Is a civil war brewing between the Obama White House and Hillary Clinton’s State Department? A New York Times story published this weekend suggests one may have erupted already.
On Shabbos, the Times, quoting numerous White House sources, sought to explain the Obama administration’s erratic policy statements during the Egyptian crisis.
The paper reported that Obama was “seething” over State Department officials’s statement suggesting that the administration did not want a quick transition of power in Egypt, with President Hosni Mubarak stepping down from his office immediately.
Obama felt that the State Department “made it look as if the administration were protecting a dictator and ignoring the pleas of the youths of Cairo.”
As Secretary Clinton and her special envoy Frank Wisner repeatedly called for an orderly transition that would include President Mubarak remaining in office for at least a period of time, Obama and his team studiously sought to undermine the State Department stance.
The Times states that Mr. Obama “was furious” about Clinton’s and Wisner’s statements, “as Mr. Obama was demanding that change in Egypt begin right away.”
Secretary Clinton was not the only figure who opposed Obama’s view. Clinton was joined by Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also were advocating that Obama adhere to a cautious and more traditional foreign policy approach toward the situation in Egypt.
Unhappy about the mixed signals high-ranking officials were giving, Obama intervened directly, telling White House advisers that “this was not the message we should be delivering.”
According to the Times, the Obama White House even recruited Democratic Sen. John Kerry to appear on “Meet the Press” last Sunday to contradict Wisner’s statements that reflected Secretary Clinton’s views. Wisner’s comments “just don’t reflect where the administration has been from day one,” Kerry said on the program.