The Washington Post

Hillary Clinton, Obama meet at the White House for a ‘catch-up’ lunch

Let’s call it the Jambalaya Jawbone.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton returned to the White House on Monday for a private lunch with President Obama that his spokesman described as a “catch up” between old friends.

“It’s largely friendship that’s on the agenda today,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

The White House chef whipped up a meal of grilled chicken, pasta jambalaya and salad, Earnest said. The two dined al fresco, on the shaded patio outside the Oval Office in the West Wing. The purpose, Earnest added, was “chiefly social.”

Obama and Clinton saw each other in April, at the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas. There, they discussed getting together for lunch, and with Obama traveling out of the country for much of the early summer, they settled on Monday as a date.

Earnest discouraged reporters from reading anything political into the get-together. But any meeting between Obama and Clinton — who were bitter rivals for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination but developed a working partnership once Clinton joined Obama’s administration — is heavily scrutinized for any clues into the state of their relationship as well as Clinton’s presidential ambitions.

Would they discuss whether Clinton wants to succeed Obama? Earnest said the 2016 campaign is "still quite a ways away,” although already some of Obama’s top campaign aides are working with the Ready for Hillary super PAC to lay the groundwork for a Clinton candidacy. And Obama’s longtime political strategist, David Axelrod, all but endorsed Clinton this month on NBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Would Obama and Clinton discuss the diplomatic dispute with Russia over fugitive National Security Leaker Edward J. Snowden, who is seeking asylum there? Or the tumult in Egypt? What about the tumult closer to home, where former congressman Anthony Weiner — whose wife, Huma Abedin, is a longtime Clinton confidant – finds his New York mayoral campaign ensnared in a sexting scandal?

Earnest didn’t say.

The peace talks begun today in Washington between Israelis and Palestinians was likely to come up. “I’d be surprised if it didn’t,” Earnest said.

Yet Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who arrived at the White House about noon Monday for a meeting around the same time as Clinton, was not joining her and the president for lunch, Earnest said.

The same applies to Vice President Biden, who, like Clinton, is weighing a run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

“I think the table was set for two,” Earnest said.

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.

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