Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates hold a joint news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)
Hillary Clinton (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

The White House is fending off inquiries about former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s explosive charges about President Obama and Vice President Biden. So far we’ve heard no specifics, but one thing is curious: Why isn’t the White House defending Hillary Clinton?

The White House has made a big show of defending Biden (complete with rare permission for White House photographers to do their job), but is it going to let Clinton twist in the wind when it comes to the allegation that she (and Obama) opposed the Iraq surge for political reasons? With regard to his boss who opposed the Iraq war all along, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “It doesn’t track based on what I know and what everybody knows.” (Huh?) But no word on Clinton. Gates’s allegation was detailed, as  The Post’s Bob Woodward set out:

Gates offers a catalogue of various meetings, based in part on notes that he and his aides made at the time, including an exchange between Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he calls “remarkable.”

He writes: “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

There are a few possibilities as to why the White House has been mum. First, she may have said it. Gates’s recollection is clear and stayed with him because Clinton’s admission was so striking. Second, she may have asked the White House to pipe down, hoping to skate by as the press focuses on Obama and Biden. (She certainly doesn’t want to remind her base that she favored the Iraq war at the start.) Third, and most intriguing, is the possibility that the White House and Clinton don’t see eye to eye on her tenure and, if need be, will burn one another. It is easy to imagine how this plays out in many contexts.

On Libya, the Obama team could very well argue it was up to the secretary of state to track the situation there, alert the president when things became unsafe and take appropriate action. It was up to her to deal with the aftermath of the attack, and she and her State Department employee Susan Rice, after all, talked about the video right after the attack as the provocation for the attack. Hillaryland may cite briefings and memos to the White House, claim every decision was micromanaged by the National Security Agency and even assert that the president was distracted.

There are a dozen other opportunities for finger-pointing. How was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blindsided on the “1967 borders”? (Clinton should have clued him in! No, it was a White House surprise!”) Likewise, each team will have its self-serving version of the Syria civil war, the chest-beating over Osama bin Laden’s execution, the disastrous fixation on settlements, the Russian reset and more.

The more scrutiny these episodes get, the more likely will be the tension between the two sides. But the $64,000 question with the mainstream media will be whether they continue to treat these revelations as blockbuster stories or play defense for the Obama-Clinton foreign policy record.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.