Since the beginning of her Hard Choices book tour, Hillary Clinton has been actively courting the media and positioning herself as the next heir to the presidency. That task now includes taking shots at her former boss, President Obama, in a seeming shift away from the administration’s agenda.
Most notably, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg published two days ago an interview with Mrs. Clinton in which the former secretary of state knocks the president’s policy on Syria:
The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.
President Obama recently made waves by coining the Obama Doctrine, his foreign policy first principle: “Don’t do stupid s–t.”
Clinton’s response to Goldberg? “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
As the press began to move on those remarks, a strong response came from administration officials. Eric Schultz, principal deputy White House press secretary, tweeted out a link to a Huffington Post article in which former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell sides with the president over Clinton:
“There is no doubt that what ISIS [the Islamic State] was able to do in Syria was probably the key factor in strengthening them in terms of what they are doing in Iraq today,” Morell told “CBS This Morning” on Monday. “It is difficult for me to see how arming the moderate rebels would have made that much difference in Syria. We would have had to have it on a very, very large scale that I think would have frightened our partners in the region because it would have put a very, very large footprint, U.S. footprint on the ground in the Middle East.”
“So you support the decision made by the president at the time,” host Charlie Rose asked.
“Yes,” Morell replied.
In a leak to the Daily Beast before Clinton’s recent comments, the president himself demonstrated how the criticism is getting under his skin:
President Obama got angry at lawmakers who suggested in a private meeting that he should have armed the Syrian rebels, calling the criticism “horseshit.”
The argument that America should have done more in Syria, made for years by foreign policy leaders in both parties and several members of Obama’s senior national security team, was brought back to the fore this past weekend. Obama and Hillary Clinton gave dueling interviews in which they publicly split on whether the security and humanitarian catastrophe in Syria could have been avoided if the United States had played a larger role.
According to both Clinton and Obama’s schedules, the pair might have time to talk, as they will be at a fundraiser at Martha’s Vineyard together Tuesday night.