by Taylor Marsh
Finally, a direct attack from Obama on Clinton. First he goes at her on torture, but unfortunately swallows the Washington Post line even though that was demolished yesterday. Next target was Clinton's vote on Kyl-Lieberman, which is certainly fair game. Trouble is Mr. Obama has no standing to make it.
"I don't think it disqualified her, but I think it speaks to her judgment, and it speaks to my judgment," Obama said. "It speaks to how we will make decisions going forward."
"I think her judgment was flawed on this issue," he said.
"This was a vote for war," he added. "You can't give this president a blank check and be surprised when he cashes it."
You don't get to criticize a Senate vote when you couldn't be bothered to show up to vote yourself. It also doesn't help that you didn't mention the vote during the Dartmouth debate either, even after Edwards slammed her on it.
I've been talking about it since the vote happened. However, after I saw Mr. Obama's op-ed today in the Union Leader coupled with the story on CNN.com, forgive me if my where the hell were you? alarm went off.
The amendment, offered by Sens. Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl, directly links the ongoing war in Iraq -- including our troop presence -- to checking the threat from Iran. The amendment opens with 17 findings that highlight Iranian influence within Iraq. It then states that we have to "transition(s) and structure" our "military presence in Iraq" to counter the threat from Iran, and states that it is "a critical national interest of the United States" to prevent the Iranian government from exerting influence inside Iraq.
Why is this so dangerous? The Bush administration could use language like this to justify a continued troop presence in Iraq as long as it perceives a threat from Iran. Even worse, the Bush administration could use the language in Lieberman-Kyl to justify an attack on Iran as a part of the ongoing war in Iraq.
Now a little quiz. Who said this?
"If I thought there was any way it could be used as a pretense to launch an invasion of Iran I would have voted no. ... .. I am opposed to military action in Iran ... ..To say we need to pressure the Iranians to change their course in the Middle East and I want to do it by nonmilitary means, that's what my vote was all about. ... .. (Defense Secretary Robert Gates) was as clear as could be that there are no plans for that to happen.''
Senator Dick Durbin who opposed the Iraq war, and is supporting Mr. Obama's bid for president, voted for the Kyl-Lieberman non-binding sense of the Senate.
To be clear, I don't think any of these people should be voting for this type of sense of the Senate or what Obama supported as long as we've got cowboy George in office, but a little perspective is in order after Obama's harangue this morning. This is especially true when Obama couldn't be bothered to show up for the vote himself.
What was he doing?
Why didn't he vote?
Allegedly because the vote wasn't to be called.
Note to Mr. Obama: If there is any possibiliy of a vote happening in D.C. that could truly differentiate you from your main competitor be prepared to get your sanctimonious rear end back to Washington or better yet, don't leave until you're absolutely sure it won't be called up. Biden, Dodd and Clinton voted, so your excuse is just lame. Besides, ever heard of a plane, sir?
It also took him all day to release a statement on the vote.
I truly do want Obama to challenge Clinton and take it to her. I want to see him fight. But it seems a bit spineless to attack someone for a vote you skipped out on and didn't bother to comment on from New Hampshire, where you were campaigning for president. Can you imagine the press moment if immediately upon hearing the vote had taken place Obama had come out and made a statement immediately? Why didn't he? Couldn't this statement have been given on camera wherever he was immediately after the Kyl-Lieberman vote? Why did it take all day to get his press secretary to release it? Come on, cable news channels would have jumped on this moment and Obama would have had a big issue in his pocket.
Senator Obama clearly recognizes the serious threat posed by Iran. However, he does not agree with the president that the best way to counter that threat is to keep large numbers of troops in Iraq, and he does not think that now is the time for saber-rattling towards Iran. In fact, he thinks that our large troop presence in Iraq has served to strengthen Iran - not weaken it. He believes that diplomacy and economic pressure, such as the divestment bill that he has proposed, is the right way to pressure the Iranian regime. Accordingly, he would have opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment had he been able to vote today.
Again, I'm against this stuff, but I'm equally against taking credit for "judgment" when you didn't show up to stand up.
As for Obama's claim that the legislation linked Iran and Iraq together, why is this so shocking? Is he really so naive as to not know that the Maliki government is already linked to Iran? Besides, he warned of the link in a speech of his own. I've cut a couple of sentences out of it which clearly illustrate Mr. Obama is as worried as anyone.
"Such a reduced but active presence will also send a clear message to hostile countries like Iran and Syria that we intend to remain a key player in this region. ... ... (snip) ... ..Make no mistake if the Iranians and Syrians think they can use Iraq as another Afghanistan or a staging area from which to attack Israel or other countries, they are badly mistaken. It is in our national interest to prevent this from happening."
Then there's that other nagging detail about Mr. Obama's Senate performances. He's voted the exact same way with Hillary Clinton on Iraq throughout his tenure. Exactly. But he's got a new web ad talking about it anyway. Never mind, just like Clinton (even Edwards, I'm sorry to say), Barack Obama could not pledge he'd have our troops out by 2013 either! Seeing a pattern yet? It also wasn't Barack Obama who fought tooth and nail to get resolutions to the Senate floor to end the Iraq war. The person with those creds is Senator Russ Feingold.
Obama brings up something important today, however.
This is not a debate about 2002; it's about the future, and in that debate I can run on, and not from, my record.
I don't agree with Senator Clinton on Kyl-Lieberman. But she showed up, put her vote down and was prepared to catch hell for it, which she has. Not for nothin' that Wes Clark and Joseph Wilson, who did a guest post on my blog about Clinton and Iran, two people with strong anti war bona fides, including that Clark has his face plastered on StopIranWar.com, both back her up.
I was pleased to see that last Monday Hillary joined Senator Jim Webb in co-sponsoring a bill that would prohibit the use of funds for military action in Iran without specific authorization from Congress. Last week, Hillary voted to support a non-binding resolution that designates the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. As a former diplomat, I have had considerable experience in the use of such resolutions to bring pressure - diplomatic pressure - to bear on a regime to rein in rogue elements. And make no mistake about it, the Guards are not only in operational control of Iran's policy toward Iraq and Afghanistan, where Iranian supplied munitions are costing American lives; they are agents of reaction and repression inside Iran. While it is a fact that the Bush administration's duplicity should give all Americans pause, we cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that we have real enemies in the world, and that we must be prepared to exercise the appropriate levers of power in support of our interests. ... ..
As much as I hate the Kyl-Lieberman vote of Clinton's, which I stated forcefully at the time, it's hard to argue with these two men, as well as Dick Durbin who was always against the Iraq war. You may not agree with Clinton all the time, because I sure don't. But when she's asked to put her name on the line she shows up and does so, then is willing to take the heat. That's character. I'm not sure what ducking a critical vote then slamming your opponent much later on it says about Obama.
You'll have to decide if these things matter or not.
UPDATE: One of my readers on my blog just pointed me to this little tidbit. Voter be aware:
Five individuals connected to five different campaigns have confirmed -- but only under condition of anonymity -- that the situation that developed in connection with the Michigan ballot is not at all as it appears on the surface. The campaign for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, arguably fearing a poor showing in Michigan, reached out to the others with a desire of leaving New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as the only candidate on the ballot. The hope was that such a move would provide one more political obstacle for the Clinton campaign to overcome in Iowa.