Sunday, March 23, 2008

Clinton vs. Obama on Iraq: When It Counted.

Sen. Hillary Clinton on October 10, 2002, stating her intentions to vote for the Iraq War Resolution.

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al-Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence in his involvement in the terrible events of September the 11th, 2001."

"Even though the resolution before the Senate is not as strong as I would like in requiring the diplomatic route first, and placing highest priority on a simple, clear requirement for unlimited inspections, I will take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a U.N. resolution, and will seek to avoid war if at all possible.

"Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely -- and therefore war less likely -- and because a good faith effort by the United States even if it fails will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause, I have concluded after careful and serious consideration that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation."

"I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York, who have seen all too closely the consequences of last year's terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned the risks of not acting.

"I know that I am."


Eight days previously, Illinois state senator and aspiring United States senatorial candidate Barack Obama gave a speech as well.

"Now let me be clear. I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man, a ruthless man, a man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent or direct threat to the United States, and in concert with the international community he can be contained -- until in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

"I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences."

"You want to fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda..."


Now, for a third opinion on the Iraq War Resolution from that time by a Democratic senator, here is Sen. Robert Byrd.

"I think the American people want somebody who stands for something. They are tired of this wishy washy going along, and saying 'We've got to get it over' and 'We've got to put it behind us'. We're not going to put this thing behind us. The President has chosen to make this the battlefield. Iraq. He has chosen to make that the battlefield. His administration has chosen to do that. His chief political advisor Karl Rove advised the Republican members of the national committee in January to do that."

"Mr. President, this is plain and simple a blank check given to the President of the United States. I won't touch it."


  1. This is a remarkable address by Obama. I had never heard it, and it correctly anticipates and summarizes five years of war criticism that had yet to happen.

    That said: The part of your post about Hillary could have been pulled directly from any right-wing site in 2004 -- just change the name "Clinton" to "Kerry."

    Remember that some very worthy Democratic Senators -- among them Tom Harkin, John Kerry, Clinton, and Chuck Schumer -- made a choice to give the benefit of the doubt where it was ultimately undeserved. They did so because of what was in their heart, or they did so because they (wrongly) thought it would be politically advantageous.

    Either way, I am not ready to villify them for this choice, despite the existence of men and women who, in retrospect, made a far better choice. To do so echoes the criticisms we saw in 2004, and will see again this summer if Clinton is the nominee.

    I will vote with my heart on April 22nd, but I will do so quietly, and without providing one tiny scrap of assistance to the other party.

    [A side note: if this were a GOP speech, wouldn't we be questioning how the video was "lost", and there is no actual record that this was the speech that was given? ;) ]

  2. "That said: The part of your post about Hillary could have been pulled directly from any right-wing site in 2004 -- just change the name "Clinton" to "Kerry.""

    Yes! That was the problem with Kerry. That is the problem with many politicians. But not all of them.

    Democratic Senators Boxer, Conrad, Corzine, Durbin, Feingold, Kennedy, Leahy, Levin and Byrd all voted AGAINST this war resolution, as did many others. The final tally among Democrats was 21-29.

    The comments of Sen. Byrd speak to the elephant in the room in October 2002 ... the midterm elections, a fact which clouded the thinking of several when it came to 'trusting the President', and how best to manage 'the fires of hell'.

  3. I agree more with Bram than with Dan, I think.

    Dan says: "They did so because of what was in their heart, or they did so because they (wrongly) thought it would be politically advantageous."

    I agree with clause 2 of that sentence, but call utter bullshit on the first. I do not believe that any Democrat (other than Lieberman, who was still technically a Democrat at that point) trusted George Bush one iota. They voted for the the war because they were scared to run for election having voted against it. And, by the way, they got crushed in the next two congressional elections.

    I think the war is less of an issue in the primary than it is in the general, actually. I think most democrats (not those on the internet) have forgiven those Democrats who have voted for the war but now say they would try to get us out sooner (however disingenuous that might be). However, I think it is the key issue against McCain. Obama can turn McCain's perceived strength into a weakness, whereas Hillary can't.

  4. Bram: Yes, 29-21 is correct. My point: It's not acceptable, in my view, to use this vote of the 21 as a litmus test to finger "bad" Democrats or "old school" politicians. I have great respect for many of the 21, particularly Harkin.

    I guess I don't quibble with your point, but I find the increasingly negative tone between H and O supporters extremely distasteful, and a harbinger of bad things to come. As Bill says, the GOP falls in line; the Dems fall in love. But the Dems also fall apart -- and find a new way to do so each time. I can already see this year's follies taking shape. I'm just sayin'.

    Gobo: Perhaps I misunderstand. Are you saying it's disingenuous to vote "aye," but now want to get out? I'd say this is quite a reasonable position, given the appalling way the war was executed -- how warnings were disregarded, dissent squelched, intelligence booted, and how the entire thing was generally botched.
    It's disingenuous for candidates to try to fudge it by saying they opposed it from the start --Kerry's downfall. Perhaps that's all you meant.

    Which begs the question: what is Hillary's exact position on this? I admit that I don't know her relevant talking points on that matter.

  5. Hillary was not even running for reelection in Nov 02 -- she had only taken office in Jan 01. If you are right, Gobo (and I realize it involves some degree of informed speculation), she was worried more about how she and the party would be *perceived* in the future, not on what was the right decision.

    That is why this is important, Dan. It is more important to get things right, and to rise above the games. There will be more mid-term elections and full-term elections to worry over, and more Rovian tactics to contend with.

    And besides -- Obama had a point. It WAS and IS a pretty stupid war. Most of us knew it at the time.

  6. Yes, my point was not that it was disingenuous to vote for the war and now want to get out, but that the Democrats that voted for it did so only for perceived political cover and not because they (a) supported the war or (b) honestly thought W would engage in actual diplomacy.

    And yes, Hillary was not up in 2002 or 2004, but she knew she would be running for president in either 04 or 08.

  7. One additional tangent. Bram says, "That is why this is important, Dan. It is more important to get things right, and to rise above the games. There will be more mid-term elections and full-term elections to worry over, and more Rovian tactics to contend with."

    This is a main difference between Republicans and Democrats. Actually, I should say conservatives and liberals, using R and D as stand-ins for the political arms thereof.

    Democrats are afraid to stand up for what they believe in, and instead "compromise" so that they can appear "moderate" (They generally lose this way). Republicans, at least the organized conservative political-media machine, has a set of core ideological principles that it stands by (repugnant principles, but principles nonetheless), and uses language (call it "framing" or "bullshit," it doesn't matter to me) to make people think it's moderate.

    This is one thing I like about Obama. he's actually quite progressive, but his command of language is such that he can make Republicans support what are in essence liberal policy positions.

    It is more important to get things right, and then explain your position in a widely acceptable way, than to take a position because it is perceived as widely acceptable, and then try to explain why it was right. I believe that is the core difference between our two candidates.

  8. Obama vs. McCain concerning Iraq:

    National security/al Qaeda