Presidential hopeful and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is claiming that he deliberately sat out a vote mounted by Senate Republicans to condemn the group MoveOn.org. Obama said that he was taking the high road by staying out of the GOP-driven fray over the group's "General Betray Us?" advertisement.
"The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements," the senator said in a statement e-mailed to the Huffington Post. "This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq. ... By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics."
Obama and Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) both missed the vote on a resolution sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) to condemn MoveOn for its advertisement last week that criticized Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Iraq. The ad has been the focus of Republican attacks on Democrats in Congress for the past week.
The measure passed on a 72-25 vote. Obama had earlier voted in favor of an alternative motion sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that criticized actions that question the honor of armed services members generally, and highlighted partisan attacks against former senator Max Cleland and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), both Vietnam veterans. The Boxer measure failed to advance.
The Huffington Post is still awaiting a reply from Biden's office on how he would have voted on the measure if he had attended the vote.
Obama's main rival on the campaign trail, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), voted against the Cornyn measure. Her vote drew fire from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor accused Clinton in a statement of siding "with the libelous left wing of her party."
Romney said, "The idea that she would be a credible commander-in-chief of our armed forces requires the willing suspension of disbelief."
Another Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), also voted against the Cornyn measure, but he seemed to share some of Obama's sentiment.
"It is a sad day in the Senate when we spend hours debating an ad while our young people are dying in Iraq," Dodd said. "Now that the Senate has twice voted on this ad, it is time to move on and vote to end the war."