TIME White House

Biden Takes Veiled Shot at Clinton, Panetta Over ‘Inappropriate’ Books

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students faculty and staff at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass. on Oct. 2, 2014.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students faculty and staff at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass. on Oct. 2, 2014. Winslow Townson—AP

High-level White House debates over Iraq and Syria are coming to light as top officials air their differences.

Vice President Joe Biden blasted former members of President Barack Obama’s administration who have gone on to write “inappropriate” books about the White House.

Speaking to Harvard students in a question-and-answer session Thursday, Biden was asked whether he believes the U.S. should have acted earlier in Syria, a critique leveled by former Secretary of State and likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, as well as former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in recent memoirs.

“The answer is no for two reasons,” Biden said. “One, the idea of identifying a moderate middle has been a chase America has been engaged in for a long time. We Americans think in every country in transition there’s a Thomas Jefferson hiding behind some rock, or a James Madison beyond one sand dune. The fact of the matter is, the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria was—there was no moderate middle, because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers; they’re made up of people who, in fact, have—ordinary elements of the middle class of that country.”

The vice president continued that it was “inappropriate” for former administration officials to write books while Obama is still in office.

“And what happened was—and their history will record this, because I’m finding that former administration officials, as soon as they leave write books, which I think is inappropriate. But any rate,” Biden said as the audience chuckled. “No, I’m serious. I do think it’s inappropriate. At least give the guy a chance to get out of office.”

Clinton’s book Hard Choices includes details of internal deliberations where she unsuccessfully pressed President Barack Obama to arm Syrian rebels in 2012, one of the only clear denunciations she makes of the president in the book. “The risks of both action and inaction were high,” Clinton wrote. “Both choices would bring unintended consequences. The President’s inclination was to stay the present course and not take the significant further step of arming rebels.”

In Panetta’s forthcoming memoir, Worthy Fights, excerpted in this week’s TIME, the former Pentagon chief takes issue with Obama’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the subsequent rise of ISIS in Syria. “To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country,” Panetta writes.

Left unsaid by the vice president, is that he often argued for caution against intervention in the debates highlighted by Panetta and Clinton, according to current and former officials’ accounts.

TIME Bizarre

Feel Good Friday: 16 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From American flag kilts to octopus helmet covers, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME 2016 Election

The Odds of George Clooney Running for President Just Doubled

Italy Clooney Wedding
George Clooney and his wife Amal Alamuddin leave the city hall after their civil marriage ceremony in Venice, Italy, Luigi Costantini—AP

At least one British Bookie thinks marrying Amal Alamuddin may have been a shrewd political move

A Clooney/Pitt ticket in 2016, perhaps?

The likelihood that George Clooney will run for President of the United States doubled after he married prominent international human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, according to the British bookmakers William Hill.

The company announced Wednesday that it cut the price of a bet that Clooney will run in half, from 200/1 to 100/1, after “hints made by family members” that the actor has political ambitions.

On Sunday Clooney married prominent international jurist Amal Alamuddin in a high profile Venice wedding.

“George Clooney is not just one of the most recognisable faces in the USA, but in the world, and if he did decide to run for President he ticks a lot of boxes,” William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said.

Hill still doesn’t think Clooney can win, putting those odds at 500 to one.

And who would beat him? Probably Hillary Clinton, who they place as the five to one favorite on winning the White House in 2016.

TIME Family

Meet the Clinton Baby’s Other Grandparents

Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky attend 2012 Clinton Global Initiative Opening Session at the Sheraton Hote in New York on Sept. 23, 2012.
Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky attend 2012 Clinton Global Initiative Opening Session at the Sheraton Hote in New York on Sept. 23, 2012. Janet Mayer—Splash News/Corbis

Or, as they're called in Yiddish, the 'machatonim'

Even before Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky headed home from the hospital on Monday, we had seen the first photos of her with her “over the moon” new grandparents, Bill and Hillary Clinton. But where were the machatonim?

In case you’re wondering, machatonim is a Yiddish word that describes a relationship for which there is no equivalent word in English: the parents of your child’s spouse. And in the case of the Clintons, the machatonim are two longtime friends and allies: Marjorie Margolies and Edward Mezvinsky.

Marjorie is a women’s rights activist and former Congresswoman from Pennsylvania who served a momentous single term in 1993-95 after her deciding vote for the Clinton budget cost her her seat. She ran but lost in the Democratic primary this spring, despite vigorous support from both Clintons. Her former husband, Edward Mezvinsky, served two terms in Congress from Iowa — but also served fived years in prison after being convicted of fraud in 2001. They were divorced in 2007. So maybe their low profile is understandable.

“We are totally delighted,” Marjorie told TIME. What matters this week, anyway, is the relationship of the Clintons and the Margolies-Mezvinsky as machatonim — surely a more efficient way to put it than fumbling around awkwardly with phrases like “my daughter’s in-laws.” If Bill and Hillary are newcomers to their heightened status as grandparents, Marjorie and Ed are black-belt machatonim. Between their combined eleven children, they already have 18 grandchildren, thus presenting Charlotte with 18 cousins “who can’t wait to be part of Charlotte’s life,” Margolies says.

It’s often pointed out that the machatonim often become uncommonly close for two reasons: (1) their shared love for the same grandchildren, and (2) because they and the grandchildren are united by a common enemy: the parents.

So now begin the sensitive negotiations that are more than familiar to many grandparents. Which family will Charlotte (and, oh, her parents) visit for Thanksgiving? Or will they split the difference, Solomonically bolting after turkey dinner to commute to the Other Grandparents’ House for dessert? Who gives her the coolest presents? And, most terrifying, which grandparents does she says she loves the MOST? She will say she loves them all, of course. After all, at least genetically, all machatonim are created equal.

TIME 2016 Election

The Pros and Cons of ‘President Grandma’

Hillary Bill Chelsea Clinton Baby
Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, hold their granddaughter Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky after their daughter Chelsea Clinton gave birth in New York on Sept. 27, 2014. Jon Davidson—Reuters

The challenges and benefits of running for the land’s highest office as a grandmother

Hillary Clinton has had many titles: mother, First Lady of the United States, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State and, most recently, grandmother. In her last presidential campaign, it was her experience as a senator and, to a lesser extent, first lady, that were the selling points of her campaign. But if she runs again in 2016, she won’t just be touting her experience as top diplomat, she’ll also sports a different kind of distinction: the first viable presidential contender who also happens to be a grandmother.

There are pros and cons in politics to the title of grandma, some of them uniquely Clintonian. At a time when Clinton’s recent remarks about not driving a car since 1996 and struggling to make ends meet after Bill Clinton’s presidency made her seem out of touch with the populist times, being a grandmother makes her relatable.

“As we saw in 2008, she had a more difficult time relating to voters on a personal level,” said Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University. “Being about to tell stories about having a first grandchild might serve as one way to connect with the millions of Americans who watched Chelsea grow up and who are now grandparents’ themselves. Any benefit will surely be tiny, but it could drive up empathy a bit.”

If Clinton chooses to promote her grandmotherly status, it would be the opposite tack that she took in 2008 where she was so concerned about showing voters she wasn’t a weak woman that she buried the historic nature of her campaign. In that regard, Clinton is the opposite of most women running for office, who try to avoid mentioning their families because they don’t want to seem soft. Being perceived as tough “is particularly important for executive offices, where strength and toughness, and singular leadership, are valued most,” said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women in Politics. “Of course, some of this will be very unique to Hillary Clinton, as she struggled in her last presidential campaign to empathize with voters and was often criticized for being too hard.”

Being a grandpa almost never hurt a male presidential candidate. Few remarked on Mitt Romney’s grandchildren except, perhaps, at the large number of them. Let’s face it: There will be a double standard for Clinton compared to any other male politician running for President. The image of a blue-haired granny is a tried-and-true American stereotype, and one that is antithetical to the image of the commander-in-chief with his finger on the button.

But again, Clinton’s previous campaign and life experience defies that contrast. “While it might be different for other candidates, particularly female candidates who are less known and still need to prove their competence, I think for Hillary Clinton it is a positive,” said Michele Swers, an associate professor in American Government at Georgetown University and author of “The Difference women Make.”

“Clinton spent years developing her persona of expertise and toughness,” Swers said.

But the biggest risk of being the grandma-candidate is that it does remind voters of Clinton’s age. On Election Day 2016, she’ll be 69, just months younger than the oldest U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, when he was elected in 1980. And it was Clinton’s husband Bill, who successfully painted the last President to be a grandparent in office, George H. W. Bush, as old and out of touch when he beat him in the 1992 election.

TIME People

See the First Pictures of Chelsea Clinton’s New Baby

Chelsea Clinton gave birth to a newborn baby girl, she announced Saturday morning. Here, see tiny Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, the world’s newest Clinton, meet her parents and grandparents for the first time.

TIME Family

See Chelsea Clinton’s Life in Pictures

From her first baby pictures to her pregnancy, here's Chelsea's very public life in pictures

TIME 2014 Election

GOP Dubs Democrats the Party of the Rich in 2012 Turnabout

Hillary Clinton gives a speech at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa on Sept. 14, 2014. ; Mitt Romney speaks to supporters at an election-night rally on April 3, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Hillary Clinton gives a speech at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa on Sept. 14, 2014. ; Mitt Romney speaks to supporters at an election-night rally on April 3, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jim Young—Reuters/Corbis; Scott Olson—Getty Images

What worked against Mitt Romney is now being wielded against Democrats

Republicans are turning the Democrats’ own playbook against them.

Two years after Democrats held the White House by painting Mitt Romney as a callous plutocrat, the GOP is borrowing a page from the same populist playbook. In close contests around the country, Republicans are hoping to gain an edge in the battle for control of the Senate by hammering Democrats as the party of the rich.

In Iowa, the Republican Super PAC American Crossroads has run three TV ads this month highlighting Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley’s fundraising links to liberal billionaire Tom Steyer. In Colorado, another outside GOP group, American Commitment, slammed Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for the same ties. In Kansas, advisers to Republican Sen. Pat Roberts are attacking a wealthy independent challenger (who Democrats tacitly support) for insufficient financial disclosures, and are raising questions about his “business dealings in the Middle East and the Cayman Islands.”

Sound familiar? In 2012, Democrats cast Romney as a rapacious “vulture” capitalist who was cocooned in the C-suite and blind to the challenges buffeting the middle class. Perhaps the most memorable ad of the election cycle was a brutal takedown of Romney’s Swiss bank account and tax havens in Bermuda and the Caymans, all set to the former private equity executive’s off-key crooning of “America the Beautiful.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pummeled Romney with unsubstantiated charges that he had used accounting gimmicks to skirt 10 years of tax payments.

The attacks succeeded. As political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck wrote in their book The Gamble, in surveys conducted throughout the race voters described themselves as ideologically closer to Romney than to President Barack Obama. But some of them voted for Obama anyway. The caricature that Democrats created—reinforced by Romney’s own tone-deaf remarks—was part of the reason. Obama regularly trounced Romney on “empathy” polling questions, such as which candidate cares more about “people like me.” Among voters who cited this as the trait that mattered most in a President, Obama won in exit polling by a margin of 81-18.

The strategy worked well enough that Republicans have dusted it off and put it use themselves. The campaign team dispatched to rescue Roberts in Kansas has seized on the vast wealth of independent challenger Greg Orman as a potential liability. They have attacked Orman, a businessman whose campaign filings indicate he is worth up to $86 million, as “another millionaire politician” with ties to a tainted Goldman Sachs exec and a private-equity partnership in the Caymans. In normal times, a seven-figure income and affiliation with high-flying financiers are badges of honor in the party. In campaign season, they are cudgels.

The GOP is hardly the only team trotting out this attack. Democrats have made the lavish political spending of the billionaire Koch brothers a centerpiece of their national strategy. In races around the country, they are painting conservative candidates as pawns of the Kochs’ political empire. It’s not clear whether the tactic will work when half the country has never heard of them. But this year, Republicans have found a foil of their own. They’re elevating Steyer, a liberal billionaire who has pledged to fork over $50 million to candidates this year, as the Democrats’ own billionaire bogeyman. That’s why he’s showing up in ads in multiple states, and why the Republican Governors Association has created a website introducing voters to a man they dubbed “Steyer the Liar.”

The truth beneath all the rhetoric is that both parties are desperate to recruit wealthy donors and candidates alike. But in a nation with rising inequality and millions of anxious voters, pitchfork populism will remain a staple of both parties’ campaign playbook before and after the midterm elections. The early rumblings of the 2016 race have focused on Hillary Clinton’s wealth: her massive book advance, her family’s speaking fees, her spacious homes. The media spent a month this summer chewing over how a multimillionaire could consider herself “dead broke.” In national politics these days, everybody seems to be cashing in at the polls on someone else’s money.

TIME People

Bill Clinton Drops a Hint About Chelsea’s Due Date

Clinton Global Citizen Awards at 2014 Clinton Global Initiative
Chelsea Clinton, US Vice Chairman of the Clinton Foundation, walks onto the stage to make a presentation during the Clinton Global Citizen Awards presentations at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City on Sept. 21, 2014. Ray Stubblebine—EPA

The baby should be arriving in early October

President Bill Clinton is really looking forward to next week. Because by that time, he told CNN, he may be welcoming his first grandchild into the world.

“I hope by the first of October, I’ll be a grandfather,” Clinton said in an interview that aired Sunday. “I can’t wait.”

Chelsea Clinton announced her pregnancy in April, which should make her about eight months along if she followed the typical rule of waiting three months before sharing her pregnancy. Both the former President and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said they are on “baby watch” over the weekend, in anticipation of their first grandchild. During a speech at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum on Friday, Clinton said she had been “thinking a lot about family because you know I’m on grandbaby watch.”

The Clintons will be in for another surprise when the baby finally arrives: Chelsea and her husband have opted against learning the sex of the baby before it’s born.

“They want to be surprised,” Bill Clinton said.

[CNN]

TIME

Democrats Praise Party Chair After Critical Report

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Democrat
Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, speaks at the DNC's Leadership Forum Issues Conference in Washington on Sept. 19, 2014. Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

A day after a brutal story questioned her competence, Democrats from Obama to Hillary celebrated Debbie Wasserman Schultz

President Barack Obama praised Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Friday, at a time her leadership of the party is being sharply questioned.

“I want to thank Debbie for the great work that she is doing to keep our party strong,” Obama said on the stage of the Democratic Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington. “Nobody anywhere works harder than Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I want to thank her for her incredible efforts.”

Kind words. But according to a 4,000-word Politico story this week, Obama rarely includes the DNC chair in his political meetings and thinks little of the job she’s doing—so little that his Administration actively looked to replace her in 2012, but decided it would ultimately be more hassle than it’d be worth.

Obama wasn’t the only one with effusive praise for Wasserman Schultz. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complimented Wasserman Schultz earlier in the day. “Debbie wears so many hats so well: DNC chair, trusted friend, congresswoman, mom,” she said.

But according to the Politico article, Clinton will never forgive Wasserman Schultz, who co-chaired her 2008 presidential bid, for secretly calling the Obama campaign late in the primary slugfest and secretly pledging her support.

Also effusive of Wasserman Schultz was Vice President Joe Biden. “I’ve never seen anyone work as hard and as tirelessly as Debbie does,” Biden said. “She’s like my little sister.”

Which is perhaps why Wasserman Schultz was over the top on her praise of Biden—perhaps the only prominent Democrat named in the Politico story whose aides didn’t trash her—and hinted at supporting him for President in 2016 against presumed frontrunner Clinton. “Joe Biden is a national treasure… There’s a reason I wore a Joe Biden button [when he ran for President] in 1988 even after someone else won the nomination,” she told the crowd. “Of course, I’m neutral as DNC chair, but I thought you should know that.”

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