From NBC's Mark Murray
Are the Clinton surrogates now going after Obama? And is this telegraphing what Hillary might say at tomorrow night's debate?
Clinton supporter Rep. Jim McGovern (D) writes at Huffington Post: "Senator Obama has been trying to use his early opposition to the 2002 authorization to use military force as a way to bring attention to his campaign. And that's fine -- that's politics. I have great respect and admiration for Senator Obama. But he should be more careful, because his record doesn't always line up with his rhetoric.
"That became clear when Sen. Obama appeared on Meet the Press last Sunday, Tim Russert reminded him of comments he made about Iraq during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Talking about how he would have voted on the '02 authorization, Mr. Russert flashed a quote from then-State Senator Obama on the screen that said: 'I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports. What would I have done? I don't know.' In response, Senator Obama said it was probably the wrong time for him to speak out on the war.
"I simply disagree. I don't believe there has ever been a wrong time to oppose this war... Sen. Obama now likes to say that people shouldn't act like George Bush on national security. It's one thing to keep quiet about the war during a convention, it's quite another to say you support what George Bush is doing."
A couple things worth pointing out here:
-- Obama's full remarks before the 2004 convention: "In a recent interview, he declined to criticize Senators Kerry and Edwards for voting to authorize the war, although he said he would not have done the same based on the information he had at the time. 'But, I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports,' Mr. Obama said. 'What would I have done? I don't know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made.' But Mr. Obama said he did fault Democratic leaders for failing to ask enough tough questions of the Bush administration to force it to prove its case for war. 'What I don't think was appropriate was the degree to which Congress gave the president a pass on this,' he said." (New York Times, 7/26/04)
-- Obama's exchange with Russert:
MR. RUSSERT: You were not in the Senate in October of 2002. You did give a speech opposing the war. But Senator Clinton's campaign will say since you've been a senator there's been no difference in your record. And other critics will say that you've not been a leader against the war, and they point to this: In July of '04, Barack Obama, "I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports. What would I have done? I don't know," in terms of how you would have voted on the war. And then this: "There's not much of a difference between my position on Iraq and George Bush's position at this stage." That was July of '04. And this: "I think" there's "some room for disagreement in that initial decision to vote for authorization of the war." It doesn't seem that you are firmly wedded against the war, and that you left some wiggle room that, if you had been in the Senate, you may have voted for it.
SEN. OBAMA: Now, Tim, that first quote was made with an interview with a guy named Tim Russert on MEET THE PRESS during the convention when we had a nominee for the presidency and a vice president, both of whom had voted for the war. And so it, it probably was the wrong time for me to be making a strong case against our party's nominees' decisions when it came to Iraq.
Look, I was opposed to this war in 2002, 2003, four, five, six and seven. What I was very clear about, even in 2002 in my original opposition, was once we were in, we were going to have to make some decisions to see how we could stabilize the situation and act responsibly. And that's what I did through 2004, five and six, try to see can we create a workable government in Iraq? Can we make sure that we are minimizing the humanitarian costs in Iraq? Can we make sure that our troops are safe in Iraq? And that's what I have done. Finally, in 2006, 2007, we started to see that, even after an election, George Bush continued to want to pursue a course that didn't withdraw troops from Iraq but actually doubled down and initiated the surge. And at that stage, I said, very clearly, not only have we not seen improvements, but we're actually worsening, potentially, a situation there. And since that time I've been absolutely clear in terms of the approach that I would take. I would end this war, and I would have our troops out within 16 months.