Obama, Clinton Both
Cite Iraq Progress,
Say It's Not Enough
In the last two days, Democratic front-runners Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have both laid out a surprising position for a pair of Senators who vocally opposed a troop surge in Iraq earlier this year: they've said that, at least in some ways, it's working.
Clinton, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Kansas City yesterday, said "we've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it's working."
Asked about his rival's comments, Obama, in a conference call with reporters today said "I didn't see the actual transcript of Senator Clinton's speech, but my assessment is that if we put an additional 30,000 of our troops into Baghdad, that's going to quell some of the violence in the short term. I don't think there's any doubt that as long as U.S. troops are present that they are going to be doing outstanding work."
At the same time -- and ahead of the much-anticipated September report of General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq on progress there -- both candidates signaled that no matter what Petraeus says, they are not going to support allowing additional time for the surge to work. Clinton said "we're just years too late changing out tactics," while Obama argued "it doesn't change the underlying assessment that there's not a military solution to the situation in Iraq. The underlying political dynamic has not changed."
In his VFW speech today, Obama called for "zero tolerance" for veterans from becoming homeless, but he, like Clinton the day before, shaped his comments carefully in front of an audience that has more nuanced views on the war than the Democratic activists the candidates are often addressing.
"I know all of us don't agree on everything," Obama said. "I have heard those of you who disagree with me. I want you to know that I respect the views of all who come to this hall today. I will listen to them as a candidate, and I will listen to them as President."
Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, who spoke before Obama at the convention, took a swipe at both. He said the U.S. must rebuild its military to fight global terrorism because leaders "took a holiday" in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War, no doubt a reference to the administration of Sen. Clinton's husband. And he argued against withdrawing troops from Iraq.
"Some people in this country think if we can pull out of Iraq, our problems will be over," Thompson, who is expected to declare his candidacy for the GOP nomination next month, told the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "You and I know better than that."
-- Perry Bacon Jr.
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