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WH's Response to Hillary Foreign Policy Criticism: 'She Was Fully On Board'

8:04 AM, Aug 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
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White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes publicly responded to criticism from Hillary Clinton of Barack Obama's foreign policy back in June, just as Hillary's book tour was starting up. "On the broad thrust of our foreign policy, she was fully on board," Rhodes tells Politico.

It's worth remembering Rhodes's comments now that Hillary Clinton's recent interview has been published where she seems to be bashing elements of Obama's foreign policy. 

As the Atlantic reported:

President Obama has long ridiculed the idea that the U.S., early in the Syrian civil war, could have shaped the forces fighting the Assad regime, thereby stopping al Qaeda-inspired groups—like the one rampaging across Syria and Iraq today—from seizing control of the rebellion. In an interview in February, the president told me that “when you have a professional army ... fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict—the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”

Well, his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, isn’t buying it. In an interview with me earlier this week, she used her sharpest language yet to describe the "failure" that resulted from the decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising. ... 

Of course, Clinton had many kind words for the “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful” Obama, and she expressed sympathy and understanding for the devilishly complicated challenges he faces. But she also suggested that she finds his 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. At one point, I mentioned the slogan President Obama recently coined to describe his foreign-policy doctrine: “Don’t do stupid shit” (an expression often rendered as “Don’t do stupid stuff” in less-than-private encounters).

This is what Clinton said about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

Rhodes told Politico that Clinton and Obama are close, and that they try not to surprise each other.

“We have been able to have a no-surprises culture, and that is rooted in the fact that we have very deep personal relationships,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. “She is going to do what she is going to do, and she is going to say what she is going to say, but generally the lines of communication are such that there are no surprises on the big issues that come up.” ...

The Clinton camp also shared a draft of her book with Rhodes before the publication.

“The goal wasn’t to give anyone a veto,” said one associate familiar with the book-writing process. “It was to have a no-surprises policy.”

“It would have been strange if she wrote a book in which she agreed with every single thing we did,” Politico reported Rhodes as saying. “On the broad thrust of our foreign policy, she was fully on board. There are also going to be places where she is going to have differences.”

Daniel Halper is author of Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.

UPDATE: The author originally wrongly believed Rhodes's comments were a direct response to Clinton's most recent interview. In fact, Rhodes's comments were made in June.

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