VINEYARD HAVEN, MASSACHUSETTS - They may or may not hug, but President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are rubbing shoulders on Wednesday at a party on Martha's Vineyard after the former secretary of state criticized the foreign policy vision of her one-time boss.
Clinton called Obama on Tuesday to say that her comments to Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic magazine, were not meant as an attack on the president. In the Atlantic interview, published on Sunday, Clinton described U.S. policy in Syria as a failure and said Obama's doctrine of “'don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle” for a great nation.
Her spokesman said Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, looked forward to “hugging it out” with Obama when the two attend a Wednesday evening party given by mutual friend and Washington power broker Vernon Jordan on the Massachusetts island, where the Obamas are vacationing.
Clinton is on the island to promote her book, “Hard Choices,” a memoir of her time as the nation's top diplomat under Obama, who picked her for the post after besting her for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.
Speaking to reporters before starting to sign books, Clinton said she was “absolutely” looking forward to hugging it out with the president and said they both were committed to the values and security interests of the United States.
“We have disagreements as any partners and friends, as we are, might very well have,” Clinton said. “But I'm proud ... that I served with him and for him, and I'm looking forward to seeing him tonight.”
The White House has played down suggestions of tension between the two, although some Obama aides privately expressed annoyance over her words.
Obama and Clinton developed a rapport during her time as secretary of state and White House spokesman Eric Schultz said they are “very close friends” who are in touch regularly, both in person and on the telephone.
“They continue to agree on a broad majority of issues confronting our country, even if they have the occasional policy difference,” Schultz said at a Wednesday news briefing in Edgartown.
“The president appreciates her counsel and advice, but more importantly he appreciates her friendship and that's why he's looking forward to seeing her this evening.”
Both the president and his former secretary of state have good reason to maintain a positive relationship.
For Clinton, Obama's network of fundraisers and political strength with key Democratic constituencies including blacks and gays, are assets she would like to inherit if she runs for president in 2016.
For Obama, protecting his legacy will involve ensuring that a Democrat replaces him in the White House and keeps laws such as the healthcare overhaul and financial regulatory reform on the books.