She didn’t mean to attack him, you know. That razor-sharp line about how “Don’t do stupid stuff” isn’t an organizing principle was aimed at some other administration that takes “Don’t do stupid stuff” as its organizing principle.
“Secretary Clinton was proud to serve with President Obama, she was proud to be his partner in the project of restoring American leadership and advancing America’s interests and values in a fast changing world,” said the statement, shared with POLITICO.
“She continues to share his deep commitment to a smart and principled foreign policy that uses all the tools at our disposal to achieve our goals. Earlier today, the secretary called President Obama to make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him, his policies, or his leadership.”
It added: “Secretary Clinton has at every step of the way touted the significant achievements of his presidency, which she is honored to have been part of as his secretary of state. 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. Some are now choosing to hype those differences but they do not eclipse their broad agreement on most issues. Like any two friends who have to deal with the public eye, she looks forward to hugging it out when she they see each other tomorrow night.”
In fairness to her, I’m surprised at how much Team O has pushed back. His foreign policy rating is in the toilet; she’s the nominee-in-waiting. Of course she’s going to draw some distinctions between them, and it’s to the party’s benefit that she does so. Instead you’ve got Obama grumbling about “horsesh*t” criticism, Axelrod publicly calling her out on Twitter, and unnamed administration officials whispering to the Times that she was oddly quiet about some of these big international challenges back when she had the means to influence them.
But at the time of the Obama administration’s internal debate over that decision, several officials said, Mrs. Clinton’s advocacy was far less thunderous: The United States had tried every diplomatic gambit with Syria, she said, and nothing else had worked, so why not try funneling weapons to the moderate rebels…
At the end of her tenure, for example, Mrs. Clinton wrote a memo to Mr. Obama recommending that the United States lift its half-century-old trade embargo against Cuba. It was not a position that she seriously advocated while at the State Department, officials said.
In the interview with The Atlantic, Mrs. Clinton said she had always been in the camp of those who believed that Iran had no right to enrich uranium. Yet in December 2010, she was one of the first American officials to acknowledge publicly, in an interview with the BBC, that Iran could emerge from a nuclear deal with the right to enrich.
When forced to choose between protecting their own legacy and making life easier for the next Democrat to lead the ticket, the Hopenchange boys have made their choice. If this ship is destined to sink, they’re going to make sure that Hillary takes on some water too. Excellent.
Now she has her own choice to make. Having seen how hard the White House is willing to tug on her leash as she tries to walk away, does she tone down her criticism of them on foreign policy or risk making enemies of them by keeping at it? I’m thinking she’ll probably accentuate the positive: Now that he’s bombing ISIS, she can communicate her own hawkishness to voters by cheerleading for that. Liberals might tolerate her being a loud-and-proud interventionist but asking them to tolerate it while she’s tearing down a president they voted for twice, who himself is a bit more hawkish than some of them would prefer, might be too much. Frankly, I wonder if she needs to ostentatiously brand herself a hawk at all at this point. She’s eager to do that, I assume, because she’s worried that some voters won’t trust a woman to be commander-in-chief (especially given that her biggest government role was in diplomacy, not at the Pentagon), but her reputation as a hawk is well known among people who follow politics. It’ll be well known to low-information voters too after she spends a year on the trail. There’s no need to pick a fight with Obama right now. Especially when his team is as willing to fight back as they are.