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Now see here, Obama
By PHILIP GAILEY
Published August 5, 2007
Hillary Clinton finally has Barack Obama, her closest rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, right where she wants him - stumbling over foreign policy issues. And he's getting smacked right and left. The tougher Obama tries to sound, the more he finds himself on the defensive. The Clinton strategy is to tout her "experience" while portraying Obama as a lightweight whose foreign policy views are "naive" and "irresponsible," even dangerous.
The only real licks being exchanged in the Democratic race are between Clinton and Obama, who leads her in fundraising but trails her in the polls. Clinton must grind her teeth every time Obama has the audacity to remind voters that the U.S. senator from New York voted for the war in Iraq while he, a mere state senator in Illinois at the time, had sense enough to oppose it from the start.
Clinton, who continues to misrepresent her vote for war, would rather talk about her "experience," which includes trips to more than 80 countries as first lady and more than six years in the Senate. "Ready to lead," goes her slogan. She suggests Obama, poor thing, needs a crash course in the complexities and nuances of foreign policy. And every opportunity she gets, Professor Clinton is more than happy to tutor her young challenger in Foreign Policy 101.
Sounding like a striped-pants diplomat of the old school, Clinton tried last week to impress upon Obama that a president's words have consequences, so they must be chosen carefully. For example, never, ever answer a question about the use of nuclear weapons.
Obama failed that test last week and immediately found himself on the defensive again. During an interview with the Associated Press, the senator initially ruled out using nuclear weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the effort to root out Osama bin Laden and his terrorist gang.
"I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance," he said, pausing before adding "involving civilians." Maybe battlefield nukes?
He realized where this was going and quickly explained: "Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."
Professor Clinton tried not to be too hard on the freshman senator and Harvard grad - after all, he has so much to learn about the conduct of foreign policy. "I think presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or non-use of nuclear weapons," she said. Smack.
Other Democratic rivals piled on. Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut said he found Obama's recent assertions about foreign and military affairs "confusing and confused." Smack.
The Pakistanis must be relieved to hear that a President Obama would have no nuclear intentions toward their country. But what are they to make of Obama's threat a few days earlier to send U.S. forces into Pakistan if its president, Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally, doesn't do more to crack down on the al-Qaida terrorists hiding in his country? By the way, Pakistan is a Muslim country with nuclear weapons.
Not a good idea, said Sen. Joe Biden, another Democratic presidential hopeful. "The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan that we are about to violate their sovereignty," he said. Smack.
Clinton echoed Biden's put-down of the "agent of change," as Obama once described himself.
At a recent Democratic debate, Clinton pounced on Obama after he said that unlike President Bush, he would be willing to meet with the leaders of rogue nations such as Iran, North Korea and Cuba in his first year as president. Clinton said she would never sit down with these tyrants without preconditions, adding that as president she would not allow herself to be used for "propaganda purposes."
The day after the debate, Clinton called Obama's position "irresponsible and, frankly, naive." Obama fired back, calling Clinton "Bush-Cheney lite."
Was it that long ago that Hillary Clinton was telling voters that Washington experience was overrated and that her husband, the governor of Arkansas, should be president even though he lacked any serious foreign policy credentials, unless, of course, you count trade missions overseas? As it turned out, foreign policy was not Bill Clinton's strong suit.
But look where the Washington experience of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld got us - into a disastrous war in Iraq that is breaking the military and rallying terrorists. Clinton's "experience" didn't keep her from casting her vote for war.
Many a Democratic heart is throbbing over the possibility of a Clinton-Obama dream ticket. But the way things are going, instead of getting Clinton's nod to be her vice presidential running mate, Obama could wind up on her long list of candidates for secretary of Housing and Urban Development.