President Obama declined to criticize Hillary Clinton after his former secretary of state broke with his policy on Syria, even as he sharply criticized Republicans who have taken up similar ideas.
At a press conference Friday afternoon at the White House, Obama criticized Republicans for proposing “mumbo jumbo” and “half-baked ideas” on the Syrian civil war. The GOP has been pushing the White House to take a more interventionist approach, especially after Russian warplanes started bombing targets in the country this week.
The White House has ruled out for now the imposition of a no-fly zone of the country, but Clinton came out in favor of the policy Thursday night. “I personally would be advocating now for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors,” Clinton said in a TV interview in Boston.
Asked about the disagreement, and if she too is half-baked, Obama said that running for president is different from being president.
“Hillary Clinton is not half baked in terms of her approach to these problems,” he told reporters. “But I also think that there’s a difference between running for president and being president. And the decisions that are being made and the discussions that I’m having with the joint chiefs become much more specific, I think, and require a different kind of judgment.”“If and when she’s president, then she’ll make those judgments, and she has been there enough that she knows that these are tough calls,” he added. “I think Hillary Clinton would be the first to say that when you’re sitting in the seat that I’m sitting in in the situation room, things look a little bit different, because she’s been right there next to me.”
Clinton has stuck very close to her former boss on most policy matters foreign and domestic, but the two have publicly broken in the past on Syria, when Clinton called for arming moderate rebels fighting the government.
Obama and Clinton fought an occasionally acrimonious Democratic primary battle in 2008 which largely revolved around Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War and more hawkish views than Obama.
Republicans were quick to play up any tension between the Clinton camp and the White House Friday evening, eager to advance the narrative of disarray.
Obama was also asked about Vice President Joe Biden, and whether it’s too late for his number two to get into the race against Clinton, as he has been considering. “I love Joe Biden and he’s got his own decision to make and I’ll leave it at that,” Obama said. “And in the meantime, he’s doing a great job as vice president and has been really helpful on a whole bunch of issues.”