By Justin Sink - 08/12/14 04:10 PM EDT
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is looking forward to "hugging it out" with President Obama after critical comments she made about his foreign policy dominated headlines and sparked talk about a rift between the two.
Clinton called the president earlier Tuesday to tell him that her comments were not intended as an attack on him, his policies or his leadership, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement distributed to multiple media outlets.
The Clinton spokesman said the former first lady, who is the odds-on favorite if she runs for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination has, "at every step of the way touted the significant achievements of his presidency.”
"Like any two friends who have to deal with the public eye, she looks forward to hugging it out when she they see each other tomorrow night," Merrill said.
The statement appeared to be a bid to mend fences after Clinton criticized the president’s decision not to arm moderate rebel groups fighting in Syria’s civil war. Clinton suggested that a deeper U.S. intervention earlier in that conflict could have prevented the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the radical Sunni group now terrorizing both countries.
“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,” Clinton told The Atlantic.
Clinton also knocked the White House’s frequently cited foreign policy mantra.
“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Clinton said.
That led many political watchers to speculate that Clinton was looking to distance herself from Obama, who of late has struggled in the polls, ahead of a presidential run. A McClatchy-Marist poll released Monday showed that just 33 percent of all voters — and fewer than two-thirds of all Democrats — approved of the way the president was handling foreign policy.
But Clinton's remarks drew a public rebuke Tuesday from former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod.
“Just to clarify: 'Don’t do stupid stuff' means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision,” the longtime Obama aide said on Twitter.
The White House declined to comment when asked about the phone call between the president and his former secretary of State. The Merrill statement was first obtained by Politico.
The Clintons and Obamas are both expected to attend a birthday party Wednesday evening on Martha's Vineyard, where the first family is spending a two-week vacation.
"The president and first lady have accepted an offer to attend a social gathering at the home of Vernon Jordan on Wednesday evening,” a White House official said earlier Tuesday. “The president and first lady are very much looking forward to the occasion and seeing former Secretary Clinton."