Included in the excerpts of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s book was a tantalizing tidbit about her claiming to nobly decline an Obama camp request that she attack former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign. Clinton said that she chose not to attack the former Republican vice presidential nominee strictly “for being a woman.”
That assertion apparently riled a few Obama campaign veterans who, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Politico reporters that Clinton’s recollection of events left much to be desired.
“We wanted Hillary to go out and say the Republican platform is completely inconsistent with the principles on which I ran,” said the official, adding that it was not supposed to be a broad-based knock on Palin.
It seems as though the sting of Clinton implying that Team Obama wanted her to mount a cheap attack on Palin based on nothing more than her gender remains inflamed. Yet another Obama campaign veteran who refused to be identified recently told Politico in blunt terms that the former secretary of state was mischaracterizing that event.
“That’s not what happened,” said one campaign veteran, who, like almost everyone else interviewed, asked not to be identified. “The Palin thing was an odd way to put it. The question that was raised with numerous Democratic leaders was whether Gov. Palin had the right experience to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, and it’s the same question that would have been raised regardless of gender.”
This may be a harbinger of future rifts between Teams Clinton and Obama. Politico indicates that administration and campaign staffers are not taking Clinton’s routine efforts to distance herself from the current occupant of the Oval Office well.
White House aides acknowledge that there will have to be a high tolerance for her creating distance with the administration. They want the Democratic nominee to win, no matter who it is, and if that means spelling out differences with the president, then so be it. But they don’t expect that to happen for a while because, at this point, Clinton will need to show that she was part of a successful presidency and undermining him wouldn’t help.
There is a natural tension between a president and a member of his party seeking to succeed him, and the White House knows that Clinton will have to create some distance between her and Obama as the 2016 cycle accelerates. “But the Palin story pulled at scabs from a messy Democratic primary, and served as a reminder that some wounds haven’t totally healed,” Politico reported.
And that scab is only going to get bloodier. On Tuesday, Clinton created some daylight between herself and the president on how Obama has handled America’s foreign affairs.
“I don’t think we should be retreating from the world,” Clinton said on CNN, in an implicit rebuke of the president’s policy of American retrenchment. She added that she would have preferred the West take the lead on arming Syria’s rebels “you know, two plus years ago.”
In that interview, Clinton went on to insist that the United States should not coordinate with Iran on matters relating to Iraqi security. “I am not prepared to say that we go in with Iran right now, until we have a better idea what we’re getting ourselves into,” she insisted.
That statement came just hours after her successor, Secretary of State John Kerry, said that cooperation with Iran to address the escalating violence in Iraq was on the table. “I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together — the integrity of the country — and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart,” Kerry said on Monday.
He quickly backtracked and, in conjunction with the White House, later asserted that a negotiation with Iran over Iraqi security issues is “not on the table.”
As Clinton, a prominent Democratic figure and former administration official, seeks to replace a two-term president of her party, she will necessarily have to create some distance between her and her former boss. These internecine squabbles are to be expected as Clinton and Obama’s alliance of convenience collapses. However, it is just as natural for the president’s supporters to be enraged by Clinton’s efforts to recast history in order to create space between her and the president. Expect the backbiting to continue.