Aides for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama clashed last night at a forum at Harvard. Clinton strategist Mark Penn responded to a question about his candidate’s vote for the Iraq war resolution by noting that Obama has said he can’t say how he would have voted had he been in the Senate with access to the information available at the time to Senators. Obama aide David Axelrod took exception.
It’s understandable that the Clinton campaign wants to take the luster off of Obama as an opponent of the war. However, Obama may well get the better of the argument. First, from an objective standpoint it speaks well of Obama that he doesn’t preclude the possibility that he might have voted for the war resolution. Only those on the far left would want a president who, on no possible set of facts, would have been unwilling to take down Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Second, Obama’s remarks were made in 2004 in the context of defending John Kerry and John Edwards for voting in favor of the resolution. Liberal partisan Tim Russert asked Obama, “How could [Kerry and Edwards] have been so wrong and you so right as a state legislator in Illinois and they’re on the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees in Washington?” Obama replied, “Well, I think they have access to information that I did not have.” By then, the war was quickly becoming unpopular, but Obama rejected an opportunity to make himself look good at the ticket’s expense. That’s not to be despised.
Finally, whatever Obama might have done in a counter-factual scenario, he opposed invading Iraq and his two main opponents — Clinton and Edwards — voted to authorize the president to do so. Thus, Obama remains to the left of Clinton and Edwards on a matter of concern to many Democrats.
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