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As Clinton Campaigns, Complications With Her Old Boss Arise

  • Associated Press

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a community forum in Davenport, Iowa, Oct. 6, 2015.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a community forum in Davenport, Iowa, Oct. 6, 2015.

President Barack Obama seemed to call Hillary Rodham Clinton's idea of a no-fly zone in Syria "half-baked." Clinton described the president's immigration strategy as "harsh and aggressive." And as Obama tries to rally Democrats around the chief economic proposal of his second term, the party's presidential front-runner stayed conspicuously silent.

As Clinton looks for ways to distinguish her ideas from those of her former boss, the relationship between the man in the White House and the woman who hopes to replace him has grown increasingly complicated.

No issue presents more potential for friction than trade.

For months, Clinton has resisted weighing in on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the sweeping trade deal that has divided the Democratic base. The completion of the negotiations this week means she'll soon be forced to choose between one of the top legacy items of her former boss or labor unions, environmentalists and other liberal constituencies that oppose the deal.

Clinton promises to "definitely have a position soon."

"I'm going to be diving into that tonight. I'm going to be talking to people. They're getting me all the information they can gather so I can make a timely decision," Clinton said Tuesday as she toured a farmer's market in Davenport, Iowa.

The awkward dynamic isn't a surprise: Both Clinton's campaign and the Obama administration have always said the time would come when the candidate would outline her own policies and deliver criticisms, both implied and direct, of the president.

"I am not running for my husband's third term or President Obama's third term," Clinton told voters in Davenport, repeating an oft-used line from her stump speech. "I'm running for my first term."

While she frequently commends the president, Clinton has been offering critiques of his policies more and more.

Native Americans, farmers, ranchers and cowboys gather outside the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, during a 'Reject and Protect' rally to protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, April 22, 2014. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)

Native Americans, farmers, ranchers and cowboys gather outside the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, during a 'Reject and Protect' rally to protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, April 22, 2014. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)

Native Americans, farmers, ranchers and cowboys gather outside the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, during a 'Reject and Protect' rally to protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, April 22, 2014. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)

Keystone XL

Last month, she came out against the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, while the administration remains undecided. In August, she said Obama's decision to approve offshore drilling in the Arctic wasn't "worth the risk" to the environment. And she's subtly resurrected her 2008 primary attack of Obama's approach to world affairs, taking a more hawkish stance toward Russia, Syria and Iran.

On both immigration and gun control, she's vowed to use her executive power to do more than the president, implying that Obama's actions have not gone quite far enough.

"I'm not going to be breaking up families. And I think that is one of the differences," she said of Obama's deportation policy earlier this week. "But I totally understand why the Obama administration felt as though they did what they did under the circumstances."

Campaign veterans in the White House say the impact of Clinton's one-upping is minor and dismiss some of Clinton's proposals as routine campaign fodder. Candidates use policy plans to declare their priorities. Worries over practical implementation come later.

But trade falls into a different category. If Clinton opposes Obama's big deal, she could undermine his arguments just as the White House is in the final stretch of a deal years in the making.

With Clinton's main challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, calling the accord "disastrous," Obama may be in the uncomfortable position of watching a Democratic debate next week in which none of the major candidates is willing to defend the deal.

Clinton aides know she must tread lightly when it comes to criticizing the president, given that much of her strategy relies on the still-loyal coalition of African-Americans, Latinos, women and younger voters that twice elected Obama. But at the same time, they say she must find ways to distinguish herself — and undercut Republican attacks that Clinton would simply be a third Obama term.

Many of Clinton's top aides joined her campaign from the White House and the two staffs remain in frequent communication.

Syrian-Americans protest Russian intervention in Syria outside a Russian consular office in Santa Monica, California, United States, October 6, 2015.

Syrian-Americans protest Russian intervention in Syria outside a Russian consular office in Santa Monica, California, United States, October 6, 2015.

No-fly zone over Syria

Before Clinton publicly announced her opposition to the Keystone pipeline and gun proposals, campaign staff alerted the White House to her plans. And after Obama appeared to deride her proposal for a no-fly zone over Syria as "half-baked" in a press conference last week, aides called to make sure Clinton understood the criticism wasn't aimed at her, according to a senior White House official who would not be named discussing private conversations.

The White House doesn't deny Clinton's new distance has at times created awkwardness for the president. On immigration, Clinton's promise to go further than Obama in using executive authority to ease the threat of deportation for immigrants living in the U.S. directly contradicts Obama's assertion that he's done all he can under the law.

Syrian-Americans protest Russian intervention in Syria outside a Russian consular office in Santa Monica, California, United States, October 6, 2015.

President Barack Obama seemed to call Hillary Rodham Clinton's idea of a no-fly zone in Syria "half-baked." Clinton described the president's immigration strategy as "harsh and aggressive." And as Obama tries to rally Democrats around the chief economic proposal of his second term, the party's presidential front-runner stayed conspicuously silent.

As Clinton looks for ways to distinguish her ideas from those of her former boss, the relationship between the man in the White House and the woman who hopes to replace him has grown increasingly complicated.

No issue presents more potential for friction than trade.

TPP Countries and Other Global Trade Agreements

TPP Countries and Other Global Trade Agreements

Trans-Pacific Partnership

For months, Clinton has resisted weighing in on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the sweeping trade deal that has divided the Democratic base. The completion of the negotiations this week means she'll soon be forced to choose between one of the top legacy items of her former boss or labor unions, environmentalists and other liberal constituencies that oppose the deal.

Clinton promises to "definitely have a position soon."

"I'm going to be diving into that tonight. I'm going to be talking to people. They're getting me all the information they can gather so I can make a timely decision," Clinton said Tuesday as she toured a farmer's market in Davenport, Iowa.

The awkward dynamic isn't a surprise: Both Clinton's campaign and the Obama administration have always said the time would come when the candidate would outline her own policies and deliver criticisms, both implied and direct, of the president.

"I am not running for my husband's third term or President Obama's third term," Clinton told voters in Davenport, repeating an oft-used line from her stump speech. "I'm running for my first term."

While she frequently commends the president, Clinton has been offering critiques of his policies more and more.

Last month, she came out against the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, while the administration remains undecided. In August, she said Obama's decision to approve offshore drilling in the Arctic wasn't "worth the risk" to the environment. And she's subtly resurrected her 2008 primary attack of Obama's approach to world affairs, taking a more hawkish stance toward Russia, Syria and Iran.

Immigration and gun control

On both immigration and gun control, she's vowed to use her executive power to do more than the president, implying that Obama's actions have not gone quite far enough.

"I'm not going to be breaking up families. And I think that is one of the differences," she said of Obama's deportation policy earlier this week. "But I totally understand why the Obama administration felt as though they did what they did under the circumstances."

Campaign veterans in the White House say the impact of Clinton's one-upping is minor and dismiss some of Clinton's proposals as routine campaign fodder. Candidates use policy plans to declare their priorities. Worries over practical implementation come later.

But trade falls into a different category. If Clinton opposes Obama's big deal, she could undermine his arguments just as the White House is in the final stretch of a deal years in the making.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, right, waves to the crowd after being presented with a shirt by Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr., left, during a visit at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Sept. 14, 2015.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, right, waves to the crowd after being presented with a shirt by Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr., left, during a visit at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Sept. 14, 2015.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, right, waves to the crowd after being presented with a shirt by Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr., left, during a visit at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Sept. 14, 2015.

With Clinton's main challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, calling the accord "disastrous," Obama may be in the uncomfortable position of watching a Democratic debate next week in which none of the major candidates is willing to defend the deal.

Clinton aides know she must tread lightly when it comes to criticizing the president, given that much of her strategy relies on the still-loyal coalition of African-Americans, Latinos, women and younger voters that twice elected Obama. But at the same time, they say she must find ways to distinguish herself — and undercut Republican attacks that Clinton would simply be a third Obama term.

Many of Clinton's top aides joined her campaign from the White House and the two staffs remain in frequent communication.

Before Clinton publicly announced her opposition to the Keystone pipeline and gun proposals, campaign staff alerted the White House to her plans. And after Obama appeared to deride her proposal for a no-fly zone over Syria as "half-baked" in a press conference last week, aides called to make sure Clinton understood the criticism wasn't aimed at her, according to a senior White House official who would not be named discussing private conversations.

The White House doesn't deny Clinton's new distance has at times created awkwardness for the president. On immigration, Clinton's promise to go further than Obama in using executive authority to ease the threat of deportation for immigrants living in the U.S. directly contradicts Obama's assertion that he's done all he can under the law.

Similarly on gun control, just days after an exasperated Obama declared "this is not something I can do by myself," Clinton seemed to think otherwise. On Monday, she promised to close the so-called "gun-show loophole" through executive action.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest was quickly asked by reporters whether Obama would beat her to it. Earnest said the White House was looking into its options.

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