By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
While the media have feasted on the perceived civil war in the Republican Party, based on a few close races involving the Tea Party versus the establishment and differences in how to handle immigration reform, the makings of a very real civil war have emerged in the Democratic Party that has the left in a quandary. But now, just days after reports first broke about Hillary Clinton’s attacks on President Barack Obama’s weak and confused foreign policy decisions, Politico is reporting that Hillary has declared a cease-fire, for now, as the two met in Martha’s Vineyard Wednesday night at the home of one-time Democratic fixer Vernon Jordan.
“Clinton…faces the challenge of having to separate herself from an unpopular president but not so much that she looks inauthentic or opportunistic,” reported Politico on August 12. “Obama may have middling job approval numbers, but he still maintains a deep reservoir of support among constituencies that Clinton won’t want to alienate.”
Hillary Clinton has forced all Democrats, including the mainstream media, to choose sides. Now that the world is burning, and has long since spun out of control, Hillary has turned to the media to say, in effect, “It wasn’t me. I was the voice of reason, and constructive engagement, while I served.” She attempts the same tactic in her book, which CBS News writes, “falls into a pattern where either events lead up to a confirmation of her perceptive initial take or her wisdom is the only thing leading to a good result.”
In fact, according to The Atlantic, in the interview with Jeffrey Goldberg that sparked the most recent episode between Clinton and Obama, “she finds his [Obama’s] approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good.”
“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Clinton told The Atlantic in harsh criticism of the Obama foreign policy. “Clinton’s slam comes at a time when Obama’s popularity has bottomed at 40 percent and his foreign policy is under fire from members of both parties amid a proliferation of crises overseas,” reports the New York Post.
“Just to clarify: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision,” tweeted David Axelrod, as the tiff escalated, according to Politico. But lest you think there is a genuine break between Clinton and Obama, consider what else Politico’s Maggie Haberman reports: “Her team had warned them the interview was coming…” The warning apparently wasn’t enough.
“Several sources close to the White House described Obama aides as angered by Clinton’s critiques,” reports Haberman.
An article in Politico, “Saving Syria is No Fantasy,” shows how deep the criticism actually goes. The article is by Frederic Hof, a former adviser to then-Secretary Clinton, who blasts President Obama for his response to Hillary’s criticism of his Syrian policy. Hillary called early on for arming the “moderate” rebels in Syria, and that’s what Obama was calling a “fantasy.” But finally, in late June, after more than 170,000 deaths in Syria, President Obama stepped forth to propose $500 million in aid to those moderate Syrian rebels, even though by any measure, that would be a much tougher task today than it would have two or three years ago.
On top of that, according to Hof, Obama’s offer of aid was highly cynical. He questioned the “genuineness of the gesture,” writing, “The request was emailed to Capitol Hill rather than made in person; it was unaccompanied by visits or telephone calls; there were no follow-up consultations; there was no order to the Department of Defense to reprogram funds to initiate activity quickly; and there was no evidence of an existing plan or overall strategy. Two months later, those questions seem to have been answered by the president of the United States. He says that arming nationalist Syrian rebels was never going to work anyway.” Yes, a fantasy.
But other bits of evidence suggest that the supposed rift between Clinton and Obama is over-hyped.
The New York Times, in a piece of surprising journalism, repeatedly undercuts presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s campaign message by exposing her false hawkishness on foreign policy as not matching her record as Secretary of State. The Times’ Mark Landler attempts to hold Clinton accountable for her past actions as she seeks to woo the public into thinking she represents policies other than those represented by President Obama. However, the Times did not explore her record on Benghazi, although the material in the article cried out for such an examination.
“As Mrs. Clinton stakes out her own foreign policy positions in advance of a possible campaign for the White House, it is only natural that some of her statements will not be entirely in sync with her record as secretary of state, when she served at the pleasure of the president,” writes Landler. This is soft way of jabbing at her record; perhaps Landler should have pushed harder, but he does expose her hypocrisy towards Iranian nuclear enrichment and siding with Israel.
But a potentially larger complication comes in to play when Landler gets to Clinton’s memoir.
“Even her memoir ‘Hard Choices,’ which she was promoting in her interview with Mr. Goldberg, soft-pedaled the gaps and painted a portrait of her and Mr. Obama in lock step in rebuilding America’s tattered image abroad,” writes Landler.
The Washington Post notes of Hard Choices that “there are times when the reader feels he is being ‘spun’ rather than enlightened.”
Now we know why. According to Landler, Clinton’s “staff gave parts of her memoir to Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, for review before publication.” Ben Rhodes is the author of the infamous “smoking gun” Benghazi email.
And, “Mrs. Clinton hired Tommy Vietor, a longtime Obama aide who was the spokesman for the National Security Council, to help with the rollout of her book,” writes Landler. “Mrs. Clinton’s aides worried that some in the news media might use the book to try to drive a wedge between her and the president; Mr. Vietor’s job was to push back on that effort.”
What Landler—and the Times—obviously don’t want discussed is that Clinton’s coordination with Vietor and Rhodes demonstrates her concern over the import that the Benghazi attacks may have had, and may yet have, on her reputation. She chose to coordinate with those at the center of the administration’s contention that a YouTube video and a demonstration were the sparks for the attacks, which they maintain reflected the best intelligence at the time. In other words, it was part of her carefully coordinated public relations effort on the Benghazi scandal, something Landler doesn’t want to touch. He refers instead to tensions between Clinton and Obama, which was, to be generous, the current news gossip of the day.
To add to this, “Jake Sullivan, Mrs. Clinton’s top policy aide at the State Department, went to work as national security adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a post that allowed him to convey the White House’s sensitivities to her aides,” reports Landler. Sullivan is also intimately involved in the Benghazi talking points scandal.
Landler did state, however, that Clinton remains chummy with President Obama—and that false differentiations between the two are meaningless. “During the Crimea crisis, the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, invited in Clinton aides, including Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, for consultations. Mrs. Clinton also checks in by email with Mr. Rhodes on issues like Myanmar, in which both have a special interest,” writes Landler. “And she lunches periodically with Mr. Obama.”
“How well those ties will weather Mrs. Clinton’s latest remarks remains to be seen,” he concludes.
Reines, former spokesman for Clinton, and Andrew Shapiro, Jeremy Bash and Michael Allen all came together to form Beacon Global Strategies, LLC, reported Defense News in “Clinton Allies Join Bush Alum To Form New Consulting Group.” The group is considered to be a holding place for people ready to come to Washington to serve a Hillary Clinton presidency. It also includes former Deputy Director of the CIA, Mike Morell, and former Secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta. Michael Allen was “former majority staff director for the House Intelligence Committee, headed by Republican Rep. Mike Rogers,” reportedFox News. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee made waves earlier this month by claiming that the committee’s Benghazi report will exonerate the administration and show “that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.” The report has not yet been released. If those news reports are accurate in terms of the findings of the House Intelligence Committee, then something is very wrong. AIM’s Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi has already shown most of that to be false, and we are continuing to gather new information.
“Obama aides and some Clinton allies downplayed the 72-hour episode with dismissive complaints about a voracious media that have been looking for fissures between the two camps since the 2008 Democratic primary, and both sides made it clear they wanted to move on,” write Haberman and Carrie Budoff for Politico on August 12. They quote Vietor (“Dude, this was like two years ago”) as calling this a “self-licking ice cream cone,” and Rhodes saying that the Obama-Clinton relationship is “very resilient.”
Same public relations team, different issue.
If their relationship on Benghazi is any indication, Clinton and Obama will likely weather these remarks and any other politically motivated contortions the presidential hopeful makes as she intensifies her drive to the White House. At least while it’s politically convenient for the base to see them as appearing close.
In an effort to quiet the controversy, Hillary has agreed to “hug it out” at a party they are both attending in Martha’s Vineyard. And both sides are leaking that this whole kerfuffle is just a media creation. But their reconciliation figures to only be for public consumption. Clearly, the war between Hillary Clinton and Obama for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination that ended in a truce when Hillary was named secretary of state as part of Obama’s original “team of rivals,” has now resumed.