TIME 2016 Election

Obama Ally Knocks Hillary Clinton Over Iraq War Vote

Hillary Clinton And Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Speak At Bronx Childen's Museum Fifth Annual "Dream Big Day"
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks on stage at the campus of Lehman College for the Dream Big Day at the Bronx Children's Museum on July 25, 2014 in the Bronx New York. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

A flashback to 2008 campaign as Clinton tries to distance herself from Obama

A close confidant and former senior adviser to President Barack Obama took a not-so-veiled shot at Hillary Clinton on Tuesday for voting to authorize the Iraq War, in apparent push-back to the former Secretary of State’s criticism of Obama’s foreign policy.

“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Clinton told the Atlantic in an interview published this week, as she attempts to distance herself from the President ahead of a possible 2016 White House run. White House aides use a more profane version of the phrase “Don’t do stupid stuff” to characterize Obama’s foreign policy vision.

“Just to clarify: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff” means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision,” David Axelrod wrote on Twitter, in clear reference to Clinton’s vote in favor of the Iraq War in 2002—a vote Obama said he opposed.

The critique was a rare rebuke of Clinton from Obama’s inner circle, just as Clinton is starting the tricky balancing act of distancing herself from her increasingly unpopular former boss. Many Obama political aides, including 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, have thrown their support behind a Clinton candidacy in 2016. The flare-up is also something of a flashback to the 2008 campaign, when Obama, with Axelrod’s help, maneuvered to secure the Democratic nomination in a bitter fight largely by tying Clinton to the unpopular war.

And it also highlights the lingering frustration among liberal groups over the Iraq War vote as Obama has reengaged American forces in an aerial campaign in that country, as well as the deep divisions that have emerged in the Democratic Party over the role of America in the world.

MoveOn, the liberal group that was organized largely around opposition to the Iraq War, blasted Clinton in a statement Tuesday: “Secretary Clinton, and any other person thinking about seeking the Democratic nomination in 2016, should think long and hard before embracing the same policies advocated by right-wing war hawks that got America into Iraq in the first place and helped set the stage for Iraq’s troubles today.”

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