by jg40, Tue Mar 20, 2007 at 08:51:07 AM EDT
Sweet blog special: At Harvard's IOP forum, Obama and Clinton advisors spar over Iraq.
A cornerstone of the Obama campaign has been his opposition to the Iraq war, a centerpiece of his 2004 Senate campaign and a reason he won a crowded Illinois Democratic primary field. A feature of the Clinton bid is the persistent questioning she gets about her 2002 vote to authorize President Bush to go to war in Iraq. Clinton has been saying that if she knew then what she knows now, she never would have voted yes.
Monday night was no different. At the John F. Kennedy Jr. forum, a student question about how the Clinton campaign can get voters to trust her judgment set the stage for Penn and Axelrod to spar over who said what when.
"Do you think Hillary Clinton is the kind of person who if she were president would have started the Iraq war?" Penn asked the student, with the answer "No" from Penn and applause from the audience. Penn then went a few steps further and said Obama, in 2004 in Boston, said when it came to that Iraq Senate vote "he is not sure" how he would have voted--a quote the Obama campaign argues was taken out of context.
Penn noted that when it comes to supporting Iraq war funding appropriations, Obama and Clinton have cast the same yes votes, a point he would make again later in the session. "Senator Clinton has taken responsibility for her vote," Penn said.
At that, Axelrod--aware that this kind of potentially damaging campaign chatter about Obama and Iraq has been floating around for the past few days--decided he had to respond. "I regret that Mark went there," Axelrod said, saying that Penn was selectively picking quotes from Obama interviews.
Axelrod alerted campaign communications chief Robert Gibbs that the matter of Obama's Iraq history was now in play and a short time after the forum ended, Gibbs sent out a detailed memo--to, in their view, buttress the campaigns' assertions that the Clinton camp is taking Obama's words out of context--a charge they deny.