By Annie Linskey
June 21 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager denied that he or others directed Hillary Clinton to pounce on Republican Sarah Palin as a vice presidential nominee designed purely to appeal to women, rebutting a claim in Clinton’s new memoir “Hard Choices.”
“We never tried to do that,” said David Plouffe, appearing on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “We did want her to go out there and speak, but not about Sarah Palin’s gender.”
In the opening pages of Clinton’s book, the former Democratic senator from New York who lost the party’s 2008 presidential nomination to Obama writes that his campaign released a “dismissive” statement about Palin soon after the then-Alaska governor was announced as Republican John McCain’s running mate and asked her to “follow suit.”
“I wasn’t going to attack Palin just for being a woman appealing for support from other woman,” Clinton wrote. “I didn’t think that made political sense, and it didn’t feel right.”
The Palin anecdote is one of the few sections in the 635-page book in which Clinton, who went on to serve as Obama’s first secretary of state, details disagreements with him or his aides. She highlighted the episode during a June 17 interview on Fox News, and the flap created some waves in the White House, which has issued background denials.
Plouffe, now friendly with Clinton, said the former first lady’s book tour has gone “pretty well,” and any stumbles won’t have any impact on a potential 2016 presidential bid.
“This is not even spring training but very early” in the buildup to the next presidential campaign, Plouffe said. “Some of its good practice actually. But it’s a reminder how hard this is.”
Clinton made a gaffe the day before the book was released earlier this month, telling ABC’s Diane Sawyer that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were “dead broke” when they left the White House in January 2001.
At the end of 2012, the Clintons were worth $5.2 million to $25.5 million, according to financial disclosures that Hillary Clinton filed in 2013 as she was leaving her position as secretary of state.
Plouffe joined with former New Hampshire U.S. Senator John E. Sununu, a Republican, on “Political Capital” discussing this year’s midterm elections, the shake-up in House Republican leadership and U.S. military re-engagement in Iraq.
On June 24, Mississippi U.S. Senator Thad Cochran faces a run-off primary with Tea Party-backed Chris McDaniel -- the latest effort by small-government activists to defeat an entrenched Republican incumbent in this year’s nomination races.
“I don’t think there’ll be a shock if Cochran loses,” Sununu said.
Plouffe said the Mississippi race -- closely following U.S. Representative Eric Cantor’s loss in the June 10 Virginia primary to a Tea Party-backed candidate -- is a reminder to Republicans that their 2016 presidential nominee will have to pay close attention to social conservative and libertarian factions.
“The question is can a more moderate Republican navigate those waters?” Plouffe asked. “And I still think the Tea Party is going to have a lot to say about” who wins the next Republican presidential nomination.
On Iraq, Plouffe said that though Obama has dispatched 300 military advisers to help combat an insurgency against that country’s government, the U.S. will not get drawn back into a war there that the president pledged to end when he first sought the White House.
“There’s going to be no boots on the ground, no combat operation,” Plouffe said.
Sununu disputed that comment, saying it’s “unclear” what the forces sent to Iraq will be doing.
“They really do seem to be shooting from the hip and in the case of Iraq, that’s not what you want to be doing,” he said of Obama’s administration.