The Clinton camp's attempts to call into question both the sincerity of Barack Obama's call for an Iraq troop withdrawal and his ability to serve as commander-in-chief took a bizarre turn on Monday, when farming metaphors were deployed for the first time in the campaign.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Lt. Gen. Joe Ballard, a Clinton supporter, compared Obama's stance on Iraq to a person who could "recognize a cow" (ostensibly, the perils of the war) but not milk it (get the troops out? has conflict-management experience?).
"Just because you recognize the cow doesn't mean you know how to milk it," said Ballard, who was playing off his time among cows in Louisiana. "I think body of experience, learning what you have to do and how to do it, is very important... No one can tell you how to milk a cow; you have to do that yourself."
That wasn't all.
"No doubt in my mind he can probably milk a cow but his body of experience means he probably doesn't know how to milk one," continued Ballard, before getting a bit more specific. "When I look across the aisle at Sen. Obama, other than a great speech, I really do not see the same body of experience to deal with that issue. I see a statement that says I have a great staff that can advise me. I think you need a great body of experience to deal with the recommendations your staff is bringing to you."
Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson called into question Obama's capacity to be the vice president, claiming "We do not believe that Senator Obama has passed the commander-in-chief test. But there is a long way between now and Denver."
In addition to Ballard, the conference call included Gen. Wesley Clark, and Lee Feinstein, the Clinton Campaign's National Security Director, all of whom attacked Obama for not being entirely committed to a troop withdrawal. As evidence they cited recent remarks by former Obama aide Samantha Power which suggested that the Illinois Democrat would reconsider troop withdrawal once elected, given the account of conditions on the ground.
"[Sen. Clinton] has been unwavering in her commitment to support withdrawal," said Ballard. "People know when they vote what they are exactly going to get. And in the case of Sen. Obama I don't think we are quite that clear."