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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/16/2008

Clinton vs Obama on Iraq

By Michael Dobbs


A U.S. Soldier in Iraq.

The Clinton and Obama campaigns have gone to war over the Iraq war. With an assist from her husband, Hillary Clinton has accused Obama of "inconsistency" on Iraq, and failing to carry through on his initial opposition to the war once he got into the Senate in 2005. On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Bill Clinton dubbed the Obama storyline on the Iraq war as "the biggest fairy tale I have ever seen."


The Obama campaign, meanwhile, has hit back with claims that Obama always favored a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, in contrast to Clinton's equivocation on the issue. A leading Obama supporter, former assistant secretary of state Susan Rice, said on MSNBC that Obama had been pushing for an Iraq withdrawal "since 2002," an obvious error since the U.S. only entered Iraq in 2003.


To resolve this dispute, I have assembled a chronology of Obama and Clinton statements and actions on Iraq with the help of Emily Freifeld, a producer at washingtonpost.com. Several points emerge from this chronology:



  1. Obama has been consistent in his opposition to the Iraq war. His Oct. 2, 2002, speech opposing the war stands in clear contrast to Clinton's vote later that same month to authorize military action.


  2. Once the U.S. went into Iraq, Obama's position became much more nuanced. While he still opposed the war, he was not in favor of an early pullout. In 2004, he even talked about sending more U.S. troops to Iraq in order to stabilize the country as a prelude to an eventual withdrawal.


  3. His Senate voting record on Iraq is quite similar to that of Hillary Clinton. Both senators waited until May 2007 before they finally voted to cut off funds for the war, on the grounds that the administration had not agreed to a firm timetable for withdrawal. They both voted against a June 2006 amendment proposed by John Kerry (D-Mass.) for the redeployment of U.S. troops. A list of votes compiled by the Clinton campaign is available here. See here for the TalkingPointsMemo version.



Clinton and Obama on Iraq: A Chronology


2002


Oct. 2. Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama gives speech opposing war in Iraq. He said he did not oppose "all wars," but he opposed "dumb wars," and wanted to finish the job against al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden rather than start a new war in Iraq. He predicted that "even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences."


Oct. 11. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) casts vote to authorize use of military force in Iraq if President Bush determines that "diplomatic means" fail to remove the "national security threat" against the United States. See authorization resolution here. In Oct. 10 floor speech, Clinton described the Senate vote as Saddam Hussein's "last chance -- disarm or be disarmed." She said her vote is not "a vote for any new doctrine of preemption."


2003

March 20. Invasion of Iraq begins. See chronology here.


Nov. 3. U.S. Senate approves $87 billion package for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq on a voice vote. Clinton's vote not officially recorded.


Nov. 16. Obama tells Chicago community activists that he would have voted against the $87 billion package, explaining, "At a certain point, we have to say no to George Bush." See video here. In January 2008, Clinton claimed in speeches and interviews in New Hampshire that Obama promised never to fund the war. Her aides cite this 2003 speech as evidence, but context shows that Obama was referring specifically to the $87 billion request, not future requests.


2004

July 26. In an interview with the New York Times, prior to his speech at the Democratic Party convention, Obama declines to criticize presidential nominee John Kerry for his 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war. Says he was "not privy to Senate intelligence reports." He then continued: "What would I have done? I don't know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made."


July 27. Obama tells Chicago Tribune that U.S. forces should remain in Iraq to stabilize the war-torn country. Says "there is not much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage," but is critical of Bush for bungling the occupation. Remains opposed to the original decision to invade. In keynote speech to Democratic convention, Obama avoids criticism of the war, saying "there are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported the war in Iraq."


September 19. Associated Press reports that Obama, running for Illinois Senate seat, would be willing to send more troops to Iraq if it would create conditions for eventual withdrawal. Says it would be "an extraordinary accomplishment" if U.S. could withdraw from Iraq in four years. Remains opposed to invasion decision.

2005

Jan. 4. Obama sworn in as U.S. senator.


Jan. 13. Obama tells Secretary of State designate Condoleeza Rice, in Senate confirmation hearing, that he is "rooting for success" in Iraq, while pressing her for a better-defined exit strategy.


Feb. 19. Clinton, making her second trip to Iraq, says that "insurgency is failing" and much of Iraq is "functioning quite well" despite a rash of suicide bombings.


April 13. Obama opposes Sense of Senate amendment not to delay vote on providing military funding for Iraq because of a concurrent debate on immigration reform. Clinton votes in favor.


Nov. 22. In speech to Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, Obama calls for "gradual" withdrawal from Iraq in 2006 and criticizes Bush administration for trying to stifle dissent on the war.


Nov. 29. Clinton says for first time that she was misled by Bush administration on the Iraq war, and would not have voted to authorize the war in 2002 "based on what we now know." In a letter to her constituents, she said that the White House failed to deliver on assurances that it would exhaust all diplomatic means before going to war. Calls for strategy to stabilize Iraq so that "gradual" withdrawals can begin, but says immediate withdrawal would be "a big mistake."


2006

May 30. Clinton tells Washington Post that she is opposed both to a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq and to an open-ended commitment.


June 21. In Senate floor speech, Obama calls for a "blueprint for an expeditious yet responsible exit from Iraq," but opposes a "date certain for the total withdrawal of U.S. troops." Both
Obama and Clinton oppose
June 22 Kerry amendment that would require "the redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq in order to further a political solution in Iraq."


2007

Feb. 8. Obama votes for confirmation of former Iraq commander, Gen. George W. Casey, as Army chief of staff. Clinton votes against. (Corrected)


April 26. Obama and Clinton both vote in favor of bill to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within one year. The measure is promptly vetoed by President Bush.


May 24. Both Obama and Clinton vote against a $124 billion Iraq war spending bill because there is no withdrawal date for U.S. troops.


Sept. 19. Obama and Clinton vote in favor of amendment to require longer rest periods for troops between deployments in Iraq.


Sept. 21. Obama and Clinton vote in favor of amendment to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq within 90 days.


Nov. 16. Both Obama and Clinton vote against a Bush administration request for $70 billion in emergency supplemental funds for the Iraq war.


Dec. 18. Obama and Clinton co-sponsor requiring troop withdrawal and cut-off in combat funds from Iraq. However, neither senator returns from the campaign trail to vote for the amendment, which is defeated 71-24.


The Pinocchio Test


As you might expect in a political campaign, both Clinton and Obama have given one-sided versions of their records on the Iraq war. The Clinton camp has taken snippets from Obama interviews, particularly his July 2004 remarks on the eve of the Democratic convention, and quoted them out of context. The Obama camp has overstated the difference between Obama and Clinton on Iraq from 2004 onward.


For more on Clinton's Iraq withdrawal plans, see
here
and here. For a look at Obama's proposals, see here.


(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | January 16, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama, Candidate Watch, Iraq  
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Comments

You conclude:

The Obama camp has overstated the difference between Obama and Clinton on Iraq from 2004 onward.

But I don't see any support for this in your chronology. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't hear Obama going after Hillary on what they propose to do now. I hear him talking about her poor judgment that "left us with no good options" by getting into a "dumb war."

Maybe you could fact check your conclusion?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 16, 2008 6:43 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for clarifying those votes -- but the comparison should not be Obama to Clinton -- why isn't the comparison Obama to Kucinich or someone who, you know, actually opposes the war? No one has yet explained how a U.S. Senator can be "consistent in his opposition to the Iraq war" yet vote FOR funding said war (until May 2007 -- I had forgotten about that vote). Any comment on that Dobbs, or even Emily Freifeld?

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 7:15 AM | Report abuse

Whether Obama promised never to fund the war or not, isn't that exactly how someone "consistent" in his opposition to said war should vote? Maybe that's the better question. Other candidates like Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul have voted AGAINST funding the war, every time.

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Democrats Debate in Las Vegas

Who Won the MSNBC Democratic Debate in Las Vegas?

http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid=1548

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Posted by: PaulM | January 16, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

This information is important because Obama is making the case in favor of his judgment.

Given Obama's track record, he tends to go along with the tide of the voting, at least in regard to his party. And so we do not know how he would have voted had he been in the U.S. Congress in the events leading up to the authorization for war.

However, in the events after the war began, Obama's voting record mirrors that of Hillary. Given where they now stand on the issue of immediate redeployment, both of them were wrong. And Obama has pie in his face.

Posted by: paul taylor | January 16, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Paul that's not true. I was against this war. But it would be irresponsible not to fund the troops. I was in the military at that time and I know. Don't you remember when the solders did not have enough bdy armor because the military didn't want to pay for it? So our brave soldiers used scrap metal as body armor. So I accept his reasoning for funding the war. What I do not accept is Hillary's recent change (as of Dec 2006) of now opposing the war out of political expediency because she took a poll and found out that 70% of the country is against it.

Posted by: TennGurl | January 16, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

This is certainly an improved performance. Thanks for the hyperlinks!

See our comments here:
Economists for Obama

Posted by: Economists for Obama | January 16, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Paul:

You are exactly right -- other candidates like Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul have voted AGAINST funding the war, every time -- if Obama announced today that he would no longer vote for war appropriations and if the President does not bring the troops home by March 30th, he would vote to convict on a Bill of Impeachment, that might just convince me he's "consistent" against the Iraq war.

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Why is Edwards left out of the picture?

He is a viable candidate and the only one who has consistently polled to beat all Republicans in the general election.

It's not surprising that Obama has risen to where he is given the free Media advertising of his campaign. He does not need to buy time on TV to promote himself.
And same for the written press.

Obama all the time....
Jesus has come! Obama, the savior of humanity! The Press has created a cult like following. My Europeans friends are laughing at us.

Personally I am sick of it.

Are we electing a president for the people of the USA? Someone who can beat Republicans and move this country in a different direction? Or are we electing the first AfricanAmerican president?

Maybe the next time the Republicans will select a Chinese person; then we can elect the first Chinese American president and so on.......
God help America.

Posted by: InnessaK | January 16, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

No matter whether there are two categories of Americans for or against the war in Iraq,Obama should speak out and be more specific about this burning issue.

Dan Chell

Posted by: dan chell | January 16, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Are you saying there are two categories of Americans against the war in Iraq?

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

A little more specificity in the awarding of the Pinocchios.


It seems that the Clinton camp deserves two Pins for repeatedly misusing Obama's position (one for Hillary and one for Bill). To knowingly lie about your opponents record -- not just goof up once, maybe twice -- repeatedly is a pattern that deserves to be exposed and roundly decried.

And the Clinton vote on the non-binding Iranian Revolutionary Guard resolution -- different country, but related because Bush and Co, said Iran was operating in Iraq at the time -- plays into her overall record on Iraq as well.

The Obama camp -- IMHO -- hasn't overstated the difference, but maybe hasn't been as explicit in underscoring the reasoning behind his votes.

Two for Clinton. And begrudgingly, one for Obama.

Posted by: jade_7243 | January 16, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I think we all need to look/analyze what each candidate claims, etc... and beyond what the current media moguls tell us.
There are a lot of parties w. interests involved.

I've been reading www.SAVAGEPOLITICS.com and their article really get you thinking!

Posted by: Elsy | January 16, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

5000 soldiers died are enough to understand that Clinton vote was wrong. Those people can not come anymore.Clinton must stop talking about the WAR and vote concern OBAMA.7000 wounded it's enough.........

Posted by: alain | January 16, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

How can you replace 4000 death and 6000 wounded soldiers ? It's people life Hillary Clinton didn't cry but she was crying when she need votes in New hamphire ....Funding or voting can not change where we are now. Hillary was wrong and Obama was wright......

Posted by: Dic | January 16, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

As a hard core lefty I've never for a second bought that Republican induced b.s. that the way to 'show' opposition for the war is to cut off funding. As Obama said in the Nevada debate about gun control legislation -'that's not going to happen.'
There's a realistic view of what's possible -and then there's the hype.
Obama is my guy -because like him, I'm a realist and can face anyone directly without compromising my core values. One of which is to know what I can realistically expect to happen -and fully understand the difference between a 'great outcome' vs a 'fair' outcome vs 'NO' outcome. More importantly to know the wider implications of a 'good' decision vs a 'bad' decision. . I believe that's why good principled men like Kerry and Conrad in particular, support Obama.

But I'm also dead sure the majority of Americans would have held a 'no funds for the troops vote' in a different and very negative light than the actual idea might suggest. Again realistically, Bush would just as suredly taken the money from someone else. So in fact a 'no funds' vote would have just made the Democrats look worse than they already are - and would have kept voters away from the polls. Until Obama came along -I was one of those disgusted Democratic voters who had no intention to vote for them again.
Surprising the crap out of the Right and the Clintonettes.

Posted by: hazmaq | January 16, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Hilary's vote to authorize the use of military force cannot now be spun to the point she tries to make ("after exhausting all diplomatic...") because it is/was a dumb war regardless of diplomatic efforts/success. Dumb. Bad judgement.
After we were in-country, then support of the troops is good judgement...but Hillary should have known better in the first place and could have followed the lead of other senior Democrats by voting No.

I think that she voted Yes because she was already calculating how her record would look to her hawkish constituents in upstate New York. That is why she would not stipulate years later that her vote was an error... as Edwards did. She is a politician...not a leader.

Hillary is an opportunistic manipulator who has had her eye on the White House for a long, long time.. And, she'll probably get there. The status quo is very hard to dislodge. Too bad. The istitutional Dems are very much like the institutional Reps.

America suffers as a result. Status quo needs to be dislodged...a clean sweep... Congress too.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 16, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

It is clear that beyond saying he wouldn't have voted for the war before he was in the Senate Obama has done nothing specific to end the war.

In fact most likely Cindy Sheehan has done more than he has.

His record is basically identical to Hillary Clinton's and if that is his reason to support him which it seems to be its a pretty sad case.

Posted by: peterdc | January 16, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

As your first comment indicates Barack Obama was clearly against beginning the dumb Iraq war in a speech Oct 2, 2002 while later that same month Hiliary Clinton voted to authorize beginning military action in Iraq. Once US troops were actually in Iraq and fighting a war as has been pointed out it would be irresponsible to not to fund the troops. The key is that Barack Obama had the judgement to see the Dumbness of the war in October 2002 and Hiliary Clinton didn't! Bill and Hillary's tactic of trying to paint Obama's war position as "inconsistent" is "Clinton politics" and is a beautiful case in point as to why we need the fresh air Obama can provide and finally say goodby to the Clintons. I remember years ago Kerry from Nebraska early on called Bill Clinton a "clever liar." Then Bill wondered what the meaning of "is" is, and said "I did not have sex with that women." Goodbye Bill and Hillary.

Posted by: Dumb War | January 16, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I think the record given here shows pretty clearly that Obama has been more anti-war than Hillary all along.

But neither has been as strong as they should have been.

Once the war was on, there were no good solutions. Obama never flip-flopped, but accomodated himself to that reality.

Iraq is spilt milk now. So the real question is: which candidate is less likely to start another war? ie against Iran?

We have two good guides to that:
1. Hillary voted to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, part of that country's Armed Forces, a terrorist organisation. Obama didn't. This vote, calling uniformed soldiers terrorists, set a rash precedent that even worries some in the Pentagon.

2. Above all, we have their actual positions in 2002-3. Obama opposed the war, Clinton supported it. What's more, she never apologised for it, and when she finally did feel a political need to distance herself from it, did so with the transparent lie that she thought the "Authorization for the Use of Military Force" would not be used to invade Iraq, even though whole Army Corps were then on ships bound for the Gulf, and the entire world media was discussing the impending invasion. That must be one of the weakest lies tried on by a US politician in a long time.

There is no amount of wriggling that will get Hillary out from under this original sin: She backed the war, he opposed it. End of story.

Posted by: OD | January 16, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Everyone knows the term "hindsight is 20/20", right? Well, I seem to see a lot of that going on here in people's comments, especially those that blast Hillary for initially aurthorizing the war back in 2002.

If you look at the polls back then, the majority of Americans supported the war based on the false and faulty information AVAILABLE AT THAT TIME. Just take a look at the following article from October 2002:

http://www.cfr.org/publication.html?id=5051

Looking at the figures, it seems that many of the people who don't support the war anymore initially did. I'm sure that includes some of the people now blasting Clinton for doing the same exact thing that everyone does.

True Obama opposed the war in a speech in the Illinois senate at the time, which I find very commendable, but he also states that he's not sure how he would have voted if he had been in the national Sentate at the time.

It's always easier state you're for or against something in a speech versus actually having to vote on it. It's like when you're watching football on TV, everyone looks at a play they don't like and thinks to themselves, "Man, if I were the quarterback, I would have done x or y", but if they were actually put out there on the field, can they really be certain they wouldn't have done the same thing?

I personally don't expect our leaders to be onmiscient or be able to read the future or always make the right decision. I don't think anyone can do that. I mean, yeah, Hillary voted to authorize the war in 2002. But how has she voted since then?

I don't fault anyone for changing their views as new information becomes available. To me, that's called critical thinking, remaining flexible, and keeping your options open. When did those become negatives?

Critical thinking doesn't mean always guessing the right answer or never changing your view on something, it's analyzing the available information and making a decision. It's also knowing when to change and adpat as new information becomes available.

To me, what important is that Hillary has consistently voted against the war ever since 2004. Action is action no matter what she may have initially believed.

I know some of you have also written scathingly in may postings about Hillary supposedly looking at polls and making decisions based on them. If that's true, so what? That, to me, is called listening to the people. I'm not sure when listening to the people suddenly become a crime in a democracy? In fact, isn't that what democracy is all about? I mean, I WANT a president whom I know will listen to the people and pay attention to polls before making a decision.

(And to let you in on a little secret, EVERY politician and campaign out there conducts and look at polls. Every politican and campaign makes adjustments and base messages on them, including Obama. Sorry to burst anyone's bubble out there.)

To me, it's personal ideologicial thinking that got us into the mess we're in as a country, in the first place. George W. Bush has famously said over and over again that he never pays attention to polls and votes solely on his personal convictions (which by the way is not true, he just listens to his core Republican base, even though they're in the minority). Do we really want that? How is that a positive? To me, that's not democracy. That's dictatorship of the few, plain and simple.

Posted by: john_ccy | January 16, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I completely understand Obama's position. While I also initially opposed the war, since the President decided to put AMERICAN TROOPS in there who are our brothers, sisters, cousins, mothers, fathers etc., we have to put the funding in place to make sure they have the support, the nutrition, the safety and the means of defending themselves that they need. However this should not be OPEN-ENDED FUNDING, which is why Obama was justified in voting against later funding bills when there was (and still is) ABSOLUTELY NO EXIT STRATEGY because America has been in Iraq for approx. 5 YEARS NOW!!!

I commend Hillary for admitting she made a mistake but I cannot believe someone as intelligent as she is, bought the pack of lies that the US Government was trying to sell all of us back in 2002/2003.

Posted by: Willa | January 16, 2008 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Wilma:

IF Obama announced today that not only would he no longer vote for any more Iraq war appropriations, but if the President does also not bring the troops home by March 30, 2008, he will encourage and vote to convict on Articles of Impeachment -- that might just convince other politicians to do the same and convince me that he's "consistently" against the Iraq war -- otherwise, it's just happy talk.

Posted by: JakeD | January 16, 2008 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Hillary's big slogan is "Ready for change." Note that she's not promising change. She's just ready to face it, should it ever rear its ugly head.

Posted by: Rubiconski | January 17, 2008 1:46 AM | Report abuse

Hillary calculated losing votes VS winning in Iraq without her. She lost in Iraq and should be fired.

Posted by: Rubiconski | January 17, 2008 1:50 AM | Report abuse

It is surprising to me that no one has yet mentioned the influence the pro-Israeli lobby has on our foreign policy (Iraq and Iran)and is this not the main difference between Obama and Clinton and the way they view the rest of the world?

Posted by: Patricia Gorlier | January 17, 2008 3:01 AM | Report abuse

2005 Nov. 29. Clinton says for first time that she was misled by Bush administration on the Iraq war, and would not have voted to authorize the war in 2002 "based on what we now know." In a letter to her constituents, she said that the White House failed to deliver on assurances that it would exhaust all diplomatic means before going to war.

One very important fact that is missing right here, in light of Hillary's complaint that the White House failed to deliver on assurances that it would exhaust all diplomatic means before going to war is that in addition to voting FOR authorizing the war in Iraq, Clinton also voted AGAINST the Levin Amendment to that resolution which would have required Bush to conduct vigorous diplomacy at the UN and would have also required a seperate Congressional authorization to unilaterally invade Iraq. I believe her failure to support the Levin Amendment invalidates her "excuse" for voting for the resolution which finally came 3 years too late.

I appreciate the gathering of the factual information that gives us who said what; when they said it, and in what context the remarks were made. This "factual" presentation clearly indicates that the Clintons have been resorting to the old Karl Rove tactic that George W Bush used so effectively against John Kerry; taking statements out of context and using "half-truths" to distort what was really said and alter voters perception of the opposing candidates true stand on important issues. When a candidate goes to such lengths to lie about their opponent (especially one in their own party primary) I fail to believe any of the other claims that candidate makes concerning her own positions based on her willingness to lie about her opponent.

Posted by: diksagev | January 17, 2008 3:23 AM | Report abuse

Bill Clinton has gone to great lengths to portray Senator Obama as "inconsistent" concerning his stand against the Iraq War since the latter part of the campaign in New Hamshire. Not only was the tone of his attack entirely unappropriate for an ex-President or any third party who is not (themself) a candidate for election; it was a calculated LIE!

Since Mr. Clinton has been so vocal about trying to tell the media how to do there job and is suggesting subjects and specific questions that he feels the media should ask Senator Obama, I'd like to suggest a question that the media address to the former President. I believe it would be entirely proper to present this information that provides the factual account of what was said (when) and the context in which the remarks were made. Then I would like to see Bill Clinton asked why he continues to knowingly spread lies about a sitting United States Senator and candidate for President.

Posted by: diksagev | January 17, 2008 3:32 AM | Report abuse

I have been against this war from the beginning, and have stated several times I thought it was for Oil/Money. The FACTS have proven I was right in that Iraq was never a threat to the US in any way, and the same holds true even today. The US did not go after those that were responsible for 9/11, but choose rather to LIE and cost the lives/limbs of thousands of innocent people, not to mention the cost to our national treasure, for the sake of money/profits for a select few.

Posted by: lylepink | January 17, 2008 8:06 AM | Report abuse

diksagev and lylepink:

You will have to be a bit more specific as to your allegation of "lie(s)". IF Obama announced today that not only would he no longer vote for any more Iraq war appropriations, but if the President does also not bring the troops home by March 30, 2008, he will encourage and vote to convict on Articles of Impeachment -- that might just convince other politicians to do the same and convince me that he's "consistently" against the Iraq war -- anything is just happy talk.

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

JakeD-

Despite your claims, all trying to impeach Bush will do is polarize the electorate and create a huge controversy, not to mention put Cheney of all people in the President's chair even if it actually IS successful. All of this is, in fact, counterproductive to getting us out of Iraq.

The reason Obama is my candidate is because he consistently shows good judgment and careful consideration of issues--better judgment than I have. I was one of the many people who took the Bush administration, and Powell in particular, at their word that Iraq was dangerous. And I was wrong.

But Obama was right. He opposed the war DESPITE all the propaganda the Bush administration was putting out at the time.

Now once we got into the country, and had thoroughly bombed the snot out of it's businesses and infrastructure, and lured Al-Queda into the country to raise hell, then Obama began voting for the spending bills, because it was all OUR RESPONSIBILITY. Like it or not, it was the U.S. that royally screwed up their country, and we OWED it to all the people we had killed in the name of words like Freedom and Liberty to give Iraq a chance to get back on it's feet. Now that they have taken that chance and seem to be more interested in fighting each other, at least as long as we're around keeping their country together, it's time to start getting out of there.

Obama recognized all of that, and has voted in concert with those views. But he also recognized, from the very beginning, that this horrible situation was a definite possibility, and that the case against Iraq WAS NOT strong enough to justify that risk, and he is the only major candidate to do so.

His good judgment on this issue and others, as well his obvious dedication, whatever the media or his opponents might like to claim, toward a different brand of politics and government are why I voted for him in Iowa, and will do so again in a heartbeat should he recieve the Democratic nomination.

Posted by: Stu | January 17, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Stu:

Ah ha!!! So, then it's not about "consistency", at least you admit it! Also, if you are that worried about Cheney being President, impeach them both and vote for Cheney's conviction right after Bush's. You really think Bush would not withdraw the troops, rather than risk removal from office? If so, do you also think that a President Pelosi would be "counterproductive to getting us out of Iraq"? If so, you could keep impeaching until SOMEONE got the message (or, at least, until you ran out of enough Representatives for a quorum ; )

P.S. -- I like how you throw in Obama being the only "major" candidate to do so -- that way you can keep igniring Dennis Kucinich and/or Ron Paul -- I'm sorry to tell you, but Barack Obama will NOT be sworn in as President on January 20, 2009.

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

If you're going to compare Clinton and Obama with respect to Iraq, I'd think what they'll say they'll do as President would be, well, important. Apparently Dobbs doesn't think so. But you can go to www.barackobama.com/issues/iraq, and www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/iraq, and see the difference for yourself.

The upshot is that while both promise to START WITHDRAWING troops shortly after becoming President, Obama also promises (with a couple of minor caveats) to FINISH the withdrawal in fairly short order. Clinton DOES NOT.

Many people would consider that to be a pretty big difference. Dobbs doesn't think it's worth mentioning to the WaPo readership.

Dobbs is an idiot.

Posted by: rt42 | January 17, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Folks the United States is not about to exit Iraq.One candidate wants to leave,all the others,Democrates and Republicans both are making money from this so called war.

Posted by: B.Kuhl | January 18, 2008 4:28 AM | Report abuse

Obama's 2003 comment on the $87 supplemental, while not a promise to never fund the war, certainly implied that he would vote against war funding to stand up to President Bush.

"I said no unequivocally because, at a certain point, we have to say 'No' to George Bush," Obama said. "If we keep on getting steamrolled, we are not going to stand a chance."

Posted by: tear stained eye | January 18, 2008 4:56 AM | Report abuse

The timeline and story are well done, however, the history of the Iraq war can be traced back to at least '98 - a fact that's often forgotten. Why go back that far? If for no other reason than Hillary claims "experience" associated with her husband's Administration. So let's consider what happened during that time.

The newly formed Project for a New American Century aimed to unseat Saddam. See: http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm . In fact, the Neocons clearly stated they wanted to reshape the Middle East, beginning with removing Saddam.

The pressure that group and others exerted on Bill's Administration eventually led to H.R. 4655 on Oct., 31, '98 - a bill specifically calling for regime change in Iraq. Then in Dec., '98, Bill approved Opration Desert Fox - a bombing mission in Iraq for the purpose of unseating Saddam.

Had that successfuly happened then, wouldn't America have been at war with Iraq? And wouldn't a sizable number of troops been sent over there? And then, wouldn't a Civil War occur just as it did by '04, or certainly no later than '05?

Why's this relevant? Because by '02, when the case was building for war, it wasn't only a matter of the publicly presented "intelligence" accusing Saddam of cultivating WMDs. It had been a long standing effort by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and many others then at the helm who had previously been PNAC members aiming for regime change.

The one key difference? The Pearl Harbor-like event mentioned in the PNAC's mission statement - 9/11. In fact those familiar with the strenuous efforts by the Neocons, especially William Kristol's writing in The Weekly Standard, should have realized as early as Sep., 12, 2001, that regime change in Iraq would be, barring some unimaginable obstacle, an inevitability.

Generally, however, the public was unaware of the great push by the Neocons to be intensively involved in the Middle East, depite the fact that the arguments for doing so were presented for all to see. The media, with few exceptions, ignored that campaign and focused on the arguments supported by "evidence" of WMDs.

What Obama and Edwards knew about the Neocon campaign is not clear at this point. But it probably wasn't as much as the Clintons knew via direct experience. Hillary's often criticized for not having read the NIE before giving W the power to pursue the preemptive war. In all likelihood she realized the underlying motive and either agreed in principle with it, or felt that it wasn't going to be stopped.

Until she's asked with the degree of elaboration requisite for a comprehensive answer, her understanding at the time will remain an enigma. As far as Bill goes, it's more than a tad ironic he's hounding Obama about his anti-war stance when he, basically, capitulated to the Neocons in his day and fired the first volley in the war to unseat Saddam.

Posted by: arty kraft | January 18, 2008 5:55 AM | Report abuse

JakeD:

No, it is not about consistency. It's about "judgment." It's about knowing what the morally and logically correct path is after careful consideration of the facts. That is what we need as a president. Any idiot can be consistent in holding onto his belief, however ridiculous it may become. Bush's obsession with Iraq is proof enough of that.

It's not a matter of Bush refusing to withdraw them, it's the fact that there aren't enough votes to do it, and further, the war itself, thanks to Edwards and Clinton and the others who voted yes, isn't illegal. If the Dems had enough votes to force the issue, they would have done so back in May.

Your proposal basically suggests sacrificing untold political capital and bipartisan goodwill for what will, at best, shorten Bush's term by three or four months. It's not worth it, and might very well trigger a backlash in the November elections.

As far as ignoring Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, I do, but not because it's convenient for Obama. I ignore them for other reasons- namely that Kucinich has not demonstrated that he has the leadership ability to affect change, and Paul because he's got issues with the first amendment.

As far as your prediction, I hope and believe that you are wrong.

Posted by: Stu | January 18, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I thoroughly agree with the wise and carefully-researched comments of arty kraft.

Before Bush Jr was even elected, PNAC had written that "while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

PNAC included not only Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, but also Cheney, Khalilzad and a host of other Iraq war plotters.

Nobody was more aware of PNAC's goals and activities than the Clintons, subjects of an endless PNAC pressure campaign to which they ultimately folded.

The Clintons supported the Iraq war not because they feared Iraqi WMD or an Iraqi 911 link, but because they were fundamentally partners in a conservative-led project of US military imperialism.

Posted by: Bud0 | January 18, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Stu:

Thank you for your response -- at least we agree that Obama has NOT been consistent" -- and, yes, I understand the point you are making about Bush being "foolishly" consistent and well as political expediency: "It's not worth [being consistent], and might very well trigger a backlash in the November elections." That's all I was trying to point out actually.

God Bless.

Posted by: JakeD | January 18, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"and well as political expediency" = "as well as [your point about] political expediency"

Those are simply the realities of the real world -- I don't fault Obama from doing the politically expedient thing -- just don't FALSELY claim you are being "consistent" that's all.

Posted by: JakeD | January 18, 2008 10:59 PM | Report abuse

JakeD

Personally, I was against this war from the start--I knew, as I'm sure you did, that it was going to be a huge disaster that cost this country billions while making us far less safe by increasing dramatically the number of people willing to kill themselves to kill us.

But once we're in there, we cant just preciptously pull out and leave this huge power vacuum and a massive civil war, essentially allowing terrorists and Iran hegemony over the region. To do so would destroy any credibility and influence we have left in the Middle East, damage our allies in the region immeasurably, etc.

Further, we can't just cut off funding for troops in the field, leaving them without pay, munitions, fuel, etc.

To suggest otherwise is naive in my opinion.

The fact of the matter is, if people like you and me who think the war is a disaster want to prevent this kind of blunder in the future, we had better win the damn White House back. And to do that, you have to promote the candidacy of someone who has a prayer of winning a national election. I think we both know that neither Paul nor Kucinich have a prayer of doing that, no matter how commendable some of their ideas might be. I remind you that if Ralph Nader and his moronic supporters had thrown their support to Gore as they should have, we wouldn't be in this mess to begin with.

Looking forward to your response.

Posted by: akminstral | January 21, 2008 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Michael Dobbs says "Obama was referring specifically to the $87 billion request, not future requests." Then, I watched the video so that I can NOW FACT CHECK DOBBS.

Obama did NOT simply say he would not have voted for the $87 billion. Dobbs takes that Obama comment out of context. On the video Obama goes much further explaining his reasoning process on funding the war stating that we "have to say NO to George Bush because IF WE KEEP ON GETTING STEAMROLLED WE DON'T STAND A CHANCE." The latter context was PROSPECTIVE as in KEEP ON GETTING STEAM ROLLED MEANS FROM NOW ON INTO HE FUTURE.

Obama's position on preventing future Bush steamrolling is WE HAVE TO SAY NO to Bush to prevent him future steam rolling on the war. Totally rospective and TELLING since Obama was stating in crystal clear language that he would SAY NO (the subject of the comment being FUNDING) in the future to stop Bush.

Dobbs cherry picked quote destroys the clear prospective context of Obamas virtual pledge he would vote NO IN THE FUTURE TO STOP BUSH's STEAMROLLING OF THE WAR all in the context of saying NO TO FUNDING.

Posted by: Steve T. | January 22, 2008 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone, anyone realize that Obama is not denying that he did in fact vote the bill that included both a time line for withdrawal and funding? Hillary did same. And just like Hillary, he's voted against any further funding bill. Now, does anyone know that the lone funding bill that both Obama and Hillary voted for was for funding that soldiers badly needed? Equipment badly needed to keep the soldiers safe as a temporary measure while Congress and Senate worked for a withdrawal. Humvees were badly needed. The very soldiers whom Hillary's vote had placed in harms' way. If you read the article from ARMYTIMES, you'll see that the soldiers were badly in need for equipment. The plan was to give Bush the money in exchange for a timeline for withdrawal. But Bush vetoed the bill.
http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/05/gns_humvees_070507/

Posted by: ftroit | January 22, 2008 10:14 PM | Report abuse

akminstral:

Thank you for your post, but I'm not sure if the following is quite the response you were looking forward to ; )

Hypothetically, if you were really against this war from the start, and you were also a U.S. Senator, I would assume you would have voted against the initial authorization, right? You would never have missed a single vote against said war, even if "it didn't matter to the final vote count", right? You would stand on your principles, right?

As for subsequent funding, it's not "naive" to vote against that as long as you are prepared to face the consequences -- if Bush refused to bring home the troops, then do everything in your power to get him impeached and thrown out of office -- that's what I would have done if I were a U.S. Senator and against this war from the start.

I, however, am not a U.S. Senator and against this war -- Barack Obama is.

Posted by: JakeD | January 23, 2008 11:11 PM | Report abuse

OK people. Barack was against the war before he was a 'US' Senator. He was an Illinois Senator when the war began, and nobody in the 'US' Senate cared what he thought. The Illinois Senate did not get to vote on whether to start a war.

He was against the war from the start, and said so continuously. He did not vote to jerk the funding from the troops because we've already learned what that does to our troops in past wars. He gave time for Bush to come up with a plan for withdrawal, and Hillary came on board with Obama's point of view.

That's just the facts and no spin about voting records is going to change it.

Posted by: Dan | January 30, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Your article is a LIE.

In June 2006 obama gave a speech on the senate floor in which he stated he was against timelines. So please correct you spin about him remaining consistent. He has not and you should list the truth especially in an artilce entitled fact checker.

"A hard and fast, arbitrary deadline for withdrawal offers our commanders in the field, and our diplomats in the region, insufficient flexibility to implement that strategy" Fact check that.

Posted by: David | February 12, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

This support the troops argument is absurd. Let's have a pity party for the U.S. troops riding around in humvee's with machine guns raping young girls and eating fritos. The Viet Kong hardly had any funding and they won in the end because they had devotion and determination. It not like if we stop funding the war service men are going to die of starvation in a lonely desert. Stop funding the war and the war will end.

Posted by: Amelia | February 27, 2008 5:19 AM | Report abuse

Please explain this:

If Sen Obama was so against the war in Iraq, why did he go to Connecticut a few years back to show support for pro iraq invasion Joe Lieberman when Lieberman was being opposed by a very popular, very strong anti-Iraq war candidiate Ned Lamont? Sen Obama called Joe Lieberman one of his mentors and said that he would really like to see him in the White House again.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/02/nyregion/02lieberman.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
The more I learn about Sen Obama the more astounded I am as to how our public has been duped. There is no way I would ever consider voting for him now.

Posted by: Teddy21 | March 18, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how many people will continue to call our occupation of Iraq a war. When does a war end? I thought a war was over when someone surrenders. I thought they pulled Sadam out of a hole and hanged him. Did that not end the war? Who are we at war with? When the Japanese and Germans surrendered and the leaders were executed we counted the war as being over. Now we did work to rebuild the aggressor countries, but that was under the auspices of humanitarian aid.

This country cannot be continue to be lead by the nose by those that suggest an end to the occupation in Iraq is equivalent to surrender. The war in Iraq is over. Congress may need to declare a war against Afhganistan, since wars are against other nations, not political groups. But the whole lexicon being used is wrong. This wrong lexicon leads to the wrong conclusions. We need to allow the Iraq people to retake ownership of their country, unless we want to make it the 51st state. We need to be clear that our humanitarian aid will be fully available to the financial extent approved by congress, but any military aid will be at cost, with payment due monthly. After all, why should we crow about how the Iraqi budget has a surplus when we are drowning in red ink.

How we got here really matters little. A withdrawal in needed. This will lead to a reduction in OUR cost and perhaps even a reduction in violence. We can then focus our efforts on the real enemy, Al Qaeda and then set up the paradigm that says we will attack any Al Qaeda outpost with or without permission from the host country. Our focus should be Al Qaeda, not Iraq. Obama has this part right.

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Posted by: iakrgo zkneyr | April 16, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

I am not an American but like any citizen of the world am affected by the state of American politics. I think that its ridiculous to ask anyone to maintain the same position on the war from 2002 until now. Any war and particularly the current Iraq was is a very complex issue which changes over time.
In 2002 I personally was very loudly opposed to the war. But obviously troops were sent, there was a war, and it was a monumental stuff up. George Bush sent troops into a war where he didn't even understand the political or religious context of the place.
As other people here have said once the war was already happening you have to try to do the right thing. Like cleaning up the mess that has been made. Ensuring the political stability of the country and the safety of the troops and civilians.

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