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Posted at 5:10 PM ET, 01/ 7/2008

Obama and Iraq

By Washington Post Editors

5:10 p.m.

I just came from a Bill Clinton town hall meeting in Peterborough. The news nugget out of the meeting was his attack on Barack Obama for alleged inconsistency over the Iraq war. The former president reminded his audience that Obama had made a big deal out of a 2002 speech opposing the invasion of Iraq. According to Clinton, opposition to the war in Iraq has become "the central logic" behind the Obama presidential campaign.

Clinton then expressed surprise that Obama has been allowed to get away with a statement in 2004, "at the Democratic Convention," saying that there was "not much difference" between him and George W. Bush on Iraq. He also quoted Obama as saying that he "did not know" how he would have voted on the now-contentious 2002 Senate resolution authorizing military action in Iraq, had he been in the Senate at the time.

The way Clinton said all this, it sounded as if these statements were part of Obama's big speech to the convention, which marked his introduction to big-time politics. In fact, they are somewhat misleading snippets from newspaper interviews that Obama gave before the convention.

As the keynote speaker, Obama was trying to be loyal to the Democratic nominees, John Kerry and John Edwards, both of whom had voted in favor of the war authorization resolution, along with Hillary Clinton. In an interview reported by the New York Times on July 26, on the first day of the convention, he reiterated his opposition to the war but declined to criticize Kerry and Edwards, saying 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."

(The Clinton campaign left out that important last sentence when it e-mailed reporters with backup material for the inconsistency claim, which was also made by Hillary Clinton in the televised debate Saturday night.)

In an interview published in the Chicago Tribune the following day (July 27,2004), Obama said that he would have voted "no" on the Senate resolution. But he said he was not in favor of "pulling out now." On the issue of whether to stay in Iraq [in 2004], he said "there's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage." The context of his remarks makes clear that he was not referring to the original decision to go into Iraq, but the question of whether to remain.

His views on whether to stay in Iraq have changed, of course, as he now advocates a phased withdrawal.

By Washington Post Editors  | January 7, 2008; 5:10 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama, Candidate Watch, Iraq  
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Comments

The central logic behind the Obama campaign is that he is the candidate of change who can actually get it done by building consensus from all interested parties.

Trying to stick Hillary's Iraq vote on Obama isn't going to work. Bzzzzt. Try again.

Posted by: William W. Wexler | January 7, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Have the Clintons no shame? Are they so desperate to regain the best public housing in the country that they would stoop to the basest of distortions? Doesn't a former president, drawing a pension from the public, owe the country better? I struggle to comprehend the lust for power that must drive this power couple to gain at all costs. Have they no respect for their colleagues and the party that gave them so much?
Bill Clinton, shame on you with your patchwork of half-truths that add up to damnable lies. Hillary, your tears that do not flow and your Lady Macbeth moans only unmask your depravity. THe thirty-five years we have heard so much about have been absent all great successes for anyone but Hillary. To repay in kind, anyone but Clinton!

Posted by: Rarignac | January 7, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

So the guy who in a deposition debated what the meaning of "is" is, is now saying that another candidate is trying to obfuscate the truth. Simply mind blowing.

Posted by: JC | January 7, 2008 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I think Hillary has been held to a different standard as all women who find themselves competing with men often do. The obvious siloation has actually resulted in my moving my vote over to Hillary from Edwards. I really wish a journalist would at least take a look at this. I did hear one reporter say they didn't consider Hillary a woman which was interesting.

Posted by: Jamie | January 7, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Rarignac---this country is hopeless with someone like yourself who knows nothing but senseless and baseless personal attacks. You have no respect for this country by slandering a former president and his wife. even if you don't support them, you should not commit such despicable acts of hate. you should be ashamed of yourself. You are so hateful that you are no different than those religious extremists. Shame on you! you are in league of people who are driving this country to nowhere.

Posted by: lochukung | January 7, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Disintegration is an ugly, hard thing to watch. I think Hilary Clinton is a excellent Senator. I think she should stay in the Senate, get re-elected over and over until she runs the Senate. There's no shame in being a great Senator. Go (back to the Senate) Hilary!!

Posted by: thebobbob | January 7, 2008 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Its ironic to me that the Clinton camp is trying to claim Senator Obama was wrong on Iraq. I recommend reading Obama's 2002 speech on Iraq for more information on his feelings about the war:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Barack_Obama's_Iraq_Speech

By most objective accounts, Obama has incredible foreign policy judgment, and many believe he has been on the right side of nearly every big issue in foreign policy on which he has weighed in. He has one the support of most of Washington's foreign policy elite, and many of Bill Clinton's own foreign policy team including his national security advisor Anthony Lake. Others, such as former joint chief of staff General Merrill McPeak have campaigned for Obama as having the skill and experience necessary to make important foreign policy and national security decisions. (see http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/27/general-joins-obama-in-iowa/)

I'm disappointed to see such remarks coming from President Bill Clinton, someone I used to admire more than I do today. He seems more intent on winning more time in the White House than he is on telling the truth. I hope the Clinton's find more gracious and principled ways of advocating their views, or bow out of the race before I lose respect for them completely.

Posted by: maq1 | January 7, 2008 6:23 PM | Report abuse

We think you've got this right, but please provide links to the sources (where possible) so that people can see them for themselves.

Posted by: Economists for Obama | January 7, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I have been impressed by Obama for years. I was hesitant but willing to listen once be began his run for the Presidency. I have been disappointed. How can he state as a fact how he would have voted on something he was NOT present for? He stated himself that he didn't have access to the intelligence reports for that vote and the emotional state of the Congress is not something anyone would really understand unless they were there. This has been the mainstay of his platform and I see it as a copout - 20/20 hindsight. I, too, want to see change in Washington but I temper that with the reality of the world and how it should be handled. Senator Obama does not have the necessary experience yet. He may be the future of the Democratic party but it's not his time yet. We need change but not a complete overhaul. Richardson, Biden, maybe even Clinton but not yet Obama when he needs to stand on a statement of something he could not know for a certainty. Senator Obama needs time, his charisma is not enough to stand on when dealing with the fanatics of our world and our country can not afford to have a President who needs to learn the ropes.

Posted by: Lorraine | January 7, 2008 6:41 PM | Report abuse

This story helps one remember why so many people hate the Clintons. Raw, ruthless ambition, no scruples.

Posted by: Seytom | January 8, 2008 12:06 AM | Report abuse

> Senator Obama does not have the necessary experience yet.
> He may be the future of the Democratic party but it's not
> his time yet. We need change but not a complete overhaul.
> Richardson, Biden, maybe even Clinton ...

People say this as though the President operates in a vacuum,
devoid of advice & resources with all this wonderful experience
being advanced by those who seek some kind of edge. It's too
bad one can't know what sort of administrative team will come.

Look at the stinking lies from BOTH Clintons: THAT is much
of their "experience"--nothing novel, there, sadly. You want
more of that? --more of the deep vestment of monied interests
that they have, of establishment controls? I don't.

The "emotional state of Congress" for the Iraq war vote was one
of gross negligence--not universally shared, as I recall John
Dingel stating how he was refused classified information to back
up Cheney's lies and thus refused to assent to the folly.
Ms Clinton has been said to have not even read the reports.
The world suffers their jingoistic carelessness. Frankly, it all
had quite a bad smell to many, but the press was cowed (and
increasingly too beholden to a few owners), and the Congress
caved. Bill Maher had the right words to power about how
UN-"cowardly" the terrorists had been, but he got bumped,
and later the Dixie Chicks also were given Right Wing crap
from all the chest-thumpers wanting their great Christian
nation to burn the foreigners to hell.

And so far no one has been held accountable: Wolfowitz got a
plum World Bank job, Bremer, Tenet, & Franks got medals(!!),
Rumsfeld kept at it 'til too late even for Republican health,
Gonzales ran incredibly long, and Cheney still pulls the strings
and has yet to admit lying about the Iraq-AlQueda connection.

Posted by: Dan | January 8, 2008 1:33 AM | Report abuse

A point not often mentioned, is that Obama REMOVED his famous 2002 speech from his website until a black group pressured him to put it back up.

Posted by: 1950democrat | January 8, 2008 4:24 AM | Report abuse

This is rich. About Obama on the Iraq war:

he reiterated his opposition to the war but declined to criticize Kerry and Edwards, saying 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."

So Obama tells us the 2002-3 Senate intelligence reports must have been important.

Dem Senators who read them, including I presume Kerry, Edwards, and Clinton, were quite fond of complaining when the Bush '04 team pointed out they saw "the same intelligence" the President did when authorizing the war. The retort was (correctly) that the President receives more detailed info than the summary version Senators get, and (incorrectly) that the detailed version had "caveats" which cast doubt on the firmness of the intelligence.

The bipartisan review panel, with former Sen. Charles Robb (D) cochairing, that examined the Senate summary intel reports tell us that the detailed reports - those only the White House saw - were at least as ominous as the summary reports. That is, the caveats and background excluded from the summary reports on balance only added to the case for war. Senators who voted for war thus did so based on equally or less ominous summary reports.

So there you have it, Obama with his head in the sand, and Kerry, Edwards, and Clinton pushing a phony story and somehow getting a receptive audience in the MSM. And the loony left comprising most of the posters to these boards.

Posted by: The Angry One | January 8, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Of course, Bill is going to say anything to get his wife elected.

Obama had to tone down his anti-war rhetoric in support of Kerry/Edwards so that they can get elected.

In 2004, a speedy pullout probably would have created mass Civil War in Iraq. Although I wouldn't have cared, it's something politicians care about.

Posted by: RobK | January 8, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

All, comments that personally disparage Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton and others do not serve the best interests of this important dialog about the future of our nation. It is in the best traditions of our country to rise above the temptation for base level commentary and substitute that for reasoned discourse and fair intellectual exchange which may help to keep all of our polity better informed and therefore better able to be a steward of our greatest of responsibilities in this republic, the Vote. I implore all who participate in these blogs to keep the commentary civil and respectful of others making commentary and of those about whom the commentary is directed.

Posted by: Factwatcher | January 8, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Speech or not, Obama said what Bill Clinton stated. To the "shame on Clinton" bunch, truth is truth. Obama could make statements such as that because he didn't have to make a public choice, he was not a part of the Federal government. Instead he attacks someone who had to make a choice with a vote that was visable to everyone.

Obama has nothing but hope to sell because he has nothing else. He disdains experience and trys to rely on what he would want us to believe he might do. The shame should be on Obama but attacking those who have the job training to make decisions at the time needed. He hasn't been there or done that. I don't care about what he might have done, I only want to know what he can do and how he thinks he can do it. Hope doesn't work alone and shame on Obama for not showing how he proposes to help it along.

Posted by: ken | January 11, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I think just about everyone on this post needs to "really check" into Obama's background and "facts" about him and then see if you really want this person in the White House.

Posted by: Marlena | January 11, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

On comments by ken, a half truth is not truth! It does not behove a former president to spread half truths on the eve of NH election, with what I may add appeared to be a very righteous indignation, where the opponent has no chance to respond.

Posted by: GN | January 13, 2008 8:21 AM | Report abuse

To those who say Obama's 2002 opposition was politically cost-free because he wasn't in the Senate: he was right in the middle of his Senate primary against numerous other candidates. He didn't actually have to vote on the war as a U.S. Senator at that time, true, but in that speech he was telling his views to the voters who would decide whether he got to the Senate at all. He wasn't just some pundit popping off without having to take responsibility for what he said.

Posted by: LM | January 13, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who reads and digests this article, will come to the conclusion that despite the attempted verbal trickery by Bill, and the ever changing situational responses of Hillary, (I voted for the war but I didn't), it was clearly the intention of both Clintons to knowingly present a partial and therefore false position of Obama's position on the Iraq war. Slowly but surely, the Clintons are fullfilling the phophecies of Dick Morris who have consistently painted them as devious political operators who would say anything they believe would gain them political advantage over their opponents. I think the Clintons believe that most of us would not even bother to verify the veracity of their statements. It is sad to see a former President who at least on leaving the White House had some public respect (not in matters affecting his personal life), politically on some social issues, now having to have the public examine more deeply the character issues the republicans constantly lamented during his presidency. More recently, Bill Clinton made a statemnt on the Iraq war that was clearly at odds with what he had said just prior to the war. I do not remember seeing any explanations from him when his previously inconsistent comments were pointed out.
Sadly, over the past 3 months I have reached the conclusion that almost anything I hear coming from the Clintons needs to be analysed carefully since inevitably, their words are almost always uderpinned by some self-serving motive.

Posted by: John Sears | January 13, 2008 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Bill and Hillrevisionary deserve each other for certain.

The people of the United States don't any longer.

Most disheartening is how Billaryvision thinks the electorate is not hearing what they've said, and should believe what they are saying now.

Is Karl Rove working for HRC, or did she really fall for the tricks in KR's stolen playbook?

Posted by: kravitz | January 13, 2008 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: lochukung | January 7, 2008 06:00 PM
"Rarignac---this country is hopeless with someone like yourself . . . You have no respect for this country by slandering a former president and his wife . . . you should not commit such despicable acts of hate. you should be ashamed of yourself. You are so hateful that you are no different than those religious extremists. Shame on you! you are in league of people who are driving this country to nowhere."
_________________________________________
What the heck were you reading?!?!
Where is the hate? The entire article is pointing out the FACT that the Clinton's are full of half-truths(lies)and will say anything to get elected.

I think it is people like you, with half-open eyes and closed minds that have been ruining this country for generations! Wake up and think for yourself.

If it looks like a rat, acts like a rat, and talks like a rat . . . it's a rat.

Posted by: DFS | January 14, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I have been a fan of Bill Clinton and his wife for years. He was not a perfect president, because there is no such thing. I did feel he tried to do the right thing for this country. I'll admit I never really investigated him or his wife's record until this election. I was on the fence between her and Obama until I witnessed their behavior in this campaign. It has been despicable. That then prompted me to do more research and I'm very dissapointed. Obama has the power to inspire this nation to pull itself up by it's boot straps. The government can't do it alone. There has to be a leader that will inspire poor people to obtain a better life for them and their families, but provide resources from the government to help them do so (funding for education, healthcare, etc.). Our economy cannot handle years of ignoring our lower and middle class without providing means for them to contribute more to this country and make a better life for their families. If something radical is not done, we will find ourselves in a state of civil war right here in America. Obama seems to be the only one with the knowledge and the passion to handle foreign policy and fight for the common man here in this country. There is not doubt in my mind that he should be running this country.

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Mr. Obama claims to have such astute judgment that despite having absolutely no military background he "knew" that invading Iraq was a 'huge strategic blunder'. With such 'astute' strategic judgment , how did he fail to exercise this same great judgment and intelligence when he held his organizational meeting for his presidential campaign in the basement of a convicted terrorist, Willian Ayres, who said after the US was attacked on September 11, 2001 that he regretted not killing more people and settting off more bombs when he was a member of the 'weather underground'. Also, if his judgment is so 'Phenomenol', why did he keep Reverend on his campaign staff for more than a year after he admits he knew about his anti-American and racists remarks from an article he seen in Rolling Stone magazine( as seen on Anderson Cooper 360). If his 'strategic' judgment was so great, how could he have failed to recongnize his own 'strategic' blunder by not immediately disavowing this man's statements and removing him from his campaign staff. Further, how could he not recognize the 'tactical' mistake of being more upset about Reverend Wright's comment that he only disavowed him because he was a politician, than saying he could "no more disown this man than my own grandmother". Apparently, Mr. Obama was more offended by Reverend Wright's disrespect of him, than his hate-filled, anti American and racist remarks. If you add up his lack of judgment both in his actions concerning Mr. Ayres and Reverend Wright, as well as the wisdom of being so closely associated with people of their sort and his wife Michele's comment about being proud of her country for the first time in her life, and you have to wonder where his supposed supperior judgment was on these matters. If Mr. Obama executes the same kind of poor judgment as President as he has in his political life so far, we will surely be in big trouble.

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