‘Big Three’ Provide Damage Control Following Clinton-Obama Feud, Insist Two Will ‘Hug It Out’

On Wednesday, August 13, all three network morning shows did their best to minimize the conflict between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama following Clinton’s criticism of the White House’s handling of the militant group ISIS. 

The “big three” (ABC, CBS and NBC) networks all played up how Clinton plans to “hug it out” with President Obama when they meet at a party on Martha’s Vineyard. Speaking to “The Atlantic” magazine, Clinton criticized Obama’s foreign policy by insisting that “great nations need organizing principles. Don’t do stupid stuff is not an organizing principle.” [See video below.] 

On Wednesday morning, Major Garrett, CBS News Chief White House Correspondent, hyped how in response to Clinton’s criticism “the White House is having none of it.” The CBS reporter proceeded to play up the Obama administration’s efforts to further downplay the dispute: 

A Clinton spokesman said she had telephoned the president to say she wasn't being critical, adding the two could put the incident behind them tonight at a party being thrown by long-time Clinton loyalist Vernon Jordan. “Like any two who have to deal with the public eye, she looks forward to hugging it out when they see each other” said spokesman Nick Merrill. 

Garrett concluded his piece by playing up left-wing criticism of Clinton instead of seeking comments from a conservative critic: 

Moveon.org, a leading anti-war voice in the 2008 campaign accused Clinton of sounding like a right-wing war hawk. And another echo of that epic Clinton-Obama campaign, a long-time Obama watcher joked, “Who knew Hillary's 3:00 a.m. call would be to Barack Obama?”

On Good Morning America, Jonathan Karl, ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent, continued to downplay the disagreement between the two Democrats:

Mrs. Clinton said that she called President Obama to kind of smooth things out say she didn't intend that as an attack and look at this statement from Mrs. Clinton's spokesperson saying “She looks forward to hugging it out when they see each other” at tonight's party so we'll see if there's any hugging it out tonight in Martha's Vineyard. 

During an appearance on Today, Chris Jansing, NBC News Senior White House Correspondent, portrayed the feud between Secretary Clinton and President Obama as merely as dispute within the Democratic Party:

This beautiful quiet island of Martha's Vineyard will be the epicenter of political drama tonight when two old rivals come face-to-face at a birthday party. Everything seemed to be just fine until a series of sharp exchanges between Hillary Clinton and the Obama camp exploded to the point where to a point late yesterday both sides were doing damage control. 

After providing numerous statements from both the Clinton and Obama camps, the NBC reporter concluded by maintaining that the feud was about to end: 

Whether there’s a hug, a handshake, whatever happens we probably won't see it. The party is private and closed to the press. But fireworks are highly unlikely. This kind of brouhaha isn't helpful to either side especially given the very real problems abroad. 

Prior to Wednesday, NBC had ignored the Democratic infighting altogether. ABC covered Clinton’s initial comments on Sunday’s World News with David Muir and Monday’s Good Morning America. CBS first reported on Clinton’s criticism of Obama on Monday’s CBS This Morning. 

During their reports, all three networks included clips of Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, to provide damage control but none of them could be bothered to provide sound bites of Republicans commenting on the Clinton-Obama riff. 

See relevant transcript below. 


CBS This Morning

August 13, 2014

CHARLIE ROSE: The Obama administration is responding this morning against tough comments from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But she is telling President Obama that she's not attacking his foreign policy. Major Garrett is in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, where the president and Mrs. Clinton are both visiting tonight. Major good morning.

MAJOR GARRETT: Good morning. Hillary Clinton criticized President Obama’s refusal three years ago to arm moderate forces at the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. Then described White House foreign policy as overly cautious. The president’s inner circle is having none of it. The White House dismissed Hillary Clinton's criticism in “The Atlantic” magazine that President Obama's caution in Syria caused the ISIS menace to grow and now spill into Iraq. 

BEN RHODES: Not only do we not think that providing those arms to the Syrian rebels at the beginning of that revolution could have tipped the scales, but we also had concerns about making sure we were vetting whoever was receiving those arms. 

GARRETT: The president’s team also waived off Clinton's accusation that Mr. Obama has been retreating from global hot spots. 

RHODES: The notion that we shouldn’t overreach and get involved in conflicts without asking hard questions is something that the American people understand after the last decade. 

GARRETT: Clinton told “The Atlantic” “great nations need organizing principles and ‘Don't do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle. When you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward.” In a statement Tuesday, a Clinton spokesman said she had telephoned the president to say she wasn't being critical, adding the two could put the incident behind them tonight at a party being thrown by long-time Clinton loyalist Vernon Jordan. “Like any two who have to deal with the public eye, she looks forward to hugging it out when they see each other” said spokesman Nick Merrill. All this, observers say, illustrates Clinton’s difficulty in defining herself should she seek the White House. 

AMY CHOZICK: I talked to some people close to Hillary Clinton who said look if she runs for president she cannot run for Barack Obama’s third term. So how do we point out those differences without potentially offending not only Obama but the hordes of progressive voters who elected him twice and still really like him? 

GARRETT: That may have already happened. Moveon.org, a leading anti-war voice in the 2008 campaign accused Clinton of sounding like a right-wing war hawk. And another echo of that epic Clinton-Obama campaign, a long-time Obama watcher joked, “Who knew Hillary's 3:00 a.m. call would be to Barack Obama?” Norah? 

NORAH O’DONNELL: Major, thank you. A bit extraordinary that Hillary Clinton called the president to say her comments were not meant to attack or criticize him at all. 

ROSE: When clearly they were being interpreted as that. 

O’DONNELL: As that, indeed. Well, they’ll be together tonight to hug it out--

ROSE: At Vernon’s place. 

O’DONNELL: There you go.

 

ABC

Good Morning America 

ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to President Obama and Hillary Clinton meeting tonight on Martha’s Vineyard just days after Mrs. Clinton unleashed some very strong criticism of her former boss. ABC's Jonathan Karl on the scene and, Jon, this meeting could be a bit awkward. 

JONATHAN KARL: That's right, both Clintons and both Obamas will be at a big party tonight for one of their mutual friends. And it comes just after Mrs. Clinton offered some rare criticism of the president's foreign policy telling “The Atlantic” magazine that President Obama’s failure to support moderate rebels in Syria led to the rise of the terrorists that we are now bombing in Iraq. I spoke to one of the president's top advisers, Ben Rhodes about this, he said the president is taking no offense. 

BEN RHODES: She remains a close friend of the president's and I think the point is that their friendship extends well beyond any differences or anything that is spun up in the public sphere. 

ROBERTS: And Jon, as you know some people – 

KARL: As for Mrs. Clinton – 

ROBERTS: I'm sorry. 

KARL: I was just going to say Mrs. Clinton said that she called President Obama to kind of smooth things out say she didn't intend that as an attack and look at this statement from Mrs. Clinton's spokesperson saying “She looks forward to hugging it out when they see each other” at tonight's party so we'll see if there's any hugging it out tonight in Martha's Vineyard. 

ROBERTS: We will be looking. Alright, I know you’re going to be there. Thanks, Jon, so much.

 

NBC

Today

CRAIG MELVIN: And with her old political rivalry beginning to heat up, Hillary Clinton is vowing to hug it out with her old boss, President Obama. NBC’s Senior White House Correspondent Chris Jansing is on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Chris good morning. 

CHRIS JANSING: Good morning, Craig. This beautiful quiet island of Martha's Vineyard will be the epicenter of political drama tonight when two old rivals come face-to-face at a birthday party. Everything seemed to be just fine until a series of sharp exchanges between Hillary Clinton and the Obama camp exploded to the point where to a point late yesterday both sides were doing damage control. It had seemed so friendly. But suddenly this week, the Obama/Clinton relationship had all the tension of 2008. 

BARACK OBAMA: Hillary, I'm looking forward to you advising me as well. 

JANSING: It all started with a magazine interview where Clinton took a shot at the way the president has reportedly described his foreign policy. “Great nations need organizing principles”, she said. “Don’t do stupid stuff is not an organizing principle.” 

JULIE PACE: Her team looks at the president right now and his approval ratings are falling. So if she’s going to run for president, she's going to have to find some way to try to have some separation with his foreign policy. 

JANSING: The intensity escalating until late Tuesday Clinton picked up the phone, then put out a statement. “The Secretary called President Obama to make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him, his policies, or his leadership.” And the White House called on its Deputy National Security Adviser, a policy guy to calm rocky political waters. 

BEN RHODES: She reached out to the president because they have the type of relationship where we begin to see this type of difference in public. They can talk it out. 

JANSING: Later today Clinton will sign her book at a Martha's Vineyard bookstore that the president has visited in years past. Then they head to the same party where Clinton’s statements suggest “like any two friends who have to deal with the public eye, she looks forward to hugging it out when they see each other.” Are they going to hug it out?

RHODES: That was the indication so we’ll have to wait and see. 

JANSING: Whether there’s a hug, a handshake, whatever happens we probably won't see it. The party is private and closed to the press. But fireworks are highly unlikely. This kind of brouhaha isn't helpful to either side especially given the very real problems abroad. Craig? 

MELVIN: Chris Jansing for us on Martha’s Vineyard this morning. Chris thank you. 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.