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Thursday, December 8, 2016

By Jeff Mason

OAK BLUFFS, Mass. (Reuters) — U.S. President Barack Obama played golf with former President Bill Clinton and attended a party with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday to celebrate the birthday of Washington power broker and mutual friend Vernon Jordan.

The birthday bash, which took place on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard, reunited the two powerful Democratic families in the midst of a second White House bid by Hillary Clinton, who is under fire for using a private email server during her time as the top U.S. diplomat.

The Obamas and Clintons crossed paths last year on Martha’s Vineyard at a similar celebration for Jordan’s wife, Ann.

That event came just after the former secretary of state criticized her one-time boss’s foreign policy vision, prompting an apology and a pledge to reconcile by “hugging it out.”

This year’s gathering had some 200 guests, including actor Morgan Freeman and American Express Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault. The president toasted Jordan during the party.

Obama and Hillary Clinton had a brief conversation but no extended interaction, a White House spokesman said.

Clinton came to Martha’s Vineyard fresh from a campaign stop in Iowa, where she pushed back against criticism from Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush that Obama’s policies on Iraq created instability that led to the rise of the Islamic State militant group.

In 2008, Obama’s victory in Iowa’s Democratic primary contest helped propel him to beat Clinton for the party’s nomination.

Obama is vacationing on the island with his wife and children. He has spent much of the past week on the golf course. Jordan, who is turning 80, and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk rounded out the golf foursome on Saturday.

The current and former U.S. presidents could be seen chatting amiably and gesturing with their hands while starting their game.

Wearing slacks and a white shirt, Obama waved and smiled at journalists who were allowed to take pictures as the men played.

Obama and Clinton have golfed together at least three times since the current president entered office, including January 2013, shortly after Obama’s re-election.

Obama and the former president overcame a once-tense relationship stemming from the 2008 Democratic presidential primary race in which the then-U.S. senator from Illinois beat the former first lady.

Bill Clinton campaigned hard for Obama’s re-election in 2012 and Obama, while not endorsing anyone yet in the 2016 race, has expressed his admiration for Hillary Clinton, who is the Democratic frontrunner.

(Editing by Alan Crosby and Richard Borsuk)

U.S. President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton play a round of golf together at Farm Neck Golf Club on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, August 15, 2015. Obama and former President Clinton played a game of golf together on Saturday ahead of an evening birthday celebration for Washington power broker Vernon Jordan, a mutual friend. The U.S. President is vacationing with his family on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard and has spent much of the past week on the golf course. Jordan, who is turning 80, and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk rounded out the golf foursome. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)