CNBC's Harwood: World 'Blowing Up' Under Obama Is 'Big Problem' for Hillary Clinton

Appearing on CNBC's Squawk Box Tuesday morning, the business network's chief Washington correspondent John Harwood acknowledged that President Obama's failed foreign policy would be an obstacle to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential ambitions: "...her independent credential running for president is that she was President Obama's secretary of state. The world is now blowing up. So that is a big problem for her. And so she's going to be looking for ways to separate herself from the current foreign policy mess." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Harwood's comments were prompted by host Joe Kernen asking about a quote in The Daily Beast in which Obama reportedly dismissed Clinton's recent criticism of his handling of the Middle East as "horsesh**t." In response, Harwood observed: "It wouldn't surprised me if he said that....I'm sure that that's how he feels about the criticism, he's made that pretty clear."

Continuing to analyze the Democratic infighting, Harwood predicted:

And I think you can expect to see a series of things going forward where she's going to try to separate herself from the administration, as anybody would running in her circumstance because voters are very reluctant, usually, to give the same party a third term in office. And Obama's ratings are low and she's going to look for a way to make her mark.

Later in the exchange, Kernen cited Clinton declaring Obama's policy of "Don't do stupid stuff" was "not an organizing principal" and concluded that she was "throwing down" against the President: "That is right there down to the curb on the Obama doctrine."

Harwood replied: "Look, and that's the point. She's going to – if she runs, and I think she will, she's got to find a way to say all the bad stuff that's going on right now, 'that's not my stuff.'"


Here is a transcript of the August 12 exchange:

6:23 AM ET

JOE KERNEN: Let's get – turn now to CNBC's chief Washington correspondent John Harwood with more on the global issues hanging over Capitol Hill. And right before I – I look at all the different blogs and stuff, John. I'm, you know, bipartisan that way. Huffington Post, Drudge. Do you think the President really said criticism of his Syria policy by Hillary is "horse shih tzu" without the tzu at the end, John?

JOHN HARWOOD: I didn't see that. What does that mean?

KERNEN: It means Hillary Clinton and – President Obama got angry at lawmakers who suggested in a private meeting that he should have armed the Syrian rebels.

HARWOOD: Who's quoted as saying that?

KERNEN: I have to explain any criticism is so unheard of in your mind that I have to describe any of it to you for you to understand what I'm saying, John?

HARWOOD: No, I couldn't understand what you're saying. But who is quoting the President as saying that?

KERNEN: This is in The Daily Beast, it's on Drudge, exclusive. It's called an exclusive. Obama told lawmakers the criticism of his Syria policy is "horse blank."

HARWOOD: Not with reference to Hillary specifically. It wouldn't surprised me if he said that.

KERNEN: To both, saying to either lawmakers or Hillary – the criticism that he should have armed Syrian rebels – and I saw his comments on that – to think that he could have gone back and picked just the right group in the early days when it was coalescing in Syria. And I mean, I certainly see the merit in his argument there to think that we're smart enough to be able to just hand-pick – I mean, we tried to get people to pick people to give weapons to in Afghanistan and it just – it always comes back to haunt you. They get used against you eventually, don't they, John?

HARWOOD: Whether he said it or not, I'm sure that that's how he feels about the criticism, he's made that pretty clear.

KERNEN: What do you think of Hillary – I mean, that's-

HARWOOD: Well, look, Hillary-

KERNEN: You know, people love the Clintons and they don't think everything's calculated, but I think that the Clintons calculate every single that they do unless it's a mistake.

HARWOOD: Well, look, it appears that she's running for president and her independent credential running for president is that she was President Obama's secretary of state. The world is now blowing up. So that is a big problem for her. And so she's going to be looking for ways to separate herself from the current foreign policy mess.

And she did that to Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic when she said the failure to arm those moderate factions in Syria left a void that the Jihadis filled. When I interviewed her a couple weeks ago on a National Public Radio show, On Point, she said – you know, I asked her about her responsibility for the mess in the world and she said, "Well, any administration has to lead and manage things as best they can and we did that in the first term." In the first term. She's – you know, we're now in the second term."

And I think you can expect to see a series of things going forward where she's going to try to separate herself from the administration, as anybody would running in her circumstance because voters are very reluctant, usually, to give the same party a third term in office. And Obama's ratings are low and she's going to look for a way to make her mark.

She did this on Russia, as well, by the way. She said, "Well, you know, the reset worked with Russia, but then when Putin came back I told the President we need to change tactics, and now here we are."

KERNEN: She did and Romney did, he didn't really listen to either. The other thing – I love selling the sizzle and not the steak, so let's go – you know, supposedly, and I don't know how much of that book about the Clintons was well-sourced, but there's some spicy stuff in there.

HARWOOD: Which one, which book?

KERNEN: You know, the recent one about – that there's still a lot of animosity between-

HARWOOD: Oh, you mean Ed Klein's book?

KERNEN: Ed Klein's book.  

HARWOOD: There's nothing well-sourced in that book.

KERNEN: Okay, I knew you'd say that.

HARWOOD: That guy makes up stuff.

KERNEN: I knew you'd say that, but I still don't think there's a lot of love lost necessarily between those two. And, if you believe the notion that some people in the Obama administration are urging Elizabeth Warren to run, and that was the conjecture that-

HARWOOD: No, no. Definitely not.

KERNEN: Okay, so you don't believe that either.

HARWOOD: No, do not.

KERNEN: So you don't think there's any payback here. When Hillary says something like – I remember before things really hit the fan, the Huff Post talked about "Don't do stupid stuff," how that really was brilliant because Bush did so many – presumably did so many stupid things, you know. So they actually said that that is a great Obama doctrine, "Don't do stupid." For Hillary to come out and say that, to actually quote that, "Don't do stupid stuff," and say that is not an organizing principal, that is throwing down – that is throwing down. That is right there down to the curb on the Obama doctrine.

HARWOOD: Yeah. No, fair enough. Look, and that's the point. She's going to – if she runs, and I think she will, she's got to find a way to say all the bad stuff that's going on right now, "that's not my stuff."

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC