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Obama, Clinton mingle on Martha's Vineyard after foreign policy spat

By Jeff Mason

VINEYARD HAVEN Mass. (Reuters) - They may or may not have hugged, but President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton rubbed shoulders on Wednesday at a party on Martha's Vineyard after the former secretary of state criticized the foreign policy vision of her one-time boss.

Clinton called Obama on Tuesday to say that her comments to Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic magazine, were not meant as an attack on the president. In the Atlantic interview, published on Sunday, Clinton described U.S. policy in Syria as a failure and said Obama's doctrine of "'don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle" for a great nation.

Her spokesman said Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, looked forward to "hugging it out" with Obama when the two attended the Wednesday evening party given by mutual friend and Washington power broker Vernon Jordan on the Massachusetts island, where the Obamas are vacationing.

Clinton was on the island to promote her book, "Hard Choices," a memoir of her time as the nation's top diplomat under Obama, who picked her for the post after besting her for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Speaking to reporters before signing books on Wednesday afternoon, Clinton said she was "absolutely" looking forward to hugging it out with the president and said they both were committed to U.S. values and security interests.

"We have disagreements as any partners and friends, as we are, might very well have," Clinton said.

"But I'm proud ... that I served with him and for him, and I'm looking forward to seeing him tonight."

Obama and his wife, Michelle, were seated together with Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, at the birthday celebration for Ann Jordan, Vernon Jordan's wife, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

The event was held at the Farm Neck Golf Club, not the Jordans' home, as the White House had said previously.

Schultz declined to comment on whether Clinton and Obama hugged but said they were glad to have the chance to spend time together.

"The Obamas danced nearly every song," he said.

The White House has played down suggestions of tension between Obama and Clinton, although some Obama aides privately expressed annoyance over her words.

Obama and Clinton developed a rapport during her time in the administration. Schultz said earlier on Wednesday the two leaders were "very close friends" who stayed in touch regularly, in person and by telephone.

"They continue to agree on a broad majority of issues confronting our country, even if they have the occasional policy difference," Schultz told reporters at a midday briefing.

"The president appreciates her counsel and advice, but more importantly he appreciates her friendship and that's why he's looking forward to seeing her this evening."

Both the president and his former rival have good reason to maintain a positive relationship.

For Clinton, Obama's network of fundraisers and political strength with key Democratic constituencies, including blacks and gays, are assets she would like to inherit if she runs for president in 2016.

For Obama, protecting his legacy will involve ensuring that a Democrat such as Clinton replaces him in the White House and keeps laws including the healthcare overhaul and financial regulatory reform on the books.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Lovering; Editing by Caren Bohan and Paul Tait)

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