Dick Polman: Hillary and Obama hug it out, whatever that means
Like a boulder dropped in a lake, Hillary Clinton’s dissing of President Obama is still creating serious ripples. So let’s stay with this story a bit longer.
Hillary is trying to move away from Obama’s orbit with 2016 in mind, signaling in a lengthy Atlantic magazine interview posted Saturday night that she’d be more hawkish on the world stage. In the piece, she noted the Obama foreign policy shorthand (“Don’t do stupid s—t”) doesn’t qualify as an “organizing principle,” and that, in a turbulent world, we need “to have different and better responses going forward.”
By late Tuesday, with Obama Democrats in an uproar, Hillary tried to make nice. Having just attacked Obama’s policies, she phoned Obama to tell him she had not intended “to attack him, his policies, or his leadership.” (Yeah, whatever.) And since she and Obama, by sheer coincidence, were going to cross paths at a Martha’s Vineyard birthday bash Wednesday night, “she looks forward to hugging it out.”
The press was barred from the bash, so we don’t actually know whether they hugged it out. As if that matters. What really matters is that Hillary detonated a stink bomb within the Democratic ranks, and now she’s getting a lot of blowback—reopening old wounds from 2008 and taking snarky hits from Obama insiders whose support she might need in 2016.
Speaking of snark, let’s review. We’ve got the anonymous Democrat who told columnist Maureen Dowd that Hillary is just a creature of the polls, and that “if Obama was at 63 (percent approval) instead of 36, she’d be happy to be Robin to his Batman.” We’ve got the tweet from ex-Obama strategist David Axelrod, who dinged her for her 2002 vote authorizing Bush’s disastrous war in Iraq: “Just to clarify, ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision.”
We’ve got the anonymous “member of the Obama camp” who told columnist Gail Collins, “I don’t know if her political instincts are in top shape.” We’ve got ex-Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs, who complains that Hillary is sucking up the media oxygen at the president’s expense: “There’s no doubt that there’s a certain amount of news that (Obama is) going to cede each day.”
We’ve got the liberal folks at MoveOn, seemingly threatening not to support Hillary’s presumed candidacy. We’ve got the liberal New Republic magazine complaining, “It’s bad enough to announce your support for a more hawkish foreign policy It’s much worse to marry it with a shot at the president.”
We’ve got “Obama administration officials” complaining “privately” in the press that Hillary is making Obama’s job tougher because a lot of people in the Democratic foreign policy establishment are already jockeying for posts in a new Clinton administration and don’t want to risk ticking her off by helping the incumbent. And we’ve got Dowd recycling an old quip about Bill and Hillary being loyal only to themselves: “The Clintons will be there when they need you.”
Yow! Those Democratic claws are out.
In the long run, presumably, everyone will chill out and calm down, perhaps prompted by Hillary saying, “We have disagreements as any partners and friends, as we are, might very well have, but I’m proud that I served with him and for him,” while signing books on the Vineyard.
Nevertheless, given the liberal base’s non-interventionist sentiment, and Obama insiders’ longstanding wariness of Hillary (which has now been reinforced), intraparty tensions will continue to simmer in the run-up to primary season.
But don’t bet heavily against the House of Clinton. Rest assured, if a Democratic challenger somehow catches fire by running to her left, HIllary will duly find a way to thread some dovish feathers into her plumage.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Philadelphia. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns are distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.