Obama Goes After Rivals On Iraq
by Todd Beeton, Thu Jul 12, 2007 at 11:31:22 AM EDT
OK now, Sen. Barack Obama's Q3 strategy is beginning to take shape. Today Obama was swift in his reaction to the overly cheery interim report released by the Bush administration on the progress in Iraq:
"Does this White House think that we don't know how to turn on our televisions? Don't tell us we're making progress in Iraq when the last three months have been some of the deadliest since this war began for our brave troops who have sacrificed so much. And don't tell us it's progress when the Iraqi leadership has done nothing - nothing - to take the political steps necessary to end their civil war. This war has only fueled the terrorist threat whose strength is now at pre-9/11 levels. It should never have been authorized, never have been waged, and it must end now."
As he does in his stump speech, Obama gets in a not so subtle dig at his primary rivals there at the end with his "it should never have been authorized" line. This comes two days after Obama gave a speech on Iraq in DesMoines, Iowa, just a few blocks away from where Sen. Clinton was doing the same.
"When I opposed this war before it began in 2002, I was about to run for the United States Senate, and I knew it wasn't the politically popular position," Obama said during a town hall meeting in Des Moines on Tuesday.
"But I believed then and still do that being a leader means that you'd better do what's right and leave the politics aside, because there are no do-overs on an issue as important as war," Obama said.
Message: I had the judgment and leadership to come out against the war when it counted (and a couple other people didn't.)
Interestingly, as Anne Kornblut notes, this idea of "no do-overs" is exactly Clinton's rationale for not apologizing for the vote, and may explain why, as Jonathan explored yesterday, Clinton seems to be getting away with a more nuanced stance on Iraq.
Then there was this dig at Edwards by Obama surrogate Sen. Dick Durbin this week:
"I recall when John voted for this war. So it's understandable that he feels badly about that decision and wants to see something done to undo the harm that has happened," Durbin said during an appearance on washingtonpost.com's "Post Talk.""But it has to be done in a sensible way."
I'm not sure Obama can credibly take Edwards to task for his vote. Yes, he can make the case that it's a matter of judgment but Edwards has been so outspoken against the war, reminding people during virtually every speech that he'd voted for it and deeply regrets it, I just don't think attacking Edwards resonates.
I do, however, think Obama is right to try to use this issue to eat into Clinton's support since, despite the roll-out (successful, it appears) of Hillary v. 2.0: the peacenik, she is the most hawkish one of the bunch. But I've got to think that at this point it's not a matter of merely reminding people that he had the foresight and the good judgment to come out against the war from the beginning -- I think people know that. It may be a matter of finding a different way of framing it. Or, perhaps Obama's overall message has been a little too successful; maybe people have forgiven Clinton and Edwards for their votes and "turned the page" as Obama has asked us to so many times, instead looking to what they're saying now.
Perhaps the reason Obama hasn't been able to capitalize more on his early opposition to the war among the most anti-war constituency there is, Democratic primary voters, is that voters sense the inherent conflict in Obama's call to look to the future even as he seeks to remind us of votes that took place in the past.Update [2007-7-12 16:29:34 by Todd Beeton]:Blue Hampshire's"I'm the only candidate who..." presidential policy straw poll on Iraq, which launched today, gives Obama yet another opportunity to boast of his early good judgment (read the whole thing HERE) although he appears to also be the only one to forsake speaking in the first person after the first sentence.
I am the only "top-tier" candidate who opposed this war from the beginning and who has energized the grassroots to pressure Congress to listen to the American people and bring the troops home. In 2002, Senator Barack Obama publicly opposed the war because he knew that even a successful overthrow of Saddam Hussein would result in a war of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. The disastrous course of the war has affirmed that foresight.