Monday, February 12, 2007

For Clinton and Obama, Different Tests on Iraq

A cover story in today's NYT on the different reaction Hillary and Barack are getting on their respective positions on Iraq.  I really don't understand why Hillary can't simply say what millions of other Americans have said (myself included): "I supported the war based on the information I had then and the assumption that this administration would have a plan not only to topple Saddam, but also what to do afterward.  Obviously, knowing what I know now, I never would have supported it."  Of course, as an Obama supporter, the longer she screws this up, the better!
Political Memo

For Clinton and Obama, Different Tests on Iraq

Published: February 12, 2007

KEENE, N.H., Feb. 11 — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was challenged on Iraq from corner to corner of New Hampshire this weekend, while Senator Barack Obama drew cheers in Iowa for his opposition to the war.

Besides giving voters a chance to probe the views of two major rivals for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, the weekend appearances gave the two campaigns a chance to road test their strategies for dealing with the central issue of Iraq in the primaries and beyond.

At nearly every stop in New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton, the junior senator from New York, has been greeted warmly but has been met by skeptical voters asking pointedly about her 2002 vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq. On Sunday in Nashua, one person told her that her explanation “doesn’t fly,” while another asked why she did not simply say that the vote was a mistake.

In these instances and similar moments in New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton stuck to a set of talking points that she and her advisers hope will ultimately overcome the antiwar anger that is particularly strong among Democrats likely to vote in primaries. She took full responsibility for the vote, said she would not vote for military action in Iraq again, and then pivoted quickly to frame Iraq as President Bush’s war. This answer was usually met with applause.

Yet Mrs. Clinton’s refusal to use clear, categorical phrases — “I’m sorry” or “I made a mistake” — has created an opening for Mr. Obama and another rival, former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who has openly apologized for his identical 2002 vote.

On Sunday, at a news conference in Ames, Iowa, Mr. Obama declined to say whether Mrs. Clinton should explicitly express regret for the vote, but he phrased his answer to keep the onus on her.

“I will let her speak to her plan, and I will let her address both past decisions and how she wants to move forward,” Mr. Obama said. “I am not clear on how she would proceed at this point to wind down the war in a specific way.”


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