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. Julie

    I voted for Bill twice, but I have grown up now and will not vote for Mrs. Clinton for any reason, not even wanting a woman for president for the first time.

    August 13, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  2. OrmondGeorge

    Am I the only one who sees this as an effort, in concert to get Hillary the next two terms in the White House?

    She showed her independence AND respect, her ability to think for herself AND have the "courage of character" to speak her truth, however delicately.

    I'm certain this is a stunt designed to raise her visibility, raise her bonafides and still give her the chance to support him in his decision making process while demonstrating her own autonomy.

    August 13, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  3. Ronnie was a RINO!

    Hillary ... still better than anything the Republicans have for 2016.

    August 13, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  4. stambo2001

    Oh, it was an attack all right...just not a 'political' attack, harhar! Clinton meant to say that barry is a useless leader, she just didn't intend for the truth to be an attack. It's just the truth after all. You can already just smell how this is going to rip the progressives apart.

    August 13, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  5. Scott Pyeatt

    In reply to Thomas (13 Aug, 3:21 AM), Mitt Romney was that candidate. Although a bit too centrist for my taste, Mr. Romney has a proven track record and was vidicated of late concerning his correct views and substantial knowledge of foreign affairs. Unfortunately, the voting public gets distracted by the hype and hip-hop glitz pandered by the progressive left and promulgated by a liberal media...they fail to pay attention to a candidate's substance.

    August 13, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  6. Not another Clinton Please

    Hillary's positions change with every political wind. The country cannot endure 4 years of partisan gridlock. And Hillary invites another 9-11 with her lack of knowledge on the world stage

    August 13, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  7. sonny chapman

    cjb- So, who's the Repub. SUPERMAN ? The last one, George W., got us into messeS & as was his Life History, left others to clean it up.

    August 13, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  8. Friends

    Oh my. The Democratic party needs a psychiatrist.

    August 13, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  9. Srcactus

    Clinton's observation is correct!
    Obama is a credible celebrity, personable enough to be very desirable to meet for lunch, golf or card game, I just don't agree with his bias and certainly would give him a failing grade on his job evaluation documents in his present employment..

    August 13, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  10. Freddz8909

    "Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies even closer." Typical Clinton strategy...

    August 13, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. Nik

    Hey, does anyone remember when Daniel Bryan and Kane had to "hug it out"?

    August 13, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  12. Susan

    Remember the image(s), hilarious clinton grovelling, flip flopping, back tracking. Whatever it takes to fit the newsbite of the day.

    August 13, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  13. freddo

    "hugging it out"? Oh please, such touchy-feely nonsense.

    August 13, 2014 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  14. Cleo

    What an inappropriate comment at an inappropriate time. She trying to get John McCain and Lindsay Graham's vote ? Hillary lost many points with me on this. After all, She was Sec State when this all started and I don't see any results there either.

    August 13, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  15. Papaw

    Hey Prez, she didn't mean the things she said she "mis-spoke." It was just one of the political lies people tell to get elected.

    August 13, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Friends

    Oh my. The Democratic party needs a psychiatrist.
    --------------------------–
    It's two people who have differing views on things, not a rift in the party. Unlike the Republicans, whose votes in Congress are hardly united, the Democrats pretty much all vote the same way in the House.

    BTW, the Republican Party is going to need a mortician pretty soon. The establishment is going extinct.

    August 13, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  17. NYNJCT

    Obama and Hillary team's foreign policy had been marked F-. They are in same boat. I no more vote for the Clinton.

    August 13, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  18. heyjoe1

    No more destructive Democrats in office. Period.

    August 13, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  19. leo

    So what Hillary is saying is that if she was to be the president, The US will start another war in Iraq, that is doing stupid stuff, the American people says they don't want any more wars and the only leader that seems to listen to them is Obama. It will be better for Hilary if she stops talking.

    August 13, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  20. rufus

    Ben Carson, anyone?

    August 13, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  21. NealR2000

    The strategist from her team that suggested the latest anti-Obama move has probably already left the office with his/her box of personal effects.

    August 13, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  22. Rudy NYC

    leo

    So what Hillary is saying is that if she was to be the president, The US will start another war in Iraq, that is doing stupid stuff, the American people says they don't want any more wars and the only leader that seems to listen to them is Obama. It will be better for Hilary if she stops talking.
    ---------------------------–
    Food for thought. If the elections put the Republicans in control, we will be fighting wars in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran, and Libya.

    August 13, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  23. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Scott Pyeatt says:
    August 13, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am
    In reply to Thomas (13 Aug, 3:21 AM), Mitt Romney was that candidate. Although a bit too centrist for my taste, Mr. Romney has a proven track record and was vidicated of late concerning his correct views and substantial knowledge of foreign affairs. Unfortunately, the voting public gets distracted by the hype and hip-hop glitz pandered by the progressive left and promulgated by a liberal media…they fail to pay attention to a candidate’s substance.

    He's proven alright. Proven to be a liar, proven to change positions like the weather, proven to not be able to relate to anyone not a gazillionaire, proven to not show his taxes like everyone else, proven to ship jobs overseas while hiding his money in offshore accounts. Proven to put down 47% of the population for not being born with a platinum spoon in their mouths. Proven to look like a fool by only preparing an acceptance speech and not even being humble enough to have a short concession speech prepared.

    Oh he's proven alright.

    August 13, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. luke brown

    Politics as usual! Washington as usual! Vomit in my mouth, AS USUAL!

    August 13, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  25. URNSO2

    "Clinton’s call to Obama care a day before they were expected to attend the same party..."?

    What does this have to do with Obamacare?

    August 13, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10