh with him last week.....

    We all know what is going on here. To have any chance at winning in 2016, Hillary needs to distance herself from Obama on certain key issues, with foreign policy being just one of the many things he's funked up over the past 6 years. However, she also needs to be careful that she does not anger the democratic base. The well orchestrated criticism-followed-by-apology was certainly orchestrated from the beginning. There's no way she would have said what she said without an exit strategy. Everything this woman does is calculated. I bet she was calculating her rise to the presidency from the moment she opened her first lemonade stand.

    Now that she's on record disagreeing with Obama's foreign policy, she only needs to hope that America will forget that she was instrumental in helping the dufus craft his foreign policy for 4 years. Luckily, Americans have a short memory and most of us don't even know what a Secretary of State does.

    August 12, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  6. CC

    I wonder is she called him at 3:00am.

    August 12, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  7. Scott

    I don't know what all the fuss is about? Obama's foreign policy has been a great success....I guess his domestic policy has been a success too...

    August 12, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  8. SkepticalOne

    Hillary is too much of a hawk for my taste. I want no part of going back into Iraq. Unfortunately the GOP candidates are all worse. They all seem to be some combination of crazy and stupid.

    August 12, 2014 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  9. Guy

    Will never vote for Hillary. Never ever

    August 12, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  10. Spgfid Tom

    No Obama 3rd term!!! Kick these bums (Obama, Biden, Kerry, Hillary, Dick Durbin, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi) to the curb as soon as possible. BTW: the CNN gushing love affair with Hillary is getting a little old. Reminder, if the media had been doing their job in '07 there would be no Obama.

    August 12, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  11. Perplexed

    I really don't like this woman. She is too darn deceitful! She can't get my vote.

    August 12, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  12. Bill Davis

    She had trouble with the black vote in the last election...

    August 12, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  13. Indepman

    She must have heard the sound of Black voters heading for the exit.

    August 12, 2014 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  14. dcase20

    As a democrat, this is what I've learned about Hillary so far this year. She is not allowed to be questioned toughly. She's two faced, arrogant and petty. She's a liar and a fake.

    August 12, 2014 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  15. Getoverit

    "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."
    LMFAO!!!!! What was it then? A thinly veiled invitation to tea?

    August 12, 2014 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  16. Polijukie

    Hilary go on a long vacation...from the press. Every time she opens her mouth she sounds like an educated Palin. Hilary had a hand in almost all of the failures of Bush, ( Iraq War, Stock Market, etc). With that being said, I would only vote for Hilary if Jeb was running, but if she continues to talk I might rethink my decision.

    August 12, 2014 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  17. Blue orange

    Two peas in a pod the both of them.

    August 12, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  18. BlueDog

    Hillary has the right to tell her opinion openly. I disagree with her opinion to arm Syrian rebels as these arms could have easily end up in the arms of ISIS fighters.

    August 12, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  19. johnny Doughboy

    Now Barack, :Ya just can't believe those dudes who want to peddle their papers and gain popularity over headlines" ! We gotta believe each other and save the donkey party now." I guess this is just about the way Hillary sums it up.

    August 12, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  20. mpa2000

    What tensions? Wasn't a white house spokeswoman on CNN Monday, telling us that they had advanced notice of what Hillary was going to say?

    August 12, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  21. Cartman1

    Whoa there Hillary! Don't throw him under the bus too soon.

    August 12, 2014 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  22. ricke1949

    Hillary voted for the invasion of Iraq and was to lazy to read the CIA report which contained the data.
    I always rate people how they act, not what college or degree they have. She is acting at a lower Jr High level.

    August 12, 2014 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Absolutely NOTHING personal Mr. president! You...NOT my legal husband is the first black president! But let's face it....that and that alone is your legacy!

    August 12, 2014 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  24. Concerned

    Political posturing to get Obama supporters vote in 2016. Don't think for a minute that the Clinton's care anything about him. They are power hungry and will do what it takes to claim the a White House once again. Sad that power outweighs the welfare of American citizens. Blood Feud

    August 12, 2014 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  25. Ray sawyer

    As I recall, the Clintons were pretty intense about loyalty and did not tolerate much if anything in the way of deviation from one's commitment to them and to their party line. I believe they would not have reacted at all well, but to the contrary, seeing remarks like this from allies and indeed major appointees. Looks like ambition combined with the ugly trait of striking when the other may be down, have overrun her gratitude and allegiance altogether.

    August 12, 2014 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
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