Barack Obama’s campaign on Monday rejected Hillary Clinton’s assertion that she opposed the Iraq war before Obama, saying Clinton’s claim defies the historical record.
An Obama campaign spokesman told FOX News that when the Illinois senator spoke out against the war at a February 2005 town hall meeting, Clinton opposed the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and said that parts of the country were “functioning quite well.”
At a campaign stop in Oregon on Saturday, Clinton defended her record on the Iraq war and said she spoke out against the U.S.-led invasion before Barack Obama did.
Responding to a question about her 2002 vote to authorize the military force, Clinton told an audience at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Ore.: “I made a considered judgment. I didn’t make a speech, I made a decision.”
“When Senator Obama came to the Senate, he and I have voted exactly the same except for one vote,” Clinton said. “And that happens to be the facts. We both voted against early deadlines. I actually starting criticizing the war in Iraq before he did,” she said.
The Clinton campaign has since defended the former first lady’s statement, saying that Clinton was referring to a time period beginning in January 2005 — after Obama had joined the Senate. In that context, her advisers say, Clinton is correct.
To support Clinton’s statement, her campaign pointed to a Jan. 26, 2005, paper statement, in which the New York senator wrote:
“The administration and Defense Department’s Iraq policy has been, by any reasonable measure, riddled with errors, misstatements and misjudgments. From the beginning of the Iraqi war, we were inadequately prepared for the aftermath of the invasion with too few troops and an inadequate plan to stabilize Iraq.”
Clinton’s remark on Saturday was not the first time the New York Senator criticized Obama’s record on the the Iraq War. In a Jan. 13, 2008, appearance on Meet the Press, Clinton said Obama’s campaign has been “premised on a speech he gave in 2002,” which she added “was to his credit.”
“He gave a speech opposing the war in Iraq. He gave a very impassioned speech against it and consistently said that he was against the war, he would vote against the funding for the war. By 2003, that speech was off his Web site. By 2004, he was saying that he didn’t really disagree with the way George Bush was conducting the war. And by 2005, “˜6 and “˜7, he was voting for $300 billion in funding for the war. The story of his campaign is really the story of that speech and his opposition to Iraq. I think it is fair to ask questions about, “˜Well, what did you do after the speech was over?’ And when he became a senator, he didn’t go to the floor of the Senate to condemn the war in Iraq for 18 months. He didn’t introduce legislation against the war in Iraq. He voted against timelines and deadlines initially,” Clinton said.
But opponents say Clinton’s claim that she criticized the war before Obama is inconsistent with the facts.
They say Obama — who has focused his presidential campaign largely on his record of staunch opposition to the war — voiced criticism of the U.S.-led invasion during his first meeting as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 18, 2005.
“I am concerned about this notion that was pursued by Senator (Joe) Biden and others that we’ve made significant progress in training troops because it seems to me that in your response to Senator (Lamar) Alexander that we will not be able to get our troops out absent the Iraqi forces being able to secure their own country, or at least this administration would not be willing to define success in the absence of such security,” Obama told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Obama supporters add that Clinton reportedly said at that time, “I don’t think it’s useful to set a deadline because I think it sends a signal to the terrorists and the insurgents that they just have to wait us out.”