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. sonny chapman

    ATTENTION AMERICAN VOTERS: It's time to stop using the LABEL, Isolationist, every time someone questions the wisdom of engaging militarily outside of the USA. If not, maybe we ought to start using the LABEL War Monger for their views.

    August 13, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. dave

    How freaking funny of Hillary. Oooops, some of the libs don't like my statement like I thought they would. back track...back track.

    August 13, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  3. URNSO2

    With Obama turning out to be somewhat of a war monger with drones and re entering Iraq; it will be interesting to see how Hillary is embraced with her more hawkish views.

    August 13, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. Jerry

    Looks like these two hypocritical/un-American liars were made for each other!

    Oh well... Birds of a feather...

    August 13, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. maxmaxwell

    when I hear the name clinton, all i can think of is rip off liars...............................

    August 13, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  6. Sergeant

    Has anyone stopped to think that these two people do not think alike and that perhaps they have different point of views on what should be done? It doesn't mean they dislike each other, it just means that they are human beings. WOW, mind blown.

    August 13, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  7. roxy

    i think he's cautious because he know what he inherited...... hillary i will be happy to see you not even make the primary because we don't need you as a world leader – you are too dangerous

    August 13, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  8. iceload

    Say anything, promise anything, do anything to get elected. It's all part of American kabuki theater we call politics.

    August 13, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Sergeant

    Has anyone stopped to think that these two people do not think alike and that perhaps they have different point of views on what should be done? It doesn't mean they dislike each other, it just means that they are human beings. WOW, mind blown.
    -------------------–
    Actually, believe it or not, the critics do realize that they have different opinions. From the right wing's point of view, any departure from the hive mind is a major internal crisis. The offender must allow themselves to be re-assimilated, or be thrown out of the party.

    Republicans deny that there is a rift within their party, and I think I am beginning to understand why they honestly and seriously believe that. It's because the hive mind is changing and cannot make up it's mind. So, for now, it's a free for all on the right.

    August 13, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. larry

    I'm sorry BO....I didn't think they would repeat what I didn't say quite right. You still going to back me, right? You wouldn't back door me will you BO? Look at all the lies I told for you BO. C'mon, now give me a smile....that's it. Now be a good boy and let's put this behind us, OK? Give Valery a kiss for me when you get home.

    August 13, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. sly

    President Obama has been the most successful foreign policy president since FDR – avoiding war, killing our #1 enemy, preventing all foreign terrorist attacks on our soil.

    Hillary Clinton was a suburb Secretary of State, and she obviously has slightly different opinions than Obama.

    I am 100% in favor of President Obama's decision NOT to arm ISIS rebels so they can kill us.

    August 13, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. blakenaustin

    Oh Please! Two compulsive liars faking their way through a reconciliation. How did Obama ever become president (twice)? How did Hillary ever become the Democrats front runner for 2016? Half of the American people are so stupid!

    August 13, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. just asking

    Rudy NYC
    leo
    o 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.
    --

    what rock are you living under? obama is already fighting a war in afghanistan (the good war he calls it), iraq (back because he screwed up), and libya is a mess because he took out khaddafi. his mythical syria red line exposed Obama as an empty suit and that lead to the creation of isis and putin deciding obama was weak.

    August 13, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  14. alohagw

    Move on, there is nothing to see here. We all knew you could not believe a word either of them say.

    August 13, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. Freedom Storm

    It’s against the law “to provide support to a listed terrorist organization.” Hamas is such an organization. Jimmy Carter has loudly and publicly urged both the United States and the United Nations to formerly recognize Hamas. That supports a listed terrorist organization. In terms of illegal actions, Jimmy Carter has touched that line, according to Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
    Of course, Obeyme the Muslim Marxist Tyrant has crossed such lines so frequently we can state that he resides there permanently.

    August 13, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. freedom

    The world's burning around them, and they're hugging in Martha's Vineyard? They both STINK as leaders!

    August 13, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  17. Joe Johnston

    Barack, I wouldn't trust her. She stabbed you once.She'll certainly do it again.

    August 13, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  18. evolve

    Let me guess, her beliefs have 'evolved' on the topic at hand. We all know Dems don't flip flop, they evolve their opinions to fit the best number of votes.

    August 13, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  19. it must be said

    I hope they eventually come to blows and all of the lies they have telling the American people get revealed, especially all the lies about Benghazi. If Obama reneges on the deal to back Hillary Clinton, then Bill Clinton and Obama could be right at each others throat as well. This could get really ugly, really fast. I am loving every minute of it. It's like Democrat Shark Week!!

    August 13, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. Bob

    Joe Johnston- it was a pre emptive strike,she has seen Obama throw his allies under the bus in the past

    August 13, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. sly

    Best President since FDR.
    Best Secretary of State in 50 years.

    These are good times for America.

    And no, the 'world is not burning' – this is one of the most peaceful era's in history.

    Go back to looking for the Birth Certificate!

    August 13, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    just asking

    Rudy NYc – "Food for thought. If the elections put the Republicans in control, we will be fighting wars in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran, and Libya."

    what rock are you living under? obama is already fighting a war in afghanistan (the good war he calls it), iraq (back because he screwed up), and libya is a mess because he took out khaddafi. his mythical syria red line exposed Obama as an empty suit and that lead to the creation of isis and putin deciding obama was weak.
    ------------------------------
    What on Earth are you talking about? We already know that we are fighting a war in Afghanistan. Pres. Obama is trying to end our involvement there, but most Republicans would keep right on going. I'm not even going to argue with you about Iraq because you're too entrenched in non-facts and nonsense. Reagan tried to take out Khaddafi, but missed. Congress voted against taking action after Assad crossed the red line.

    The people who make up ISIS have been around for centuries. Why else do you think that so many countries in the region are ruled with an iron fist? When we took out Saddam, we let the genie out of the proverbial bottle. As candidate Obama told candidate McCain, there was no Al-Qaeda in Iraq until the U.S. was in Iraq. ISIS is an extremist outcast of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    Putin. He was thunbing his nose at the U.S. when he invaded Georgia in 2008. We couldn't stop his military then, and a military response has been ruled out of the question, by Republicans and Democrats alike, in Ukraine. You have no solutions, just complaints.

    August 13, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  23. Taisha Wolfendale

    Good story

    August 13, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    Freedom Storm

    It’s against the law “to provide support to a listed terrorist organization.” Hamas is such an organization. Jimmy Carter has loudly and publicly urged both the United States and the United Nations to formerly recognize Hamas. That supports a listed terrorist organization. In terms of illegal actions, Jimmy Carter has touched that line, according to Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
    Of course, Obeyme the Muslim Marxist Tyrant has crossed such lines so frequently we can state that he resides there permanently.
    ---------------------------
    Dershowitz is a Fox News Contributor, which means he's paid to say whatever they want him to say. Have you forgotten that the Reagan administration provided arms and military advice to the Taliban, which harbored and protected Al-Qaeda, during their decade long war against the Soviets in the 1980s? So, do you think we should impeach Reagan, too?

    August 13, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  25. Say WHAT???

    Obama and Hillary Clinton. Two back stabbing liars. The perfect Democrats. We can only hope they take each other out and then the country will be better off.

    August 13, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
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