After releasing a photo showing President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton relaxing under shade trees with heaping plates of gourmet greens, the White House claimed their lunch meeting was nothing more than two old friends shooting the breeze.
The two have never been known to be especially close, and the lunch comes on the day of restarted Mideast peace talks for which the administration is taking many victory laps. A particular area of disagreement between Obama and Clinton, from the beginning of his first term, was rumored to stem from Clinton being more pro-Israel than the president.
That talks resumed so soon after John Kerry took over for Clinton makes one wonder what Kerry may have promised in the negotiations that Clinton might have been unwilling to give.
It was no secret around the Beltway that Clinton was raring to leave the administration, and had even thought about leaving shortly into Term No. 1. She waited until the end of the term.
“As you know, over the course of the last four years, and as much as been written about over the last four years how Secretary Clinton and the President have developed not just a strong working relationship but also a genuine friendship,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters today. Earnest was filling in for press secretary Jay Carney, who was taking his son to camp.
“And so it’s largely friendship that’s on the agenda for the lunch today,” Earnest continued. “So it’s not a working lunch as much as it is an opportunity for the two who saw each other on a pretty frequent basis over the course of the last four years to get a chance to catch up.”
When asked whose idea it was to “catch up,” Earnest confirmed that Obama invited Clinton to lunch.
Kerry arrived at the White House shortly after Clinton.
“It’s my understanding that the table is being set for two, just for the President and Secretary Clinton,” Earnest said. “I don’t know if they bumped into each other in the hallway or not, but it’s my understanding that these are two separate meetings.”
When asked if the Mideast talks would be on the lunch plate, Earnest conceded it might come up.
“The purpose of the lunch was chiefly social, but given that the President and Secretary Clinton worked on this pretty closely together over the course of the last four years, I’d be surprised if it didn’t come up,” he said. “The White House Chef today whipped up some grilled chicken, some pasta jambalaya, and some salad for them to enjoy during lunch. I haven’t had lunch myself, so that sounds pretty good.”
Because the event was written off as a social get-together, that gives the White House an out to not disclose any details of the meeting.
“I don’t anticipate that we’re going to have a detailed readout of their lunch because it’s chiefly a social occasion,” said Earnest. “…I don’t think it’s been scheduled for too long. But it certainly is — the President wanted to take advantage of the opportunity for the two of them to catch up, and that’s what they’re doing.”
He brushed off a question, though, about whether the “friends” regularly communicate.
“I don’t have any other conversations between them to read out to you,” Earnest said before moving on to the next question.
A McClatchy-Marist poll released last week showed Clinton with 63 percent support among Democrats and Dem-leaning independents for the 2016 nomination, far outpacing Joe Biden at 13 percent.