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. Tone

    This President did the sensible thing by not arming the Syrian rebels because look what it got us ISIS. I trust Obama's judgements on any issues foreign or domestic I saw the question yesterday "should we be afraid of isis"? And a cowardly question at that, and my answer to that is hell no Under Obama's leadership i feel more safe, this President is cool and calculating,and he always stick it to the terrorist where it hurts more.

    August 13, 2014 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  2. JY

    She is running and this is a way to bring in some of the center and center right, she could care about the TP (they will NEVER vote for a democrat) or extreme left (those votes are already in for Nov 2016). it is the middle the the left/right of middle that will make or break the 2016 elections, well unless the GOP can disinfranchise more left leaning voting blocks thru unconstitutional methods to violate the right to vote thru lies and innuendo.

    August 13, 2014 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  3. george

    How much more of a fake reunion could this be. Maybe even cnn reporters could see this. This is political and nothing else. Lets blame Bush.

    August 13, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  4. NO! STOP!! DON'T HUG!!

    Well, it is now officially over for Hillary Clinton. If she gets the Obama Election Hug of Death, she's a goner.

    But I don't know why she is trying to distance herself from Obama after being a primary participate in his first four years of international disasters and failures. She screwed herself by being sucked into the Obama administration to begin with. I'm sure head she known what a total failure it was going to be, she never would have accepted the position.

    Now she has boxed herself into a corner and no matter what she does, she is going to tick of some of the Democrat base or come across as a liar and a fraud. Oh well, she made her bed and laid with dogs. She must now learn to deal with very bad case of flies.

    August 13, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  5. 2kmaro

    Geeze – neither of these two can actually make a statement and stick to it.

    August 13, 2014 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  6. rick

    OH PLEASE..PLEASE..PLEASE post pics of the get together.. I thought it would be impossible to balance a heavy drink with foot stuck firmly in mouth! But this would prove its possible. At least look at bright side. At least she is not overseas making comments to alienate diplomats of other countries friendly to america. But wait. Few drinks and she will do that too very quickly.

    August 13, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  7. John Disappointed

    Mrs. Clinton has lost my vote.............and confidence.

    August 13, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  8. Rudy NYC

    If it wasn't a political attack, then Clinton overlooked the fact that the administration is currently engaged with several critical foreign policy crises at once, including perhaps one the worst in world history, ISIS.

    August 13, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  9. LR

    There's no doubt about it, she's running. There's a lot I don't like about her, but she's far better than anyone the right has to offer.

    August 13, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  10. Anonymous

    Once again the Republicans and media have cherry picked a comment and exaggerated and sensationalized it. This wasn't new. She explained it in her book months ago. She has a great respect for Pres. Obama and was proud to serve in his first term. The Republicans are eating their own and they want to try and drum up controversies on the other side. Their so-called scandals and investigations have all back fired so they are getting desperate. Kind of sad.

    August 13, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  11. Oxycleaning Lady

    This is just a political stunt to appear in sync with Obama to have access to Obama's voter base . Problem is , IF Hillary uses the race card , she would appear to be not having a checked White Privilege . Political stunt . America needs a true Radical Socialist candidate , one not afraid of a real cultural revolution .

    August 13, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  12. The Truth Rules

    "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," .... "Don't do stupid stuff!" ... "... a failure"... nothing personal, Mr. President.

    August 13, 2014 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  13. seanster77

    How can people, after 7 years of Obama lies and failures still not see the problem? I read these comments about how they are going to double down on stupid and vote for Hillary of Warren. Both pathetic proven liars that are abject failures at leadership.

    August 13, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  14. Bette

    This is much ado about nothing. This is old news, Obama knew her views on Syria long before this, it is in her book,They disagree on some things, but agree on more things, and work well together.She is not a 'yes" person, which to his credit he surrounds himself with, he likes to get all view points and then carefully makes a dicision, unlike some Presidents we know. She does not need to distance herself from the President, when all is said and done, he will go down in history as a great President. No other President in my lifetime was handed such a horrible mess, and we are still and will be for a long time paying the debts of the Bush admin. Added to the 10 trillion Bush left with, we are now paying for his 2 wars, and the interest on that, and his medicare prescrition program and the interest on that, which is in the trillions, and the govt. has 1.6 trillion less in revenue, because of his big tax cuts. So are we still blaming Bush, yes, because his admin. is to blame, and now Republicans want to go back to trickle down, it worked so well ! Not!

    August 13, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  15. P.Y. Lemon-jello

    Well done Hill, very classy!

    August 13, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  16. cjb

    Clinton is head of the Washington mafia. Who cares what she thinks or says. The media needs to stop trying to shove her down our throats. No one is buying it. She's been a dismal failure and her foreign policy is no better than Obama's.

    August 13, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  17. ed

    If Hillary wants to take the "business as usual" foreign policy stance similar to W and the hawks she needs to come to grips with how she plans to pay for it. Mitt was going to cut capital gains ans throw the elderly and sick "under the bus" to make ends meet. What will Ms Clinton do?

    August 13, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  18. Paul

    Its all a game folks. Its the same thing on WWE smackdown, when the "competitors" are talking trash to each other, after the show they are getting a beer making jokes. Its the same when Boehner threatens lawsuit, he and Obama are probably on the phone later on laughing about how real they make it all seem.

    August 13, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  19. guest

    This is just a ploy to:
    1. Get more votes from Democrats/Independants that are disappointed in Obama
    2. Get more news coverage to get more votes
    3. Get more votes.

    August 13, 2014 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  20. J Biden

    Well I just puked a little bit.

    August 13, 2014 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  21. blueburner

    For some weird reason, Hillary was unable to persuade her boss to adopt any of her dramatically different solutions on foreign policy issues and as secretary of state, just took orders.

    This is the Clinton's style–they'll throw you under the bus as soon as it leaves the depot. And what the heck is she talking about anyway? Already she is voting to invade Iraq...AGAIN!

    August 13, 2014 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  22. Klutch Cargo

    Huh?,
    Oh, The Liberal's don't want to upset the Apple Cart. They have come too far to go back now! You know, High Unemployment, Food Stamps, Never ending Welfare Payments, All illegals welcome, Huge National Debt. High Taxes on the Rich, Corporations Moving Off shore. Horray!!!

    August 13, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  23. The Real Tom Paine

    @ Tony D, funny, I did not see you commenting on the Christie/Paul spat that has been going on since Hurricane Sandy. If I were to apply the "logic" you laid out, its the Neo-Objectivst/Tea Party drivel wing vs the Establishment GOP that can't lay out a coherent, united argument on any policy against the president other than the fact they don't like him. My, my, my, how all that money can't buy a coherent viewpoint. only worthless rants!

    August 13, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  24. critical thinking

    Terrorist are cancers to this world. Where ever it shows up, it must be eradicated before it become more systemic. That approach proves successful when our bodies develop malignant cell growth that can ultimately kill the whole body, so the same approach is our best approach at containing terrorism.

    August 13, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  25. sifto77

    Can't comprehend how libbies scour fox news for one silly comment about flotus..much worse said about the slim and beautiful sara palin by lefties..Remember, you heard this silly comment on CNN, not fox..they are even waiting for comment from the WH..hilarious..speaking of hilary..who is surprised that she is a political animal?

    August 13, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
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