Two years ahead of the next presidential nominations, Hillary Rodham Clinton -- eminence emeritus of New York Democratic politics -- fed the flames of speculation by speaking less than glowingly of President Barack Obama's foreign policy.
Clinton said rather pointedly in a recent magazine interview that " 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle." Her remark, a reference to Obama's stated reluctance to entangle the United States in messy foreign conflicts, was made newsworthy by the fact she had served as Obama's secretary of state.
Clinton since dialed the comments back a bit. But of course she'd have to distance herself somewhat from the poll-fatigued incumbent if she runs for president again. After all, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was stymied in 2008, in part, by linkage to the administration of President George W. Bush. For that matter, so was Clinton -- whom Obama slammed during their milestone primary battle for backing Bush's Iraq invasion, only to pick her for his cabinet once elected.
Clinton may have company in establishing separation from Obama. Another Democrat who is getting his name in the mix for 2016 has dissented from White House policy: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.
His loyalists say there is no campaign to speak of yet. But he has established a fundraising committee called the "O Say Can You See" PAC. His flash point with the Obama administration concerns children from Central America sent illegally across the U.S. border.
Last month, O'Malley, 51, made waves by passionately opposing efforts to send them back.
"It is contrary to everything we stand for to try to summarily send children back to death," he said. "We have to do right not just by these kids but by our kids and protect the children who are here, put them in the least-restrictive settings, get them out of these detention centers and these kennels where they are being cooped up, and operate as the good and generous people that we have always been."
But it also came out that he opposed federal plans to send kids to a facility in the western part of his home state, echoing the kind of concern expressed by other elected officials around the nation, including Long Island. "What I said was that would not be the most inviting site in Maryland," he explained later. "There are already hundreds of kids already located throughout Maryland."
As ex-U.S. senator, Clinton enjoys prestige in the New York party; O'Malley's involvements here appear tangential. His brother Patrick, who served as an assistant district attorney in Queens between 1993 and 1999, ran twice in the borough for public office. The first time, in 2000, he challenged longtime Assemb. Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) in a primary, attacking her record. Martin O'Malley, then mayor of Baltimore, helped raise funds for his sibling; Nolan won.
"They brought a bunch of people up from Baltimore," Nolan recalled Thursday. "We sent them packing. I don't fault [Martin O'Malley] for helping his brother. But they didn't know New York."
In 2001, Patrick O'Malley finished fourth of five in a city Council primary. He's returned to Maryland. In 2012, the Baltimore Sun reported differences with his governor brother on same-sex marriage and a U.S. Senate race. Patrick O'Malley, now an FBI attorney, isn't publicly talking politics these days.
But that's family history. More recently, Gov. O'Malley helped raise funds for Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and other congressional Democrats. For O'Malley, the big questions involve the future.