News / USA

Column: Interview Suggests New Obama-Clinton Tensions

FILE - President Barack Obama with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the White House in 2011
FILE - President Barack Obama with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the White House in 2011

It is one of the more complicated and fascinating relationships of the modern political age—President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Once bitter rivals, Clinton was Obama’s surprise pick as his first secretary of state.  By all accounts they worked well together.  Petty rivalries were mostly swept aside as Clinton travelled the world as the face of a new administration, determined to show the U.S. had turned the page after eight years of the presidency of George W. Bush.

In recent days it appears that the relationship has taken yet another turn.  Clinton stepped up criticisms of the president's  handling of foreign policy, taken by some as yet another sign of an impending campaign for the White House in 2016.

In an interview with The Atlantic, Clinton seemed to take a shot at what has come to be known as the Obama administration’s shorthand foreign policy mantra:  “Don’t do stupid stuff.”  Clinton put it this way:  “Great nations need organizing principles and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

Some of the president’s advisers were not amused.  David Axelrod blasted away on Twitter:  “Just to clarify, ‘Don’t do stupid stuff means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision.” 

All of a sudden, the memories of the Obama-Clinton 2008 battle for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination came back into focus, especially the Obama campaign’s efforts to remind Democrats at every turn that Clinton voted for the Iraq war as a senator from New York.

Calming the Waters

In an effort to tamp things down, Clinton called Obama to assure him that nothing she said was an attempt to “attack him, his policies or his leadership”, according to a statement from a Clinton spokesman. 

Clinton detailed in her recent book “Hard Choices” how she and the president differed over arming moderate rebels in Syria.  She was in favor, he was opposed.  All of that has come back into play as the Obama administration grapples with the growing threat of jihadists in northern Iraq.

No doubt if Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016, she will have to put some distance between herself and the president, especially if the president remains unpopular.  But how she does that, without annoying liberal Democrats who remain loyal to Obama and whose support she will need to win, will be a key test of her political skills.

For Obama, the criticism comes at a bad time politically.  He is stuck at some of the lowest poll ratings of his tenure, just a few months before midterm congressional elections will likely determine what kind of presidency he will have in his final two years in office.

In fact, it is Clinton who is likely to be in demand as a Democratic speaker during the upcoming midterm campaign, more so than the president.  Clinton is expected to carefully choose where and when to campaign and for whom.   The demand for her is likely to outstrip her ability to accommodate all those who would her help.

It will be a different scenario for the president.  Many vulnerable Democrats running in Republican-leaning states have already signaled they would prefer he not come on their behalf.  And the White House, fully aware of the prospect of losing Democratic control of the Senate, understands and is willing to oblige.

'Undecided' Leads Republican Field for 2016

While the Democratic Party storyline for 2016 is clear at the moment with Clinton as the frontrunner, it is anything but on the Republican side. 

A recent Marist poll shows “undecided” is the top choice for Republicans in Iowa with 20 percent and in New Hampshire at 22 percent.  After that Rand Paul and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush are tied with 12 percent each in Iowa followed by 2012 vice presidential candidate and Congressman Paul Ryan at 11 percent.  In New Hampshire, Rand Paul is at 14 percent support followed by Christie at 13 percent.

Christie has made some early visits to Iowa, which some Republican strategists see as a sign that he believes he remains a viable 2016 option among GOP contenders.  That’s important because Christie has been dogged by a scandal that ensnared some of his aides related to lane closings on the George Washington Bridge that caused massive traffic jams last September. 

So far Christie has not been personally implicated in the scandal but three investigations are ongoing and many Republicans insiders are reluctant to pronounce Christie in the clear as long as there remains a cloud of the unknown hanging over his head.  Christie, however, may be forging ahead regardless.  He told Iowa Republicans, “I’ll be back here.  I’ll be back here a lot.”

Christie is not alone.  Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Rick Perry have also been making pilgrimages to Iowa with 2016 in mind.

The Marist poll suggests some of the fallout from the bridge scandal may be hurting Christie.  He has the highest unfavorable ratings of any of the potential Republican contenders in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Thirty-three percent of Iowa Republicans view him negatively, as do 31 percent of Republicans in New Hampshire. 

Christie will have a better read on his presidential possibilities after his visit to Iowa and another upcoming trip to New Hampshire.  For many moderate Republicans, a scandal-free Christie represents their best hope of defeating Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat in 2012.  Christie’s proven appeal to centrist voters and his ability to project a straight-talking image could be a huge advantage provided he is not directly implicated in the bridge-lane closure scandal. 

But that remains a big “if” and the problem for Republican fundraisers and activists who like Christie is it may be a long time before the investigations are concluded and his fate is known.

Other potential contenders dropping by include Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, still a favorite with conservative Christian voters.

Many of these potential contenders are also visiting New Hampshire and South Carolina, the two other traditional early stops in the Republican primary calendar.  But it already appears that Iowa will be a huge first test for what could be a large Republican field early in 2016.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs