The 6 big issues where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama disagree


President Obama, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, first lady Michelle Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton tour the National September 11 Memorial & Museum on May 15, 2014 in New York. JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Any time a former Cabinet official releases a book, journalists scour it for even a hint of tension inside the administration. And that goes quadruple when you're talking about a potential 2016 presidential candidate and well-known figure like Hillary Clinton.

So now that the Post has a couple copies of Clinton's yet-to-be-released book, "Hard Choices," where and how does Clinton distance herself from President Obama? And why?

In fact, Clinton details a number of foreign policy differences with Obama and other top White House aides. And perhaps not surprisingly, these differences tend to be on issues that either (1) didn't go as the White House had hoped, and/or (2) continue to be quite volatile.

Below, we recap the key differences, as laid out by Clinton, and tell you what it means politically...

1. Mubarak's ouster in Egypt

Clinton says she wanted to push for an orderly transition from power for then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak -- whom she had known for a long time -- but the Obama administration instead called for him to step down amid Arab Spring protests.

Clinton says the younger generation of White House aides got "swept up in the drama and idealism of the moment."

"His Egypt served as a linchpin of peace in a volatile region," she writes. "Were we really ready to walk away from that relationship after thirty years of cooperation?"

The upshot: Things in Egypt have continued to spiral toward chaos, with the Muslim Brotherhood taking over after Mubarak left and then a military coup. For Clinton, it's helpful to be able to highlight how she would have done things differently.

2. Israeli settlements freeze

Clinton says that she differed with Obama on his push for a 2009 freeze on the construction of new Israeli settlements in disputed regions. Clinton suggests she wouldn't have adopted such a hard-line stance and says that it increased tensions between the two sides.

"I was worried that we would be locking ourselves into a confrontation we didn't need," she writes.

Still, she says she toed the line as a loyal Cabinet secretary. "So that spring I delivered the President's message as forcefully as I could, then tried to contain the consequences when both sides reacted badly," Clinton writes.

The upshot: Obama's occasionally rocky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no secret. This sounds like Clinton saying she's a little less likely to rock the boat with the United States' top ally in the region.

3. Afghanistan surge deadline

While Clinton was a supporter of Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan, which was announced in 2009, she said Obama instituted something she wasn't so comfortable with: An 18-month deadline for starting to bring those troops home.

Clinton says the cutoff was "a starker deadline than I had hoped for, and I worried that it might send the wrong signal to friend and foe alike."

"Although I strongly believed in the need for a time-bound surge and a speedy transition, I thought there was a benefit to playing our cards closer to our chests," Clinton writes. "However, with the pace of withdrawal unspecified, there was enough flexibility to get the job done.”

The upshot: Again, this is Clinton sounding more like a pragmatic foreign policy voice rather than an idealist. It fits pretty neatly with her differences with Obama on Egypt and Israel. Also worth noting: It's not that surprising that Clinton opposed a deadline, considering she was also hesitant about instituting a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq -- until 2007.

4. Putin

Clinton definitely casts herself as tougher with Vladimir Putin than some in the White House, including Obama. She says she warned about tough times ahead with the Russian president when she departed as secretary of state in 2013.

"Strength and resolve were the only language Putin would understand," she writes. "We should send him a message that his actions have consequence while reassuring our allies that the United States will stand up for them."

Clinton adds (without naming names): "Not everyone at the White House agreed with my relatively harsh analysis."

The upshot: The unrest in Eastern Europe over Russia's incursion into Ukraine is perhaps the preeminent foreign policy issue today. Clinton suggests here that she saw what was coming, and she's well-positioned to deal with it going forward because she recognized Putin for what he is.

5. Arming Syrian rebels

Clinton says she entertained the idea of arming a carefully vetted group of moderate Syrian rebels in that nation's conflict, acknowledging that such things are always dicey and risk helping extremists, but arguing that it could have been done right.

Clinton calls this "the least bad option" available in that country, but that Obama decided to go a different direction.

"No one likes to lost a debate, including me," Clinton writes. "But this was the President's call and I respected his deliberations and decision."

The upshot: After evidence emerged that Syria used chemical weapons on its people, Obama asked Congress for a use-of-force resolution to conduct a limited military strike. Congress wasn't on-board, and he was clearly about to get rebuffed before Syria agreed to hand over its chemical weapons. The White House's "red line" strategy on Syria is certainly not one of its finer moments -- too put it lightly -- and Clinton lays out her alternative here.

6. Iraq war vote

This was obviously the big one in 2008, with Clinton having voted for the use of force in Iraq and Obama having spoken out against the war in its early days. It's pretty much what gave Obama the opening he needed to pull the upset.

In the years since, of course, their positions on this issue have merged somewhat. And in her new book, Clinton reiterates that she cast the wrong vote, saying, "I still got it wrong. Plain and simple."

The upshot: Unless she faces a tough primary or a more non-interventionist Republican like Rand Paul, Clinton's Iraq position probably isn't much of an issue in the 2016 campaign. This strikes us as her checking a box on one of her "hard choices" that would have been too conspicuous had it not been mentioned.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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