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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid