Hillary Clinton calls Obama to clarify Syria remarks

WASHINGTON Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:21pm EDT

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves as she leaves after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Files

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves as she leaves after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 8, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier/Files

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton, a likely Democratic contender for the White House in 2016, called President Barack Obama on Tuesday to clarify that controversial remarks she made in an interview were not intended to attack him, her spokesman said.

In an interview published by The Atlantic magazine on Sunday, former Secretary of State Clinton identified the U.S. choice not to intervene early in Syria's civil war as a "failure."

"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," Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement.

"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."

Clinton, also a former first lady and senator from New York, served as Obama's secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. Since then she has been touring the country giving a series of lucrative speeches and promoting her memoir, "Hard Choices."

She will be on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, to sign copies of her book on Wednesday. Obama is vacationing there, and the two are expected to see each other Wednesday night.

"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.

The call was first reported by Politico.

Clinton has not said whether she will run for president, but she is regarded as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Therefore each of her public statements has been scrutinized as a possible reflection of her potential campaign platform.

While these comments were Clinton's clearest effort at distancing herself from the White House, she has been subtly creating space between her own record and Obama's for months. The June release of "Hard Choices" also provided her with a chance to note her differences with the president.

In the book she specifically identified Obama's decision not to arm moderate Syrian rebels as a point of contention while she was at the State Department.

(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by Jim Loney, Bernard Orr)

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Comments (17)
Bagehot wrote:
A tired trick: distance yourself from a flailing predecessor, then say it was a mistake, you were misquoted, etc. That plants the subconscious “I’m better, vote for me next time around” message and at the same time inoculates you from any pushback. Clinton 101, pure cynicism served ice cold. If the GOP puts up anybody good, the Democrats need to shoulder HRC to the exit.

Aug 12, 2014 5:43pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ronMc wrote:
Let me see if I can follow the linguistically adroit, Hillary. She flat-out described US foreign policy in Syria as a “failure” – but she has now called President Obama to explain that her comment was NOT a criticism of him.

Okay, I’ll bite. Who the hell does she hold accountable for our Syrian policy failures? W? House Republicans? C’mon, Hillary, help all of us moderate voters who want to know whether you agree with Obama’s inept foreign policy. A true leader takes a stand, clearly defining a policy and then standing by it. Obama’s greatest failure is US voters fault, not his. We elected a ‘discusser-in-chief’, rather than a leader. Our weak economy and failed foreign policy is fair puinishment for our poor decision.

We’d all like to atone for our error by electing a real leader in 2016; it would be immensely helpful to us to know whether you have the courage it takes to lead. The best possible indication of that courage would be for you to stand behind your comment, rather than sheepishly backtracking after Obama called you out on it. If you lack the guts to stand up to Obama, you don’t even belong in the same world as Putin. (Remember Putin, the guy you wanted to “Reset” relations with because you thought W had simply misunderstood Putin’s intentions?)

Aug 12, 2014 5:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
YankeeAcct wrote:
This lady has no shame or honor. But then again, Obama has no policy so it is hard to be attack something that does not exist. Have fun at the party tonight, look for “Happy” pictures of the two of them in the morning. Neither believes in anything except power, so all is good.

Aug 12, 2014 6:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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