Clinton on Obama on Iraq: "But That Was Five Years Ago"

by: Matt Stoller

Sat Jul 14, 2007 at 11:49

Google Ad from Obama

Well she didn't quite say that, but it's her basic retort to Obama's critique.  I just did a Google search for 'Obama antiwar', and an Obama ad tailored to an antiwar Democrat popped up.  There is no Clinton ad, no Edwards ad, and no Richardson ad.  That's kind of strange, since Google adwords is an easy system to use.  But maybe it's not an accident.

For some time, I've been confused about why Senator Clinton is able to maintain a solid lead in the polls despite being out of step on a key issue for Democrats: Iraq.  Despite all the money - mostly from elites but also a boatload from small dollar donors - Obama is just not moving in the polls.  The conventional wisdom is that his antiwar stance in 2002 would help him, so much so that Bill Clinton himself complained about media coverage of Obama.

Matt Stoller :: Clinton on Obama on Iraq: "But That Was Five Years Ago"
The conventional wisdom hasn't just been that Obama has a leg up on Iraq, but that the Democratic Party has a strong antiwar base.  And sure, Obama is sending out emails with phrases that allude to Clinton's lack of judgment on authorizing the war, without naming her.  But is this wise?  Is the base of the Democratic Party really a straight antiwar group?  I mean, if it is, then whey would Senator Clinton not face substantive criticism over her vote?  There are no 527s going after her right now.  I don't see any unions, or Moveon, or even any organized effort from the blogs to do anything about her campaign.  Are we really 'antiwar?'

In looking at some of the polling data from 2002-2003, I don't think the story is that simple.  There are a good number of Democrats that straight up opposed the invasion, but many of us were what I'll call 'antiwar but'.  In March, right before the invasion, a CBS/NYT poll asked whether the US should take military action against Hussein even if the UN voted against it.  42% said yes, 55% said no.  An antiwar majority, sure, but hardly overwhelming.  In February, according to a Time/CNN poll, Democrats opposed the invasion by a 42% to 50% margin.  Once again, an antiwar majority but not overwhelming.  In early February, an LA Times poll found a 42% to 50% margin among Democrats.  I'm struck by how the Democratic base had around 30% composition at that time that trusted Bush's instincts.  So while being antiwar made you slightly more popular within the Democratic Party at the time, both antiwar and prowar positions were mainstream Democratic positions.

So that's one point.  Another point is that while there's a great deal of polling on what Americans thought about Iraq, I can find very little polling on what Democrats thought about their leaders on the issue of Iraq.  The Iraq vote was heavily politicized, positioned so that the Republicans could pick up seats in 2002.  At the time, Democrats like Daschle thought they could take Iraq 'off the table' by voting for authorization and focus on domestic issues (how far we've come!).  But this had some backing in the polls - prior to the midterms, by a 33%-22% margin, Americans said that a vote for sending troops to Iraq would help get their vote.

And now I'll come off the numerical game and discuss personally my recollections.  I remember 2002-2003 as a very confusing time.  I knew the situation was more complicated than Bush made it out to be, but Very Important People like Tom Friedman and Ken Pollack were advocating for the war.  I still trusted these people.  I went to seminars at Harvard's Institute of Politics where Iraqi refugees talked about the need to invade.  I sympathized with Democratic politicians who wanted to vote for authority to use force, but with restrictions, like Joe Biden.

And lest we forget, there was this.

While Bush enjoys high job approval ratings from all groups of New Hampshire adults, his strongest supporters remain Republicans and conservatives. While somewhat less supportive, groups that usually give low ratings to Republican presidents -- Democrats, liberals, people with post graduate degrees, and residents of western New Hampshire -- also give Bush high job performance ratings.

So what does this have to do with Obama?  Well, Obama's position on the war, though a somewhat popular position among Democrats at the time, was only that.  While a lot of Democrats were antiwar, a lot Democrats were split, or confused, and wanted the use of force only if the UN authorized it.  And Clinton/Edwards/Biden/Dodd basically fit in that overall bucket.  So it's absolutely no surprise that the Democratic base believes Clinton when she says was stupid to trust Bush, but she'll end the war when in office.  It's how a large plurality of Democrats think about the problem.

Now, it's far less forgivable that Clinton didn't come out for withdrawal until 2007, and up until 2006 didn't want timetables.  But Obama didn't make arguments about ending the war that differed substantially from Clinton's.  So both Clinton and Obama fit well within the mainstream of Democratic opinion in 2002-2003, and yet the dislike of Bush today is as strong among the 'antiwar' crowd as it is among the 'antiwar but' crowd.

Anyway, I just think that it's important to understand why Obama's critique of Clinton on the war isn't working.  Lots of Democrats made that stupid judgment call as well, as are willing to forgive a bad decision from five years ago.  And Obama's had five years to distinguish himself on Iraq, and hasn't.

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I Agree (0.00 / 0)
Like Chris said yesterday, Obama has the same record as Hillarys to fund the war.  If he wanted to be different he should never have voted to fund the war.  I think Edwards was right to say that congress should have kept sending the same bill to defund the war back to Bush over and over again and let the consequences be on Bush if he chose to veto.  You can't fund the war and at the same time say you are against it.  To me it is either, or.

Yup! (4.00 / 1)
Progressive leadership has to be two things: (1) Progressive. (2) Leadership.  On Iraq, Obama exhibited both in 2002, and neither in 2007.

So, no surprise.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
a psychological explanation? (4.00 / 4)
For many Democrats, to believe that Clinton was grievously wrong on the war means admitting that they too got hoodwinked back then, and that may be uncomfortable for some people.  To forgive Clinton means forgiving themselves.

yup (0.00 / 0)
That sounds right to me.

[ Parent ]
Spot on (4.00 / 1)
To hold Clinton to account would mean holding themselves to account.

I also think we still have a long way to go, and Obama will sharpen his attacks in the coming months. I think that as the campaign goes on, Obama and Edwards will force voters to make a choice as to whether Clinton's support of the war is a deal breaker.

I personally think Edwards and Clinton should stop trying to downplay their AUMF vote and address it head on. "Because I voted for to start this war, It is incumbent upon me to be the one to end it." Until they do, Obama will always have that ace card.

[ Parent ]
Since when has Edwards 'downplayed' his vote? (0.00 / 0)
On the campaign trail, he consistently brings up Iraq even when others don't and volunteers the same line: "I was wrong.  I made a mistake voting for the war, and I take full responsibility for that."  I think that's one of the only reasons that he has such strong. support among white progressive activists.

Kicking it in the NY-25.

[ Parent ]
Probably true (0.00 / 0)
I was making the point that Edwards and Clinton could use their past vote as the impetus for why ending the war is so important to them. Edwards certainly doesn't shy away from mentioning that he was wrong on his vote,  though he seems to say "I was wrong then, but I've learned and this is what we should do now". I think a stronger message would be "Because I was wrong/misled, I will fight harder than anyone to correct that mistake and end the war." More of a "This time it's personal" tone. I was simply suggesting a way to take that vote and make it a positive, as well as neutralize Sen. Obama's advantage in the situation.

[ Parent ]
That is A Good Explanation (0.00 / 0)
My husband and I were against the war from the beginning, but I do understand why so many democrats voted for it.  I do think that the democrats that voted for it should admit their mistake and not totally blame it on Bush.  Hillary has not taken the blame for her mistake yet.  John Edwards has, and I think he totally understands what that means.  And yes, most democrats have moved on from the past.  The Iraq issue will not be the main issue of who I support.  We know that whatever democrat gets in the White House will end the war. 

[ Parent ]
I Agree, Except... (0.00 / 0)
it's not clear they will end the war. Leaving a "residual force" of 10 or 20,000 troops will not end the war. Candidate positions still remain murky.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Good post (4.00 / 1)
I would only dispute the last line. I think Obama has distinguished himself on Iraq in the past five years, but has had much more trouble distinguishing himself on Iraq in this campaign, or, while he has distinguished himself on Iraq, it alone will not be enough to win, simply enough to get him in the ring.

But great post, and I love the new site.

thanks (0.00 / 0)
I appreciate the compliment and the thoughtful response.  I'm very open to persuasion that Obama's been better than Clinton Iraq over the last five years, but I'm having trouble figuring out how.  Their voting records on Iraq are identical, so how would you make that case?

[ Parent ]
He Talks Better Talk (0.00 / 0)
But he walks the same walk.

So it's a difference.

But not a difference that makes a difference.  (The definition of a bit, btw.)

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I would suggest something very similar (4.00 / 1)
Barack Obama was one of the first Democrats to be elected to the Senate campaigning against the war, so I believe he moved the barometer by proving anti Iraq War Democrats can win, which before 2004, was contrary to Beltway conventional wisdom, and I think led the groundwork for anti Iraq war candidates in 2006 to have a strong backbone. (Hackett and Lamont are other good example) Thus Senator Obama has been able to shift the rhetoric, dialogue, and framing of this war. While others must parse why they now disapprove and talk about course correction, Sen. Obama can say that this was a debacle from the beginning and this whole military adventure must be scrapped.

Plus, it's no coincidence that Obama and Clinton are voting the same, since it seems Clinton has decided to mirror Obama's votes to blur the difference. Obama got into trouble by coming out early saying that he wouldn't play political games with funding with troops in the field, something that he has received much criticism for, but whether that is truly in his heart or a general election strategy to not get too far out on the subject, his position did not help his cause with the anti war crowd.

However, in light these two arguments, which I think are valid, I still think Matt's analysis carries much merit. I believe Obama was out in front of the issue, I believe he lead Dems to stand tall, but has not been a champion of this issue in the Senate. (I would posit that Feingold's handling of the issue is most favorable, in my eyes at least) 

[ Parent ]
The Heart of The Matter (4.00 / 2)
Obama got into trouble by coming out early saying that he wouldn't play political games with funding with troops in the field,

He didn't just "get in trouble."  He reinforced the most fundamental and dishonest rightwing frame.  It was strategically idiotic at a level that defies description.  He might as well have thrown a hand gernade at Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

He has a high enough profile that he could have done the exact opposite. He could have--wait for it--told the truth.  He could have said, "Look, the troops are abandoned right now.  If we set a limit on funding, they won't stay there without bullets or body armor.  They will come home.  And that's what this debate is all about."

Apparently, so much straight talk was simply beyond him.  Which is why Edwards is now significantly more reliable on the war.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Ben and Matt, I think Obama had the potential to (4.00 / 4)
clearly demarcate the line in this campaign between Clinton & Edwards and himself in opposing the war from the beginning.  But that would mean taking distinctive, courageous stands of leadership in general, and unfortunately, he hasn't been apt to do that in any significant way (that has been apparent to me or the corporate media) since being elected to the Senate.  He hasn't singled himself out in a substantive way; in fact, it is as though he has deliberately been doing the opposite.  His healthcare plan?  Decent, but not outstanding.  His energy plan?  Fine, but nothing to get the bloggers raving about.  His foreign policy proposals?  OK, I'm assuming, but nothing to set him apart.

I tried really hard to get behind Obama's campaign, but when you have a candidate declare in their 'announcement web video' that although our country has problems, the biggest concern is that our politics is 'too small' and that we don't get along enough...  what is there to get behind?  What am I actually supporting other than a personality?

In summary: Obama comes off as incredibly risk-averse.  He probably figures that if he can sustain a 'mainstream' brand and his charisma, he has a much better shot than being branded by the corporate media as 'radical,' just another Al Sharpton lefty, despite his being  'clean & articulate.'  It's a difficult position for him to be in, but I think the fear, if it's there, is misplaced.  If he did demonstrate distinctive, progressive leadership--stronger than Edwards, say--he would move up in the polls because ironic as it is, the American electorate is currently to the left of the Democratic Party on the issues that will matter in this election.

Kicking it in the NY-25.

[ Parent ]
You expressed (0.00 / 0)
A lot of us feel the way you do.

[ Parent ]
Progressive Leadership (4.00 / 1)
I completely agree. If Obama wanted to express progressive leadership on Iraq, there are several things he could have done (and still could):

* Not vote to fund the war.

* State clearly who the US is fighting and what victory would look like. It looks to many Iraqis like the US military has conquered their country and plans to occupy and control it (and its oil resources). Is that what we are doing? If so, does Obama support that or oppose it? Or did we overthrow a dictatorship? If so, then why are US forces still there long after the dictatorship is gone? Or are we battling al Qaeda terrorists? If so, then we seem to be losing since when the attack on Iraq was launched there were no al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq and now there are a bunch and they seem to be getting stronger all the time. Obama could challenge all the rationalizations for the invasion and occupation of Iraq and help ordinary Americans understand what is going on. As it is, Bush's framing of the situation is the only perspective heard by most Americans.

* Refer to specific members of the peace movement and their ideas. Obama could use his bully pulpit in the Senate to illuminate the peace movement and its leaders (so the leaders can get some media attention). As it is, Cindy Sheehan is still the only person in the peace movement that the mainstream media covers at all. And none of the Presidential candidates ever mentions anyone in the peace movement.

[ Parent ]
One quibble (0.00 / 0)
I don't think there has actually been a single poll that shows a majority of Iraqis wanting US forces to leave. The Iraqi people are generally afraid of what happens when we're gone. I know there have been a couple of Times articles recently that have certain leaders saying they're ready for the event of a total US withdrawal in the near future, but that doesn't seem to be where the Iraqi public is at. Unfortunately, nothing we've done in the last several years seems to be working, and we're probably going to be in the position of having to say, "Sorry, but your situation is beyond our ability to control. This just isn't something we can justify continuing anymore."

It's a horrible thing to have to do, and it is for this reason why I give Obama more credibility on the war than Edwards or Clinton. He saw this coming. He spoke of sectarian tensions, of the difficulty of getting out once we were in, of the inability to force Jeffersonian democracy in the Arab world. They consponsored or voted for the war resolution. I think his votes to continue funding genuinely reflect where he was with wanting to bring troops home: he's been for withdrawal, but for cautious withdrawal. That definitely isn't where a lot of peace activists are at, and I think that's what angers a lot of people.

[ Parent ]
How About These Polls? (0.00 / 0)
10 months ago: "Most Iraqis Favor Immediate U.S. Pullout, Polls Show" Washington Post, September 27, 2006

BAGHDAD, Sept. 26 -- A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.

18 months ago: World Public Opinion January 31, 2006

A new poll of the Iraqi public finds that a large majority of Iraqis think the US plans to maintain bases in Iraq permanently, even if the newly elected government asks the US to leave. A large majority favors setting a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces, though this majority divides over whether the timeline should be over a period of six months or two years. Nearly half of Iraqis approve of attacks on US-led forces-including nine out of 10 Sunnis. Most Iraqis believe that many aspects of their lives will improve once the US-led forces leave, but are nonetheless uncertain that Iraqi security forces are ready to stand on their own...

Asked what they would like the newly elected Iraqi government to ask the US-led forces to do, 70% of Iraqis favor setting a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces. This number divides evenly between 35% who favor a short time frame of "within six months" and 35% who favor a gradual reduction over two years. Just 29% say it should "only reduce US-led forces as the security situation improves in Iraq." ...

A November 2005 poll of Iraqis conducted by the Oxford Research Institute for a consortium of media outlets including BBC, ABC News, NHK and others also found unhappiness with the presence of US troops. Sixty-five percent said they opposed "the presence of coalition forces in Iraq." However, it was not asked specifically whether they wanted them to leave and when...

[ Parent ]
Right on (0.00 / 0)
I think Obama has established himself as the "anti Hilary", if you will, and I think he is trying as hard as stay off the radar and hope Hilary's position as front runner (and subsequent spotlight scrutiny) this summer will be like positioning mayo in the sun.

But as for what is there to get behind besides personality, I think Sen. Obama is running on the belief that the politicians should govern and do the people's work, not simply fund raise and call each other names.

If Clinton gets elected, do you think Republicanss will be willing to work with her on any progressive policies/bills? They would probably fight Social Security privatization if she proposed it. I think Edwards, having run as VP in 2004, would get much the same treatment, but if Obama can get to the nomination without getting dirty or trying to outflank everyone on the left, Sen. Obama can run a United We Stand campaign by pushing issues that have strong bi partisan support, serving the people. Since a majority of America believe in progressive solutions over conservative solutions, this is the perfect time for an executive who can get results, if not the most progressive or ideologically pure.

I think that this is his approach or thought process, and while I wish he would lead on more topics, I think it is reasonable to think that this pragmatic approach has a chance.

[ Parent ]
I'd Like Some Of Whatever You're Smoking (4.00 / 1)
When you talk about Clinton and Edwards, you talk about congressional Republicans not being willing to work with them.

Then, when you talk about Obama, you talk about "strong bi partisan support, serving the people" and "a majority of America."

So, what? If Obama is elected, the Republicans in Congress just go home and let the American people take over their offices?

How, exactly does that work?

And what happens to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News?  Someone spikes their water with LSD?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
You got it. Puff puff give... (0.00 / 0)
I'm not claiming any facts, simply stating what I perceive as Obama's strategy (or a facet of it)

My point was two fold - Edwards and Clinton are veterans of highly partisan battles (Edwards in 04 election, Clinton ever since 92) whereas Obama has never been a constant focus of attack by the right wing (yet). The second point is that Sen. Obama has gone out of his way to find common ground with those which whom he shares very little in common, ideologically speaking (with Sen. Brownback on AIDS, with Sen. Coburn on earmarks)

Of course Republicans aren't going to give up being a-holes, and Rush and Fox will do their thing. And I think their water was spiked a long time ago.

[ Parent ]
What are you talking about, Paul? (0.00 / 0)
Everything will change when, under OB's leadership, Republicans and Democrats (especially with the help of all those reliable votes from Facebooking young people) all stop being so darn argumentative and realize that we're all in this together.  Even Fox News has already shown signs that they may embrace Barack Hussein Osama.

Kicking it in the NY-25.

[ Parent ]
It is a different walk (0.00 / 0)
but it's not an easy distinction to see right off the bat.  Voting to fund subsequent to a vote to either support the war or not are entirely different positions, in a sense.  They can only be viewed in light of the previous vote, they can't really be compared.  Saying they have the same voting record on the war is technically correct, but it only holds if you buy the Kucinich logic of "any vote to fund the war is the same as voting to support it", which I do not.  The Congress gave Bush the power, handed it away to him when it should have remained theirs (Obama was also not a party to this terrible decision which was written into the Authorization bill ((which Edwards co-sponsored!))).  The war begins, now, do you participate in the debate about how events should run?  Do you cast a series of symbolic protest votes?  What would that mean either way?  Difficult, multi-faceted choices all, but I can't help but think that rejecting the idea in the first place puts all subsequent actions in a different category.  As to why that doesn't poll well - I mean, polls at this stage of the game are still really name recognition contests, with a bit of ebb and flow based on current headlines.  Also, see my above rambling attempt to even explain why I think there is a difference in their subsequent votes as to why the idea that there's a difference hasn't exactly caught fire yet with the general populace!

History Lessons (0.00 / 0)
The Democratic leadership, as individuals and as a group, along with the leading presidential candidates are showing that they have learned an important political lesson from recent American history:

In the long term, there is nothing to be gained and a great deal to be lost by being stridently against any use of American military force.

The Viet Nam War is the second biggest blunder in
American foreign policy since World War II.  Yet, in 2004, and even in 1992, opposition to that blunder was something a national candidate had to explain and apologize for.  Support for it continues to be an uncontested badge of patriotism.  Even for those who refused to participate in it.

The same political reality allowed those who engineered Iran-Contra not only to escape punishment, but to be brought back into power.

We could talk all day about why this is true. Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich have covered the subject very well in several books.  But to the people who want national political power, the only thing that matters is that it is true.  Or, at least, there is no evidence to show that it is not true.

When we ask these leaders and candidates to do the right thing, to do the courageous thing, we are also asking them to give up hope of winning the election.

I'm Glad You Bring This Up (0.00 / 0)
I really disagree, but it's a very legitimate concern, which makes it very important for us to discuss.

The reason I disagree is that it's primarily the media and the Republicans who have set things up this way.  The American people as a whole don't necessarily hold these views.  That's why, for example, Bush had to lie so long and so hard to take us to war with Iraq.  And why a poll immediately after the Iraq invasion showed no support at all for invading Syria, much less Iran.

"Well," you might say, "with the GOP and the media totally aligned, why go up against them?"  The reason is simple: the media are aligned with the GOP at a very deep and fundamental level.  (Go back and look at the Daily Howler archives tracking how they treated Gore in 1999-2000, for example.) This is very hard to get across to the American people.  But standing up on a signature issue like the Vietnam War is one way of getting it across.

The problem with Kerry was simply that he was unwilling to take them on.  He should have put his anti-war activism front and center.  He should have been running on it.  Arianna Huffington wrote an excellent piece on the narrative that Kerry should have contrsucted to frame his campaign, connecting his service in Vietnam to his opposition to the war when he came home.  It was brilliant.  And of course, it was totally ignored by Bob Shrum & Co.

As a result, his failure to define himself and his oppositon to the war left him wide open for the Swift Boat Liars to do it for him.  It was not the position that was problematic.  It was the failure to be pro-active.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
demographics (0.00 / 0)
People don't want a candidate that was right.  They want a candidate that thinks like them.

The problem for Obama is that the anti-war crowd is a different demographic that is far outside of Obama's natural base.

So for him the anti-war vote is a nice benefit and all, but it would only really work for him if he fit the more socially conservative rural demographic.  Which neither he nor hillary even come close to fitting in almost any way. 

Him gaining will have to come from him really going for expanding his demographic strength in clinton's natural base in my opinion.  Otherwise he has to rely on edwards to stay in  the race and pull from clinton.

Also... (0.00 / 0)
While this may change as the heat comes on in the fall and real differences in position come to the fore, at this point I think most mainline Democrats sort of assume any of their candidates will "end the war."

Since everyone's going to end the war, it's not a differentiator, not a reason to pick one over the other.

I think Clinton is vulnerable on the details. If someone wants to clobber her, though, they have to take a high-contrast position on Iraq and not be coy about it. Richardson is the obvious example at least in terms of position. If you went big with ads that said, "Sen. Clinton wants to keep up to 60,000 Troops in Iraq. Does that sound like ending the war to you? Candidate X says bring them all home, and no permanent bases."

I think that's actually a highly resonant position with the majority of the electorate, let alone the Democratic base. Our candidates have a problem in that they get caught up in the nuances of policy -- e.g. they may want to keep a special forces presence and some support structure (possibly naval) in the region to disrupt terrorist training camps -- and so they try to message around that. They shouldn't. They should say, "It's time for our Army and Marines to stop policing the streets of Baghdad. It's time to give up on the fantasy of permanent military base in Iraq. It's time to bring our troops home."

As long as that's not grossly outside their actual position -- e.g. they actually are against permanent bases and remember that "military training and advisors" is how Vietnam got started -- they'd be fine, and firmly in control of the rhetorical high ground for the general election.

I get the feeling that Sen. Clinton might not be able to do that, which is why she's potentially vulnerable. But until the other candidates stop pussy-footing around the issue, it's not going to impact the polls, because, again, she's been able to create the perception among most people that she'll end the war, whatever that means.

Me | My Work | Future Majority

Hypothetical (0.00 / 0)
Let's assume that a candidate other than Clinton runs ads like the one you suggested.  Clinton would not even need to respond.

A 527 would be formed to attack that candidate for being weak, for promoting surrender, for betraying the troops and disgracing the flag. 

Knowing that this is what will happen in response, no candidate with any chance of winning the nomination will launch any attack like that.

[ Parent ]
In the primary? (0.00 / 0)
I think someone could very well make the calculus that primary voters wouldn't buy the "promoting surrender" wouldn't be a winner, and try anyway.

I for one certainly believe that the people of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire (and the rest of the US) aren't so easily manipulated. Wingnuts, yes, but they're 27% at best.

Certainly, this is the risk that candidates and their advisors fear, but when we get down to the wire, campaigns will start taking risks in order to move up. I'm not saying anyone will do what I suggest, but people will have to start making moves that expose them to response. It's how the process works.

Me | My Work | Future Majority

[ Parent ]
It worked before (0.00 / 0)
Well, it worked in the primaries in 2003-2004.

Howard Dean was branded "un-electable" solely because he was emphatically against the Iraq invasion.  His campaign was destroyed by other Democrats, openly and through a 527.

[ Parent ]
Matt, this is true. (0.00 / 0)
Obama hasn't done enough to distinguish himself.  And I can't help but wonder if there aren't some rather stupid consultants working for him that have advised him to take the "safe" course in his votes and his positions in order to not rock the board.  Obama has not been very bold.

And it is a shame, because Hillary IS vulnerable on the war.  The Obama people may think that they are positioning themselves well for the general election by avoiding a more clear ant-war position than Clinton's, so Obama doesn't seem "too extreme" (the classic DLC language we are familiar with).

For instance, he could have pilloried her on her comments about leaving a residual force in Iraq.  Instead, he let her weasel out of it with a number of contradictory statements in past weeks intended to obscure her position.

And the sad thing for all of us that oppose this war and are sweating over it is that there is no Dean running for us this time, no credible anti-war opposition other than the standard boilerplate garbage that we (well, I) don't believe or trust.

If Hillary becomes the candidate of the party because of this, I really think that we are going to be there until 2012.  The Clintons have long staked out the political "Better strong and wrong than right and weak" position and have paid for it enough that we need to take it seriously.

As for Obama...  I have some doubts about him, too, but if he's the nominee, I will be able to grudgingly support him.  Otherwise, it'll be third party for me, for the first time in my life.

Obama needs to distinguish himself on Iraq (0.00 / 0)
I believe the best way to disinguish himself om Iraq IS ON THIS ISSUE OF RESIDUAL FORCES TO REMAIN IN iRAQ. He needs to do the following:


2Define residual forces, mission and troop level under 10,000 troops.(define how he would limit us forces from getting involved in secterian violence in Iraq

3. Define the removal of residual forces one year after all combat forces have been removed from Iraq.


I am tired and the cap lock was on and I am too tired to re type the above.

[ Parent ]
Obama vs Hillary (0.00 / 0)
Whenever a poll is done that asks Democrats to name the issues that are most important to them, the two top issues are Iraq and healthcare, ie: "ending the war" and "getting health coverage"  Most Democrats don't give a sh*t who voted for the war - they see Bush's deception as the really gross act; and most Dems don't care who apologized for the vote and who didn't; or who had the foresight to predict there should never have been a war in the first place.

Democrats, for the most part, have war-fatigue.  I'd bet most of them don't read about the war anymore and are not glued to the tv anymore when the war is covered in the news. They want the war to go away; and most will choose the candidate who has the most experience as being the one most likely to make the war go away. 

Unless Hillary does something very foolish over the next four or five months, she is not going to be easy for Obama to stop and I will say with conviction, that he won't stop her by using his speech in 2002 to prove he will make a better President. 

What then can Obama do to beat Hillary?  Well, I think it's too late actually.  Had he opened his campaign with a clearly defined and active "Women for Obama" platform, with some progressive women-related proposals, it would have been a brilliant move.  But he didn't.  It wasn't until a few weeks after Hillary started getting big media coverage thanks to Emily's List, Ferraro, Albright, Billi Jean King, those 500 NH female activists who signed onto her campaign, etc. etc., that Michelle Obama began the "Women for Obama" outreach, but it was too late. 

There is the all-important African American vote, but six months into the campaign, we are looking at roughly a 50-50 split between Obama and Hillary in that demographic.  This might be the one area where Obama can overtake Hillary but he is going to have to be very clever and very creative to pull loyal AA supporters away from Hillary's camp and into his.  And even if he is successful at doing this, it won't have that much impact on Iowa voters, which would be fine if he had a strong firewall anywhere else in the country, but he doesn't -- and Hillary does (in NH, Nevada, Florida, California, New York and many other states).

You know, it is one thing to sort of come out of nowhere and decide you want to be President.  But I just don't think anyone can do that unless he has an organization that can compete with Hillary's.  The reality on the ground is that millions of people love Hillary Clinton and it is hard support - years and years of loyalty - Hillary was polling in first place for the 2004 elections until they finally removed her name from the polling questions. Those people who loved her then are still with her and they have brought others onboard.

What he actually said (0.00 / 0)
I think in all the back and forth of the campaign people have lost sight of what Obama said way back in 2002.  It's not really that he was against the War but more that the analysis was so exactly dead on.  There are so many cases where people say if only I knew then what I know now I would have...such and such.  Well, we know now what we didn't fully know then and still Obama's analysis is completely correct.  That is what makes him qualified as President, not simply that he was against the War.  It bears looking at again:



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