The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg recently interviewed Hillary Clinton, and Goldberg showcased a remark Clinton made about what some people are calling the Obama Doctrine, “Don’t do stupid shit.” The remark suggests Clinton finds the doctrine lacking:
Professional Clinton-watchers (and there are battalions of them) have told me that it is only a matter of time before she makes a more forceful attempt to highlight her differences with the (unpopular) president she ran against, and then went on to serve. On a number of occasions during my interview with her, I got the sense that this effort is already underway….
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.”
She softened the blow by noting that Obama was “trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy,” but she repeatedly suggested that the U.S. sometimes appears to be withdrawing from the world stage.
It’s no accident that blogs and media outlets are making this out to be a huge split between Clinton and Obama; Goldberg sets it up that way. I think it’s worth reading the entire interview that quote came from — it’s a lot more nuanced than the sound byte suggests. Here’s the exchange from which the above was excerpted:
HRC: Great nations need organizing principles, and “Don’t do stupid stuff” is not an organizing principle. It may be a necessary brake on the actions you might take in order to promote a vision.
JG: So why do you think the president went out of his way to suggest recently that that this is his foreign policy in a nutshell?
HRC: I think he was trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy. I’ve sat in too many rooms with the president. He’s thoughtful, he’s incredibly smart, and able to analyze a lot of different factors that are all moving at the same time. I think he is cautious because he knows what he inherited, both the two wars and the economic front, and he has expended a lot of capital and energy trying to pull us out of the hole we’re in.
So I think that that’s a political message. It’s not his worldview, if that makes sense to you.
The Villagers are going to feast on any suggestion of daylight or discord between the Obamas and the Clintons because they love a soap opera that drives a wedge between Democrats. And some of us are going to make their job easier by looking for a pea of criticism under 25 mattresses of praise.
That quest will be made incredibly easy by the fact that HRC and whomever else runs for the Democratic Party’s 2016 nomination is going to separate him or herself from President Obama’s policies on multiple fronts. They are not going to say Obama is fucking up, but they’ll talk about how they would do things differently or how they see events playing out in the future. That’s the way it works, and if you read Goldberg’s transcript, that’s all HRC is doing.
That said, my major concern about HRC is her hawkishness. That’s why I supported Obama instead of HRC back in 2008 — he recognized the Iraq War as “stupid shit” from the beginning; she didn’t.
The remark highlighted above doesn’t tell us much about Clinton’s organizing principles. When Goldberg questioned her directly on it, her response was “peace, progress and prosperity,” which could have come from a Miss World pageant script.
But she did have a lot to say about the situation in the Middle East, Russia, etc., and also here at home, which, while not as interesting from a purely salacious point of view as a suggestion that she’s criticizing Obama, provides a better indication of how she might act as president. I’d urge anyone who’s interested in that to read the whole damn thing.