Today, in an show of disingenuousness, Hillary Clinton’s campaign decided to run an attack memo on her main opponent, Barack Obama. I will dissect the memo bit-by-bit to show how it masks the true situation in an attempt to make one of Clinton’s weaknesses seem like a strength:
Who said this?
“Such a reduced but active presence will also send a clear message to hostile countries like Iran and Syria that we intend to remain a key player in this region.” Later in the same speech, he said: “Make no mistake, if the Iranians and Syrians think they can use Iraq as another Afghanistan or a staging area from which to attack Israel or other countries, they are badly mistaken. It is in our national interest to prevent this from happening.”
George Bush? Nope.
The latest from Dick Cheney? Guess again.
Language from Kyl-Lieberman? Sorry.
That was Senator Obama in late 2006 making the case for why maintaining a military force in Iraq is necessary to constrain Iran’s ambitions. But that was then.
It is true that this was part of Obama’s Speech on November 20 last year to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. To show the context of the statement, here is the paragraph in which it is contained:
In such a scenario, it is conceivable that a significantly reduced U.S. force might remain in Iraq for a more extended period of time. But only if U.S. commanders think such a force would be effective; if there is substantial movement towards a political solution among Iraqi factions; if the Iraqi government showed a serious commitment to disbanding the militias; and if the Iraqi government asked us – in a public and unambiguous way – for such continued support. We would make clear in such a scenario that the United States would not be maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq, but would do what was necessary to help prevent a total collapse of the Iraqi state and further polarization of Iraqi society. Such a reduced but active presence will also send a clear message to hostile countries like Iran and Syria that we intend to remain a key player in this region.
So, there were list of caveats for such a force, none of which have been reached by present day. Furthermore, the comparative text from the Kyl-Lieberman ammendment is much more bellicose even than the statement the Clinton campaign took out of context:
(2) that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning Shi’a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq, including by overwhelming, subverting, or co-opting institutions of the legitimate Government of Iraq;
(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;
So, the beginning of the Clinton menu is a disingenuous quote-mine. This is an inauspicious start. Continuation after the jump.
This is now: Stagnant in the polls and struggling to revive his once-buoyant campaign, Senator Obama has abandoned the politics of hope and embarked on a journey in search of a campaign issue to use against Senator Clinton. Nevermind that he made the very argument he is now criticizing back in November 2006. Nevermind that he co-sponsored a bill designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a global terrorist group back in April. Nevermind that his colleague from Illinois – Dick Durbin – voted the same way as Senator Clinton on Kyl-Lieberman and said “If I thought there was any way it could be used as a pretense to launch an invasion of Iran I would have voted no.”
Wow, this is a whopper. Beyond the fact that “never mind” is actually two words, Obama has never spoke out against declaring the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, in fact he favors it for the precise reason of cutting off funds to its leaders, as evidenced by statements including the following made just today:
It is important to have tough sanctions on Iran, particularly on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard which supports terrorism. But these sanctions must not be linked to any attempt to keep our troops in Iraq, or to take military action against Iran. Unfortunately, the Kyl-Lieberman amendment made the case for President Bush that we need to use our military presence in Iraq to counter Iran – a case that has nothing to do with sanctioning the Revolutionary Guard.
The rest of the paragraph from the Clinton memo is obvious garbage. The Clinton campaign likes to claim that whenever Senator Obama criticizes one of her statements or decisions he is “abandoning the politics of hope”, which is not true as the politics of hope does not mean that policy should not be discussed openly.
Furthermore, the comment about Durbin is entirely irrelevant, as Durbin is not Obama and thus cannot speak for him. All that says is that Durbin and Obama disagree on that particular point.
Today, in order to justify his opposition to Kyl-Lieberman, Senator Obama says that such language is bellicose and gives the President a blank check to take the country to war.
But if Senator Obama really believed this measure gave the President a blank check for war, shouldn’t he have been in the Senate on the day of the vote, speaking out, and fighting against it? Instead he did nothing, remained totally silent, skipped the vote and spoke out only after the vote to engage in false attacks against Senator Clinton. A Washington Post editorial summed it up best: “Now, trailing in the polls and sensing a political opportunity, Mr. Obama is trying to portray Ms. Clinton as a reckless saber-rattler. That is irresponsible and — given the ease with which the charge can be rebutted — probably naive, as well.”
That’s not the kind of and strength and leadership Americans are looking for in their next President.
This is also somewhat amusing. Senator Obama’s absence in the Senate during the vote was due to a short-notice notification of the vote sent to Senator Obama while campaigning in New Hampshire by Harry Reid. With the time alotted to make it to the vote, Obama would have been on a plane when it was cast, and so Obama missed the vote, though he did make a statement against the resolution that day.
The use of the Washinton Post editorial, which recycles old Clinton campaign rhetoric used after the CNN-YouTube debate isn’t particularly impressive either. It suggests more that the Washington Post editorial staff have a pro-Clinton bias and perhaps even the help of campaign staffers in writing their editorials than that the Clinton campaign has a credible argument, something that has been lacking thus far in the memo.
Hillary has been clear and consistent in saying that diplomacy backed by economic pressure is the best way to check Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons program and stop its support of terrorism, and the best way to avert a war. That’s why she took to the Senate floor last February and warned the President not to take military action against Iran without going to Congress first and it’s why she’s co-sponsored Senator Webb’s legislation to make that the law of the land.
If you want an example of Hillary’s disingenuousness, look at the circumstances behind her co-sponsoring of Senator Webb’s bill. She actually co-sponsored it after the Kyl-Lieberman amendment as damage control for her bad decision. This bill did say that the President has no authority to invade Iran unless specifically authorized by Congress, though that bill has no authority unless passed, and it is still sitting in committee.
In fact, that goes to accentuate the mistake that Senator Clinton made in supporting Kyl-Lieberman. She wants to insist without force of law that Congress has the power to block the President’s path to war after signing on to the rhetoric supporting it as damage control rather than avoiding the mistake in the first place.
This is awfully similar to her rather comical move earlier this year to introduce a de-authorization of the war in Iraq. We need a President who can recognize what the mistakes are before making them rather than one who makes a mistake, doesn’t admit it, and then tries to cover for herself with meaningless bills that don’t have any force of law.
But even more that that, she then covers her tracks by using dishonest language to counterpunch those that criticized her bad judgement at the start.
Hillary is looking to be a rather dangerous candidate for President.