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Hillary Clinton won't say if Syria bombing came too late

Hillary Clinton demurred when asked Wednesday if President Obama's campaign against ISIS in Syria came too late to succeed.
Hillary Clinton is seen in the audience during the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 23, 2014 in New York City.
Hillary Clinton is seen in the audience during the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 23, 2014 in New York City.

NEW YORK -- Hillary Clinton offered some support for President Obama’s nascent military campaign in Syria Wednesday, but wouldn’t say whether she thought the effort came too late.

As Obama’s first secretary of state, Clinton pushed the administration to arm moderate rebels in Syria. The president overruled her then, but has now decided to provide assistance to those groups in coordination with a stepped-up air campaign against the jihadi group known as the Islamic State (ISIS) in both Iraq and Syria.

In an interview with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta at the Clinton Global Initiative Wednesday, Clinton said she supports the new campaign. “Whatever the debates might have been before,” Clinton said, “the situation now is demanding a response, and we’re seeing a very robust response.” 

She added, “I think the president gave a very clear explanation and robust defense of the actions that he has ordered with respect to the terrorists in Iraq and Syria."

But Clinton sidestepped the question of whether the action came too late. “I think you can always argue back and forth, and certainly when I was in the administration we had some very good discussion, debates even, about what to do and how to do it,” she said, before launching in a lengthy description of the group's capabilities. 

As she contemplates a presidential bid in 2016 that would require support from Obama backers, Hillary Clinton has been careful to show she’s a team player for the president. But after Clinton criticized Obama’s foreign policy worldview in an interview this summer, relations were strained. 

As erstwhile rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, Clinton was viewed as more hawkish than Obama, who launched his candidacy as a fierce opponent of the Iraq war. As a New York senator, Clinton voted to authorize U.S. intervention in Iraq and her vote likely cost her the 2008 nomination. 

Clinton told Gupta Obama is “right to bring the world’s attention” to the issue now, and praised the coalition the U.S. has assembled to support its actions in Syria.

A day earlier in the same room, Bill Clinton said he believed Obama's campaign has "a chance to succeeded."

There was no sign of discord Tuesday between the president and the Clintons when Obama addressed at the charitable forum Bill Clinton founded in 2005. He heaped praise on Hillary and Bill Clinton. “One of the best decisions I ever made as president was to ask Hillary Clinton to serve as our nation’s secretary of state,” he said, adding that he owed her a debt.