White House says media won't see Obama, Clinton hug it out
By Justin Sink - 08/13/14 01:00 PM EDT
If President Obama and Hillary Clinton hug it out Wednesday night, the news media won't be there to witness it.
The press won't be allowed into the birthday party where Clinton and Obama will meet, White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters on Martha's Vineyard.
"I appreciate the request, but I do think this is a private social gathering for someone’s birthday, so it’s going to be hard to bring all of you lovely people in," Schultz said.
The event will be the first time Clinton and Obama will see each other since the former secretary of State made several comments critical of the president's foreign policy, including that “don’t do stupid stuff” is not “an organizing principle” worthy of “great nations.”
A spokesman for Clinton said the remarks were not intended as an attack on Obama and that the former first lady was looking forward to "hugging it out" at the birthday party of the wife of a prominent Democratic fundraiser.
Schultz swatted down reporters' requests to be present for the highly anticipated gathering.
“I believe the president and Secretary Clinton have had many hugs over the years, and many of them have been caught on camera,” Schultz said.
The White House spokesman said that Obama “appreciated” that Clinton had already phoned him over the interview, in which she argued 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.
Schultz defended the president, saying Obama was concerned that U.S. weapons “could have fallen into the hands” of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria if he had begun providing rebels with weapons earlier. He also said that few would disagree it was wrong to avoid doing “stupid stuff.”
Clinton’s comments had clearly irritated people close to Obama.
David Axelrod, Obama’s former campaign adviser, on Tuesday took a veiled shot at Clinton, tweeting that “ 'don’t do stupid stuff' means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision.”
Clinton voted for legislation authorizing military action in Iraq, a decision she said in her new memoir was a mistake.
The Obama and Clinton camps have sought to play down the dispute by highlighting the get-together on Wednesday.
Schultz the administration was "looking onward and upward" after the rift, and described the friendship between Obama and Clinton as "close and resilient."
“The president appreciates her counsel and advice, but more importantly, he appreciates her friendship,” Schultz said.
Schultz did offer one crumb of news for 2016-watchers, however: Obama will meet with Vice President Biden — among Clinton's biggest rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination — when he briefly returns to Washington next week.