Discuss as:

Hillary questions Obama's security creds

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones and Aswini Anburajan
WASHINGTON, DC -- Hillary Clinton today suggested Barack Obama had not met the commander-in-chief test.

She said that proving he was ready would be important with John McCain as the Republican nominee and with national security as a key issue in the election.
"I think it's imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold, and I believe that I've done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that, and you'll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy," she said during a meeting with military officers and other national security experts in Washington, which was convened to discuss her own readiness for the job and her plans for dealing with the war in Afghanistan.

The New York senator began the meeting by talking about the support she had received from military officers. "As president, I will draw on the experience of leaders such as those you see before you to confront our challenges and to seize our opportunities to build a safer and more just world," she said, adding that she was grateful to have her own experience to draw on having lived at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and having traveled to more than 80 countries representing the country.

She mentioned having had a conversation today with King Abdullah of Jordan to discuss challenges facing the region. "Some may believe that experience doesn't matter or that even in today's world it is a liability. But as generals and admirals, ambassadors, and other senior leaders charged with protecting our security know, experience doesn't just count for something. Often when lives are on the line and a decision must be made, experience counts for everything. In this election, we need a nominee who can pass the commander-in-chief test," she said.

But in a conference call with reporters today, Obama foreign affairs adviser Susan Rice questioned Clinton's own experience. "You don't get that experience from being married to a commander in chief," she said.

Rice and Greg Craig, another Obama adviser, repeated a constant theme of the Obama campaign that Clinton's initial vote for the war in Iraq made her judgment on foreign policy poorer than Obama's. Rice also tried to walk a fine line by trying to discredit any substantive work that Clinton had done as First Lady, while trying not to undermine the role.

She praised the work of Laura Bush and Clinton as goodwill ambassadors who did "laudable work" on specific issues in the international arena, but she said that the U.S. government does not turn to the First Lady in a time of crisis. She also claimed that Clinton's claims that she had played roles in the conflict in Bosnia, Macedonia, and Northern Ireland were overstated.

"She took a trip to Bosnia with Chelsea, Sinbad and Sheryl Crow. She claimed that bullets were flying in the air, but she was at a meet and greet and concert for the troops," Rice claimed.

The Clinton campaign has been pushing the national security theme hard for days, beginning with their release of the "Children" ad -- with a ringing phone and a question about who voters want answering the phone at 3:00 am in the event of a crisis. 

During the brief Q&A at her meeting, Clinton was asked about her role when her husband answered phone calls during crises in the middle of the night.

"I don't talk about the conversations that I had with my husband in the White House, but obviously I was there for a lot of phone calls at different times of the day and night, and I have a very clear idea of what it takes to be prepared and ready to not only to answer the phone but then to make the decisions that are required depending on what the crisis is."