Fri
Feb 1 2008
10:07 am

In last night's debate, Obama decided that Clinton's vote on Iraq would be the defining issue to highlight the differences between the candidates. He went on the attack. Wolf Blitzer encouraged it and tried to bait Hillary into saying something stupid. It didn't work.

But here's what I find interesting about Obama's argument. He emphasized that the authorization passed by Congress said "use of military force in Iraq" right there in the title. Everybody understood what it was. He said Clinton may have experience on day one, but that it's more important to be right on day one. He questioned her judgement and put her on the defensive about her position, which is basically that Congress was lied to.

But yes, Clinton did vote for the resolution, along with 28 other Democratic senators -- the majority of the Senate Democratic Caucus. One of them was John Kerry. Here's what Obama said at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in his keynote speech endorsing John Kerry as the Democratic nominee for president:

Obama: And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world war must be an option sometimes, but it should never be the first option.

[..]

When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

So, which is it Senator Obama? Being deceived by fudged numbers and shaded truth, or bad judgement? He can't have it both ways. Why has he changed his position? Why did he support Kerry and excuse his vote for the war, and attack Clinton for hers? Is Obama saying Kerry's judgement was sound but Clinton's wasn't? Why? Because she's a woman? Because her name is Clinton?

In 2004, Democrats were accused of being weak on terrorism and national security. Creeps like Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney called them traitors. Democrats talked tough to push back and to reassure the American people. Obama went along for the ride. Four years later, the "war on terror" is a catastrophic failure, and both Democrats and Republicans are trying to distance themselves. Now Obama is on board for that, too, and criticizing people who actually had to make tough decisions on the record -- a record that he does not have. Obama should worry less about striking the right pose for whatever media spotlight is on him at the moment and more about being consistent, especially when he's going to attack fellow Democrats for tough decisions he has never had to make.

Andy Axel's picture

So, which is it Senator

So, which is it Senator Obama? Being deceived by fudged numbers and shaded truth, or bad judgement? He can't have it both ways. Why has he changed his position? Why did he support Kerry and excuse his vote for the war, and attack Clinton for hers? Is Obama saying Kerry's judgement was sound but Clinton's wasn't? Why? Because she's a woman? Because her name is Clinton?

It's unprincipled political hackery if your candidate does it. It's shrewd political expediency if mine does it.

____________________________

With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.

bill young's picture

andy

i'm for obama

i'll take door number 2

Randy its very good question & I have no answer.

Obama's been ask this & the best thing to do is google & see if what Obama says answers you..or not

Stick Thrower's picture

Not much of an attack

The Obama quote from '04 isn't exactly glowing praise of Kerry--more a criticism of Bush. Is that all you got?

Maybe Obama remembers how well Kerry's "I was against the war before I was for it" nonsense worked in 2004, and he's tired of defending someone else's bad decision. Or, yeah, it could be because Hillary is a woman. Whatever.

Kerry and Clinton were both wrong when it counted. It hurt Kerry, and when Hillary has to tap dance around the Iraq issue and make excuses like she did last night, she's at her weakest.

R. Neal's picture

The Obama quote from '04

The Obama quote from '04 isn't exactly glowing praise of Kerry--more a criticism of Bush. Is that all you got?

Obama's speech was glowing praise and a huge endorsement in support of Kerry. No other way to spin that. He supported Kerry in 2004 and Kerry voted for the war. No way to spin that either.

But your other points are valid and well taken, and could explain it.

Or it could just be political posturing to win an election. Nothing particularly wrong with that, but just don't expect to get away with it without being called on it from time to time.

P.S. the "because she's a woman" had not occurred to me, but instead was asked by an actual woman sitting across the office from me when I typed that.

bizgrrl's picture

P.S. the "because she's a

P.S. the "because she's a woman" had not occurred to me, but instead was asked by an actual woman sitting across the office from me when I typed that.

Not only is Clinton a woman, she is quite a bit shorter than Kerry and Obama. Da manly men know how to take care of us lil ole delicate thangs. :)

gonzone's picture

Dang!

Here I was admiring Hillary for being a strong woman and you come along and burst my bubble telling me y'all are lil ole delicate thangs!! Bet y'all's favorite color is pank, you helpless lil ole wimmens!

bizgrrl's picture

The Obama quote from '04

The Obama quote from '04 isn't exactly glowing praise of Kerry--

Not glowing praise? It was at the Democratic Convention, supposedly praising our next President (in 2004).

Stick Thrower's picture

Sorry... I should've said

Sorry... I should've said "glowing praise of Kerry's vote for the war" which is the nit I thought we were picking at.

I didn't think there was any question that Obama was whole-heartedly endorsing Kerry at the '04 convention, but to expect him to be defending Clinton the same way at this point is ridiculous.

R. Neal's picture

I wouldn't expect him to

I wouldn't expect him to defend her, but to just lay off or at least dial it down a notch on that particular topic. They seem to generally agree on the way forward, and they should stick to that.

Brian A.'s picture

Perhaps the vote for war

Perhaps the vote for war isn't the best issue Obama should be using to try to distinguish himself from her (as you point out he didn't have to make that vote).

But I can't really fault him as long as she keeps making ridiculous statements to justify her vote.

All she was doing was voting for more aggressive inspections? She was surprised Bush actually went to war?

Give me a break. Admit you were wrong and move on.

Brian A.
I'd rather be cycling.

Andy Axel's picture

Kerry and Clinton were both

Kerry and Clinton were both wrong when it counted.

And Obama has no voting record to use to evaluate this - only his word that he would have done differently (this despite the fact that his voting record on Iraq has been identical to Clinton's since he took office).

So, what would he have done if he was a sitting Senator in 2003? Imagine that his office is inundated by calls telling him that he should vote for the AUMF by his worried constituents. His chief of staff informs him that there aren't enough votes to beat the resolution, and if he really has designs on a 2008 White House bid, he doesn't want to look weak on defense. The Senate leadership shows you intel that they're not showing the public, and it's scary stuff. Bush's poll numbers are at his pre-Katrina 60's & 70's. His Republican colleagues come forward with some sort of proffer on a bill that he's sponsoring. A big contributor to his campaign thinks it might be a good idea for him to demur. He'll be in the same boat as Kerry and Clinton (and for that matter, Edwards - who also voted for the AUMF) if he votes with the Republican majority and the Blue Dogs.

But we don't know any of that, because none of that happened. He was in Springfield, IL at the time where he could easily afford to speculate that he would take this course of action - but that wasn't his job. Ultimately, he would pay no price because he didn't have a seat at the big table and his non-vote didn't count for him or against him; it just didn't happen. He may have *felt* that way, but his conjecture of how he'd absolutely would have voted is a whole-cloth invention. His non-vote means just as much as mine - he may as well have been one of thousands of angry bloggers, none of whom had the same stake as those D's sitting in that chamber in 2003.

____________________________

With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.

rikki's picture

The Senate leadership shows

The Senate leadership shows you intel that they're not showing the public, and it's scary stuff.

This is the heart of the deception, the notion that the lies being told to justify the invasion were good lies, convincing and scary. They weren't. They were as transparent then as they are worthless now, and Clinton in particular needs to explain how she fell for them, given her access to the intelligence from 1998-2000 before dishonest Republicans set to work twisting the story by inserting foreign embezzlers like Chalabi into privileged positions in the executive branch.

And if she really was fooled, what has she done to hold the liars accountable? There is no trace of principle anywhere in her position, just opportunism and excuses. Granted, she has plenty of company in the they-lied-to-us-and-we're-not-going-to-do-anything-about-it crowd, but if we are looking for leadership to return our country to honor, why turn to those who let it go astray?

Eleanor A's picture

[applauds wildly]

[applauds wildly]

Eleanor A's picture

Actually, the speech Hillary

Actually, the speech Hillary gave the day of the vote sounds nothing like that at all.

However, this course is fraught with danger. We and our NATO allies did not depose Mr. Milosevic, who was responsible for more than a quarter of a million people being killed in the 1990s. Instead, by stopping his aggression in Bosnia and Kosovo, and keeping on the tough sanctions, we created the conditions in which his own people threw him out and led to his being in the dock being tried for war crimes as we speak.

If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us. In recent days, Russia has talked of an invasion of Georgia to attack Chechen rebels. India has mentioned the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan. And what if China were to perceive a threat from Taiwan?

But the Obama folks have to have something. When they're not whining about some imagined personal slight against their candidate by one of the Clintons.

Mykhailo's picture

He supported Kerry in 2004

He supported Kerry in 2004 and Kerry voted for the war. No way to spin that either.

You're seriously arguing that Obama is untrustworthy because he supported the Democratic nominee in 04? What was he supposed to do -- endorse Nader?

Elrod's picture

Think about the context

Obama's speech at the 2004 convention was to praise Kerry in opposition to Bush. Obama did not support Kerry's 2002 war vote in 2004 and he doesn't today. He wasn't asked about Kerry's 2002 vote in 2004 and his comments at the DNC do not contradict his consistent opposition to the war - from 2002 to today.

The context is different today. Now he's up against Hillary Clinton in a primary campaign. Hillary voted for the AUMF in 2002 because she thought it was too politically risky to oppose the war. She didn't want to be Sam Nunn and ruin her centrist cred. So she did what Kerry and Edwards did and voted to give Bush authorization to go to war with a protest comment saying that she didn't like it all one bit but gollygeewilikers she's got to stand with the President and trust him. She had an option to support the Levin Amendment that would have sent inspectors into Iraq without authorizing military action. But no, she decided that that vote wasn't hawkish enough for her. She even used the Republican talking point last night that she didn't want to "cede authority to the UN." Like Democrats who support the death penalty to maintain their tough-on-crime cred, most pro-war Democrats acted utterly without principle in 2002. She triangulated and helped the country lurch to the right...and off a cliff.

So let's think about context here. Obama opposed the war in 2002. And he opposed it for the right reason: that it was a massive diversion from the fight against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. What's more, he knew not to trust the gang of criminals in the Bush Administration. Andy Axel raises a good point regarding Obama not being in the Senate and facing all the pressure at that point. But Obama had political ambitions in 2002 and knew his public positions on the war (given on Chicago public television) would be part of the public record. He was more than just an angry blogger of no consequence. He was a State Senator preparing a grueling primary campaign for the US Senate.

All of that may be water under the bridge at this point. But Hillary has never come clean on her vote the way Edwards did. Had she admitted it was a mistake then Democratic voters would forgive her as they did Edwards. But no, she's trying to out-Bush Bush by refusing to ever admit mistakes. Like Bush and Rove, Hillary Clinton believes admitting fault is a sign of weakness. It's time to turn the page on all that.

Eleanor A's picture

As far as admitting mistakes

As far as admitting mistakes goes, a.) I don't see many other Dem Senators who voted the same way using that kind of language, b.) I'm not sure Hillary thinks her vote was a mistake, given the atmosphere and falsified information being put out by Bush at the time.

You can spin this all folksy-like if you want, but not matter how you slice it, making comments on public television is not the same as standing on the floor of the U.S. Senate, casting a vote that will have a tremendous consequence for the country and the world.

There's just no way to know what Obama would have done, or what he will do given similar circumstances. Frankly, I'm not impressed by his showing so far where standing tough in the face of adversity is concerned...I'll admit it's mostly his supporters who sound as petulant as Mrs. Miller's fourth grade class, but Obama really should be putting a lid on all the whining if he hopes to sew this thing up.

Mykhailo's picture

Obama really should be

Obama really should be putting a lid on all the whining if he hopes to sew this thing up.

Likewise, Hillary undoubtedly wishes her supporters weren't going around saying things like "Obama was against Kerry before he was for Kerry!"

Sarge's picture

You can shake it and bake it

You can shake it and bake it anyway you like, but the fact still remains that anti-war presidential candidate Senator Clinton voted to allow the use of military in Iraq. She now claims that she was misled by President Bush about the WMD's. There were other Democratic Senators who were not duped by Bush and voted against the authorization to use military force in Iraq. What it boils down to is decision making.

Rachel's picture

Hillary's vote on AUMF was

Hillary's vote on AUMF was wrong. As was Kerry's. As was Edwards'.

But the first thing I thought when Obama brought this up last night was "you weren't there."

Maybe he would have had enough fortitude to stand up to the enormous pressure post 9/11 to vote for the stupid thing. It's nice to think so. But he wasn't there so we'll never know.

tgirsch's picture

An important difference

I don't remember for certain if this was true at the time of Obama's 2004 speech, but a very important difference between Kerry's vote and Clinton's vote is that Kerry has acknowledged that it was a mistake, while Clinton has not.

tgirsch's picture

Oh, and for what it's worth...

To answer your question, he was wrong then (in that 2004 speech). :)

Carole Borges's picture

The worst thing is Hillary is still in a fog...

She had a chance to show she was her own person with a knowkedge of what the American public wants and more caution when the vote to name the Iranian Gaurd as terorists. Hillary jumped right aboard the Bush convoy. At the time this really shocked me. She was using the same old reasoning too, saying it did NOT giving Bush permission to use military force in Iran. No...but it sure would help him back up any sudden attack if the "terrorists" needed to eliminated.

This was very insulting to people who were sick of the war, sick of seeing seeing our miltary die, sick of maimed lives, Iraqi deaths, broken promises by Bush, and war profiteering by almost everyone connected with Iraq.

Those two statements by Obama by the way even when taken out of context show very little change of mind.

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