August 13, 2014, 08:21 am
Aide: Obama, Clinton relationship resilient
By Justin Sink
One of President Obama’s top national security aides said Tuesday that the president did not take criticism from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over his handling of foreign policy personally.
“I think their relationship is very resilient,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told CNN. “They’ve been through so much together.”
The comments from Rhodes were the latest sign that the Obama and Clinton camps were working to quell a growing controversy over comments Clinton made in an interview published over the weekend in The Atlantic. Clinton, widely presumed to be the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said she believed Obama’s restrained approach to the civil war in Syria had created a vacuum that enabled the rise of Sunni extremists now targeting minorities in Iraq.
Clinton also knocked Obama’s “don’t do stupid stuff” foreign policy mantra, saying that “great nations need organizing principles.”
Rhodes told CNN that “don’t do stupid stuff” was not the "entire foreign policy" of the Obama administration, but nevertheless maintained it was a useful guiding principle.
"It means think carefully before you get into military interventions," he said. "I think that's a lesson of the last 10 years that the American people have internalized -- that we have to be very careful when it comes to the application of military force, that we're not putting U.S. troops in harm's way without a clear plan and limited objectives for that effort."
Rhodes’s comments were a more muted version of comments made by former Obama aide David Axelrod, who swiped back at Clinton — and the former New York senator’s vote to authorize the war in Iraq — 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,” Axelrod said.
Still, it seems that both sides are eager to bury the hatchet after the minor firestorm created by Clinton’s comments.
Earlier Tuesday, a spokesman for Clinton said the former secretary of State had called Obama to insist the comments were not intended as an attack on him.
"While they've had honest differences on some issues, including aspects of the wicked challenge Syria presents, she has explained those differences in her book and at many points since then," Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said. "Some are now choosing to hype those differences but they do not eclipse their broad agreement on most issues."
He added that Clinton was looking “forward to hugging it out” when the current and former first families see each other Wednesday night at a birthday party for the wife of a prominent Democratic fundraiser on Martha’s Vineyard.
Rhodes conceded the White House could be doing a better job explaining its foreign policy vision.
"People are seeing the trees, but we're not necessarily laying out the forest," Rhodes said.