Hillary and Barack: It's Complicated

Features on Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama by Rebecca Traister, John Heilemann, and others.
4 stories

A terrorist attack killed the American ambassador to Libya. The Obama Administration was slow to acknowledge the reality of what happened. And security at the consulate in Benghazi was insufficient. For all these reasons, Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, has been under fire, and Monday she "accepted responsibility" for the attacks, saying that Foggy Bottom's far flung employees are all ultimately her responsibility. The statement has caused some observers to speculate that President Obama has thrown her under the bus to ensure the controversy doesn't hurt his reelection chances. For her part, Clinton says politics has nothing to do with it.

Over the years, Hillary Clinton has always had a complicated relationship with Obama. Marc Ambinder explained how he reached out to her when entering the Senate, only to surprise everyone by running against her in Election 2008 -- something that she eventually had to get over.

John Heilemann caught up to her as she did. "The Hillary I encounter a few minutes after Obama leaves the building is somber, prideful, dark-humored, aggrieved, confused—and still high on the notion that she is leading an army, Napoleon in a navy pantsuit and gumball-size fake pearls," Heilemann wrote. "She is keenly aware of the weird dynamics in play as she contemplates her endgame: Albeit temporarily, the loser has more power than the winner. She, not Obama, is in a position to bring the party together or rip the thing to shreds. She, not he, has the capacity to orchestrate a merger of their warring factions of supporters."

Rebecca Traister compared Clinton to the man who beat her. "The empirical choice between Clinton and Obama was never as direct as those on either side made it out to be; neither was obviously more equipped or more progressive than the other. The maddening part, then and now, is that they were utterly comparable candidates," Traister argued. "The visions — in 2008, of Obama as a progressive redeemer who would restore enlightened democracy to our land and Hillary as a crypto-Republican company man; or, in 2011, of Obama as an appeasement-happy crypto-Republican and Hillary as a leftist John Wayne who would have whipped those Congressional outlaws into shape — they were all invented. These are fictional characters shaped by the predilections, prejudices and short memories of the media and the electorate. They’re not actual politicians between whom we choose here on earth. If she had won her party’s nomination and then the general election, Hillary Clinton’s presidency would probably not have looked so different from Obama’s."

And Ron Rosenbaum threw up his hands trying to understand Clinton. " I find Hillary Clinton more of a mystery, perhaps a more complex character in a novelistic sense, than Richard Nixon," he wrote. "And she's one that, unlike Nixon, history may never completely figure out. I'd almost want to see her become president just to solve the mystery. Although a Hillary administration might actually compound it."

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The Fall and Rise of Hillary Clinton

What she won by losing.

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Hillary I vs. Hillary II

Richard Nixon returns from the grave to haunt Clinton and remind us of the costs of unresolved history.

Feb 2008
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What Would Hillary Clinton Have Done?

If Hillary were president, we would still be in this mess.

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Teacher and Apprentice

Hillary Clinton tried to teach Barack Obama about power, but then he got ideas of his own. A story of nasty surprises, dueling war rooms, and the Drudge Report.
Dec 2007