An Awkward Party With President Obama Is the Least of Hillary Clinton's Problems

Clinton was Obama's first Secretary of State. Clinton was Obama's first Secretary of State. State Department file photo

Since Hillary Clinton made it perfectly clear what she thinks of President Obama's "don't do stupid stuff" foreign policy, the question now is how awkward things will be between them. As far as in-person encounters go, we'll likely reach peak discomfort when the two cross paths at a birthday party Wednesday. But for Clinton, the real battle will be withstanding the wave of criticism her comments have brought on. 

Mike Allen at Politico reports that Clinton and Obama will likely see each other for the first time tomorrow night, when they attend the same Martha's Vineyard birthday party. As Allen put it, "This could be awkward." Of course, the only way to make a situation like that more awkward is to ignore it — a White House official told CNN that “the President and First Lady are very much looking forward to the occasion and seeing Former Secretary Clinton.”

Over the weekend Clinton and Obama gave rival interviews on the question of whether the U.S. government should have armed moderate Syrian rebels to prevent extremists groups like ISIL from gaining power. Speaking with Thomas Friedman atThe New York Times, Obama said the idea has “always been a fantasy." During an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, published two days later, Clinton said "the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled."

In reference to the president's "Don't do stupid stuff" mantra, she said: "Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

But while the big wigs at Martha's Vineyard will be waiting for that moment when the two have to make eye contact and pretend not to see one another, the real question is whether Clinton's unfiltered foreign policy strategy will make things awkward for her. As CBS News noted, liberals are remembering that they thought she was too hawkish in 2008, and conservatives are skeptical of her attempts to distance herself from the president's policies. The liberal advocacy group MoveOn released this statement, saying that it would "continue to stand with elected officials who oppose military escalation":

Former Obama advisor David Axelrod tweeted this dig:

(Clinton voted for the Iraq War.) John Cassidy at The New Yorker wrote that "what really stands from the interviews is the strident tone that Clinton adopted in her comments on Gaza and radical Islam. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones wrote that Clinton doesn't really have an organizing principle, and "it so happens that I think 'don't do stupid stuff' is a pretty good approach to foreign policy at the moment."

The Washington Post's conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote that the interview was "the worst sort of political opportunism for which she is infamous," while the Republican National Committee sent out this cheeky memo:

Clinton is probably more worried about the backlash from her comments than whether or not Obama will say "hi" to her tomorrow. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.