Obama, Clinton to meet at Martha's Vineyard bash. Awkward?

Hillary Clinton has had strong words for President Obama's foreign policy lately, but it's almost required for former administration officials considering the presidency to mark policy differences with former bosses.

Mike Groll/AP/File
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton greets a customer during a book signing of her new book 'Hard Choices' at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Mrs. Clinton, who is expected to run into President Obama at a party on Martha's Vineyard on Wednesday, has made her most aggressive effort yet to distinguish herself from her former boss, rebuking Obama for his cautious approach to global crises.

President Obama and his former secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will be at the same party on Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday. Will their inevitable encounter be awkward?

After all, Mrs. Clinton’s criticism of her former boss’s foreign policy is biggish news at the moment. In an interview in The Atlantic with Jeffrey Goldberg published last weekend, Clinton rebuked Mr. Obama for his organizing approach to the world.

“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘don’t do stupid stuff ‘is not an organizing principle,” said Clinton, referring to a phrase Obama and his advisers have used to summarize their thinking about global action.

The possible 2016 presidential hopeful hit Obama’s actions in Syria in particular, saying it was a “failure” to not arm moderate rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Now Obama and Clinton will be face-to-face at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Farm Neck Golf Club on the Vineyard. Well, maybe not face-to-face right off – more like circling in the same general area. The occasion is an 80th birthday party for Democratic philanthropist Ann Dibble Jordan, thrown by her husband, party power broker Vernon Jordan.

Our prediction: hugs and kisses all around.

Why? First of all, when members of a two-term administration run for president, it’s almost required that they do something to differentiate themselves on important policy issues. That shows they are their own person and gets them away from the shadow of the incumbent’s popularity ratings, if they’re low. Which they are, in this case.

Given Clinton’s decades in national politics, she knows this well – so well that conservatives charge her criticisms are just cynical political posturing.

“Hillary’s every move is judged as a tactical or strategic maneuver,” writes Jonah Goldberg in the right-leaning National Review.

Second, Clinton has long been more hawkish than the guy who beat her in the 2008 Democratic primaries. That was a problem for her back then, remember? As a senator, she had voted in favor of the Iraq War.

So, in that sense, the president will be unsurprised at what she’s saying, particularly if she made those same arguments – and lost on issues such as intervention in Syria – while a member of the administration.

Of course, Clinton’s criticism might still sting. Obama’s been grumbling that complaints from Clinton and other Democrats about his Syria policy are bull excrement, according to some reports.

But – and here’s our final point – the nature of the occasion will ensure the lid stays on. Mr. Jordan’s legal work helped force integration of Southern universities. He was a field director of the NAACP when Obama and Clinton were toddlers. Since then he’s built himself into a powerhouse fundraiser and behind-the-scenes fixer in D.C. In short, he’s a towering figure in the party.

Would Obama or Clinton make a scene at his wife’s 80th birthday celebration, or do anything to introduce tension into the gathering? We think not.

But we’ve been wrong before.

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