By Jonathan Easley - 06/14/13 01:28 PM EDT
Former President Clinton on Friday sought to squash reports about his criticism of President Obama’s handling of Syria.
Clinton reportedly warned Obama risked looking like “a total fool” by listening to opinion polls and not acting more aggressively to help Syria’s opposition during a private event on Tuesday.
“First of all, I think I’ve been a little amazed by the coverage of this — I just did a question and answer session for Sen. McCain’s institute, and the last or next to last question was about Syria, and I said I didn’t think we should give up on them,” Clinton said.
“I think that we should support the rebel groups more vigorously, and the White House announced that they intend to do that,” he continued. “So it looks to me like the president first of all was entitled to finish his summit with the Chinese president, get this finding, be briefed and exploring the options.”
At the closed-press meeting with McCain, Clinton told the senator he agreed Obama should act more forcefully, saying according to audio obtained by Politico that voters elect presidents “to see down the road” and “to win.”
The White House said Thursday — just a day after Clinton’s criticism became public — that it would send military assistance to the Syrian opposition after concluding that Syrian President Bashar Assad had crossed Obama's so-called red line by using chemical weapons.
On Friday, Clinton defended the White House’s decision to limit the scope of details it is releasing about planned military aid.
“I think the White House has made it clear they intend to do more. They’re exploring their options, and right now, they don’t want to talk about the details,” Clinton said. “I don’t blame them because the less details, the more likely their increased assistance is likely to be effective.”
Clinton called the announcement of U.S. involvement in Syria a “positive story.” He said Obama was right to take the temperature of U.S. allies on the matter and said the talks would continue at the upcoming G8 Summit.
“There are some logistical complications as you can imagine in getting more support into there, and he wants to talk to our allies and see if they can help with that at this upcoming G8 meeting,” he said. “It looks to me like this thing is trending in the right direction now.”