The White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama “values” Hillary Clinton’s opinion, just hours before he’s set to “hug it out” with his former Secretary of State and rival.
With their relationship at its lowest point since the 2008 presidential primary as Clinton has tried to distance herself from the Obama Administration’s foreign policy woes, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Obama is looking forward to seeing Clinton on Wednesday night.
“They have a close and resilient relationship,” he said. “They continue to agree on a broad majority of issues confronting our country, even if they have the occasional policy difference.”
On Tuesday, Clinton called Obama in an effort to clear the air before their meeting, and a Clinton spokesman said she was not trying to distance herself from Obama in an interview with the Atlantic. “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Clinton said as she prepares for a possible White House bid in 2016, a reference to the phrase White House aides use to characterize Obama’s foreign policy vision.
Obama confidant David Axelrod fired back at Clinton on Tuesday, bringing up her support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “Just to clarify: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision,” he wrote on Twitter.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill walked back the criticism Tuesday, saying “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,” acknowledging lingering differences over arming Syrian rebels but softening the broader critique of Obama’s foreign policy.
The flare-up, and Clinton’s swift walk-back, are indicators of the delicate balance Clinton will have to walk as she plots a repeat bid for the Oval Office. She must distinguish herself from Obama and his response to multiple foreign policy crises, while avoiding alienating the Democratic base and the president who maintains significant sway within the party.
Schultz said that since Clinton left the Administration, the two have kept in touch “regularly,” and discuss policy issues. “He definitely values her opinion,” Schultz said. “And they definitely both talk. When they see each other they talk socially and they catch up on each other’s personal lives. But I am sure they talk about the pressing issues of the day as well.”