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Obama Touts Foreign Policy Judgment

By Shailagh Murray
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Sen. Barack Obama turned the spotlight back to foreign policy today, arguing that his opposition to the Iraq war and willingness to talk to U.S. adversaries makes him the Democrat most likely to win the general election.

The electability argument is one Obama is expected to advance forcefully in the final days leading to the Jan. 3 caucuses, as Iowa Democrats sort through a crowded field and decide once and for all which candidate to support. To attest to his judgment, given his short tenure in national politics, Obama offered up a panel of foreign policy experts, including Anthony Lake, former national security adviser to President Clinton.

"We know what we're going to get from the Republican nominee -- more Bush-Cheney foreign policy," said Obama, speaking after the panel had concluded its session. "When I'm the Democratic nominee I will offer a clear choice. My opponent won't be able to say I ever supported the war in Iraq, because I haven't. He won't be able to say that I don't support a clear timetable to bring our troops home, because I support such a timetable. He won't be able to say that I voted to use our troops in Iraq to counter Iran, or that I supported the Bush-Cheney diplomacy of not talking to leaders we don't like, and he won't be able to say that I wavered on something as fundamental as whether or not it's okay for America to torture, because it's never okay."

"This isn't simply about drawing contrasts," Obama continued, "it's about a change in our foreign policy that you can believe in. So when you consider who to caucus for, I ask you to consider my judgment and vision."

He even cut President Bush some slack on the Iraq war. "George Bush didn't take us into war alone," said Obama. "Congress gave him that authority," and then he read the title of the 2002 Senate resolution supported by Democratic rivals John Edwards, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joseph Biden and Christopher Dodd. Obama was not a member of the Senate at the time, but he said at the time that he would have voted against it.

Lake introduced himself as "an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama" while calling the 2008 election a referendum on "authenticity" vs. "artificiality."

"That's why I'm for him," Lake said.

Obama fielded questions on Pakistan, China and Israel, and called for greater emphasis on foreign languages and cultures in U.S. schools. He singled out a decline in the number of foreign students who come here to study, the result of a visa crackdown after Sept. 11. Obama's father, who was born in Kenya, won a scholarship to the University of Hawaii, which is where he met Obama's mother. "This used to be one of the single best public diplomacy tools in our possession," Obama said of the student visa program.

The characteristics that make Obama different - the fact that he is African American, that his father was a Muslim and that Obama's middle name is Hussein, that he lived in Indonesia as a child - have become landmines for his opponents. But Obama and his surrogates increasingly tout those distinctions as strengths that set him apart from a more traditional Democratic pack. The senator mentioned his father several times during today's forum, noting at one point, "my father was from Africa," when addressing the crisis in Sudan.

"If we elect him, it is not just that we will elect a president who presents an extraordinary new face to the world. America needs to present such a face. But it's going to say something very important about us as Americans," Lake said. "The act of electing this man would tell the world we have turned the page, there is a new face to the American people."

Lake pointed to one perceived vulnerability, Obama's short tenure on the national stage. "I know he gets attacked on this, but I think it's a positive, his experience," said Lake. "The fact is, that having served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Veterans Affairs Committee, Homeland Security, etc., -- he has more experience already in our area than did Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton, George Bush."

Did someone say Bill Clinton? "Oh and by the way, I looked it up recently," Lake continued. Obama "is one year older than Bill Clinton was when I was organizing foreign policy for him in 1992."

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 18, 2007; 3:06 PM ET
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Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHIEST from Wichita, Kansas. his parents divorced, father returned to Kenya, mother married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia. Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta. He takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, "He was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school." Obama's political handlers are attempting to make it appear that he is no longer Muslim. Obama attended a Wahabi school in Jakarta . Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background.

Recently free ride for Obama from political press and it feels besieged it has to bat away incessant questions with Obama's significant shifts/ flip flopping on issues such as Patriot Act, Defense of Marriage Act, Fast Track trade authority and benefits for same-sex couples. Given how little experience, campaign doesnt want any focus on his record, clearly raise questions about his electability and serves reminder about how little the public knows about his positions. Illinois chapter of the National Organization for Women, Obama said he would vote to repeal the Patriot Act. In 06 Obama voted for the redrafted version of the Patriot Act that made only minor changes. On Defense of Marriage Act Obama answered No, to the question: "Do you support repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. On Fast Track authority, which requires Congress to vote yes or no and without amendments on pending trade deals, Obama opposes Fast Track authority. Benefits for same-sex couples, Obama said he would need to evaluate the fiscal impact before extending Social Security benefits to same-sex couples. Obama is involved in a suspicious real estate deal with an indicted political fundraiser, Antoin Tony Rezko. Obama also linked to an alleged influence peddling scandal and was nabbed conducting campaign business in his Senate office, a violation of federal law. In addition three political aides on Sen. Barack Obama's payroll are registered lobbyists for dozens of corporations, including Wal-Mart, British Petroleum and Lockheed Martin, while they received payments from his campaign, according to public documents.

Posted by: dyck21005 | December 20, 2007 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Barack Obama has shown great leadership and strength, poise and judgement. We are tired of all the Drama. I am confident that Obama will attract enough of a cross section of real Americans to get the job done, if so, my faith in the future of our country will be bolstered. He also will be a better candidate against the uptight right.

Posted by: eSPO1 | December 19, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse


That was very well said. I totally agree and that is why it is essential for this man to become our next president.

Posted by: jbid24 | December 19, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

In October 2002, Senator Obama gave a remarkably prescient speech in which he said: "I do not oppose all wars. What I do oppose are rash wars."'s_Iraq_Speech

Senator Obama has the support of very many respected thinkers in our Foreign Policy establishment. In his many writings and speeches, he has made clear his vision for a global community led by a strong United States of America - one in which global prosperity, opportunity, security, and stability are bound together. He has a shrewd coherent world view, and a canny ability to understand complex problems. He is neither liberal nor realist. His foreign policy vision is sharp, powerful, inclusive, rooted in a wholly American way of thinking.

Further, more than any other candidate, he possesses experience that allows him to speak with authority to what America represents in the world. Growing up abroad in a bi-racial American family - the grandson of a WWII veteran and a Kenya farmer - transferring from Occidental College to Columbia University, from his time at a corporate consultancy to his experience organizing urban communities in Chicago, Senator Obama has not just lived the American Dream, he has embodied it. To make this voice the mouthpiece of American foreign policy - this profoundly shrewd and capable individual - will do more to make us safer and better understood than years of endless PR campaigns and photo ops the global community is accustomed to seeing from us.

Senator Obama for President in '08.

Posted by: maq1 | December 19, 2007 8:10 AM | Report abuse

"George Bush didn't take us into war alone," said Obama. "Congress gave him that authority," and then he read the title of the 2002 Senate resolution supported by Democratic rivals John Edwards, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joseph Biden and Christopher Dodd. Senator Obama spoke out against the Iraq war when all the other candidates were supporting it. That says it all. Judgement, integrity and authenticity.

"I think he feels it. He feels it just like Bobby did," Ethel Kennedy said, comparing her late husband's quest for social justice to Obama's. "He has the passion in his heart. He's not selling you. It's just him." Ethel Kennedy invited Obama to deliver the keynote address at a ceremony commemorating the 80th birthday of Robert F. Kennedy. She said she had carefully followed the career of the Illinois senator, whom she referred to as "our next president." Chicago Tribune

Obama 08!

Posted by: Katy7540 | December 19, 2007 1:52 AM | Report abuse

Media coverage for Obama has been overwhelmingly positive much manufactured by reporters, but fails to inspire, suggested divisiveness in Washington stems from struggle of 1960s. that's naïve. national crisis when Americans come together, politics has always been a divisive affair. Obama Has Not Won a Tough Contest, his ability to win in a difficult contest is reason for concern. Republicans will eat him alive ask John Kerry, Al Gore, or Michael Dukakis. Obama can't hope for change; you must fight for it. His first opponent, Jim Ryan, pulled out of the contest following the release of details from divorce. Obama has only faced ONE difficult battle for Congress against Rep. Bobby Rush. receiving only 30% and lost. Obama's inexperience hurt him.

His speech opposing Iraq war "I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars. War protesters have not been able to count on him, during his ballyhooed speech at the 04 Dem convention; he failed to decry the war, followed form and strongly supported John Kerry. When asked how he would have voted on Iraq resolution, don't know said Obama. Since arriving in the Senate, Obama and Clinton have had identical votes on Iraq. His health plan, lacks a universal mandate, echoing his conservative peers, insists Social Security is crisis that needs immediate attention, not true, Social Security Trust Fund would run out 2046.

Obama Takes Black Voters for Granted, when a controversy erupted over the Jena Six. Obama chose not to take up the mantle of past civil rights leaders by not joining the Jena Six protest, Jesse Jackson (Obama supporter) said he's acting like he's white. Was a unique moment for Obama to show support for the black community, but didnt. Now he must explain to Democratic voters why he doesn't want to continue the fights of the 1960s -- included battles over civil rights, the antiwar movement, expansion of Social Security and expanding health care (Medicare). This is not the time for obama

Posted by: dyck21005 | December 18, 2007 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but I think the Clintons have been much more negative than Obama. In addition, Clinton has media on her side too. Just watch CNN for an hour.

One thing is true, Obama is an excellent counter puncher. Just look at the way he handled Hillary during the debate last week. He hit her just right when she pulled out her prolonged fake laugh during the question concerning former Clinton staffers working for his campaign.

In addition, we saw the real Hillary Clinton on the Today's Show yesterday when she became frustrated and upset with David Gregory's question regarding Bill's rolling the dice comment.

Moreover, it is obvious that Obama is running against two people. For instance, Bill is the one doing the attacking now so Hillary does not have to. In addition, Bill is promoting John Edwards too. Everything her campaign does seems so calculated. Hillary is a solid politician, but she is not near as authentic as Obama.

In the end, I like Obama's new ideas and outlook on politics.

Posted by: jbid24 | December 18, 2007 6:38 PM | Report abuse

RyanAi says " There's an incredible dearth of articles criticizing Obama, while there's no end to the number of articles criticizing Clinton. While Clinton by no means is a saint, it is a bit unfair to frame articles for Obama postively and ones for Clinton negatively."
Dearth - meaning scarcity or rare. Uh-huh. Why do you think that is, Ryan? When the Clinton campaign has to go back to Obama's kindergarden papers or his drug use in high school, you know that there is not much dirt out there so they create it - he's a Muslim, he's a "roll of the dice", he's "inexperienced."
He is The Real Thing. He has more experience as an ELECTED official than Hillary. People who think he is an "empty suit" have not read his work or seen him speak. The opportunity to have a man like this as our President doesn't come along very often. Seize the day.
OBAMA 08!!

Posted by: sheridan1 | December 18, 2007 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Once again another pro-Obama article by the biased media. There's an incredible dearth of articles criticizing Obama, while there's no end to the number of articles criticizing Clinton. While Clinton by no means is a saint, it is a bit unfair to frame articles for Obama postiviely and ones for Clinton negatively. Take for instance the article in the Post about Obama being the sole candidate not putting his hand over his heart during the national anthem, this was reported as "the Patriot Police" nab Obama. Imagine if Clinton was the only candidate not to place her hand over her heart, do you think the media would've framed the information in a similar fashion? Also, look at Obama's naive remarks regarding his years spent in Indonesia as child suggesting that such an experience somehow makes him better qualified to conduct foreign policy. Clinton rightfully attacked this remark. Under this logic, the best policymakers would come from other countries so we should elect more foreign-born individuals to office. And again, the media potrayed this as a cheap shot by the Clinton campaign.
It is unfair. Obama can freely attack Clinton and say that he is justly asserting a point. While any response on Clinton's part is seen as mudslinging. It should be the response of the people to learn the true facts and not be blinded by a biased media. Also, the major media outlets really should practice objective reporting. In regards to the upcoming election, the media's responsibility is to report the news, not attempt to dictate the outcome of the election.

Posted by: RyanAi | December 18, 2007 6:12 PM | Report abuse

No more Clintons. The 90's are over and they need to just go away. Senator Obama has a vision for this country and she does not. Edwards only wants to slam all of the corporations and take away health care from congress. We need a real leader, someone to make this country proud again and that is Senator Obama.

Posted by: GraceMN | December 18, 2007 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I attended this forum this AM and it was a wonderful opportunity to see the caliber of a few of the advisors who might be part of an Obama administration.

The US would be in good stead if the Executive Branch were being run by a President named Barack Obama. With as much attention he has given to ethical reform and transparency in government, I'm quite confident that we would begin to feel represented by our President once again. He actually appears to want to listen to the American people, and to be held accountable, too!

BTW, wasn't the Iraq war supposed to be "self-funding"? I didn't get to ask my question of the great Senator from Illinois, but is seems to me that the Republican controlled White House believes "tax" is a four letter word that should never be uttered.

It's okay to rack up nearly 4 trillion in "debt" in seven years, which really is a four letter word, but heaven forbid that we actually try to raise enough revenue to make the government self-sustaining. No, we'd rather borrow from foreign nations and bury our children and grandchildren with the debt. From the caliber of conversation today, I believe President Obama can do a lot better at balancing a budget than W.

Posted by: obiwan1250 | December 18, 2007 5:32 PM | Report abuse

If you are looking for an interesting read, I suggest you read this story below.

From today's NYTimes.

Op-Ed Columnist
The Obama-Clinton Issue
Published: December 18, 2007
Hillary Clinton has been a much better senator than Barack Obama. She has been a serious, substantive lawmaker who has worked effectively across party lines. Obama has some accomplishments under his belt, but many of his colleagues believe that he has not bothered to master the intricacies of legislation or the maze of Senate rules. He talks about independence, but he has never quite bucked liberal orthodoxy or party discipline.

If Clinton were running against Obama for Senate, it would be easy to choose between them.
But they are running for president, and the presidency requires a different set of qualities. Presidents are buffeted by sycophancy, criticism and betrayal. They must improvise amid a thousand fluid crises. They're isolated and also exposed, puffed up on the outside and hollowed out within. With the presidency, character and self-knowledge matter more than even experience. There are reasons to think that, among Democrats, Obama is better prepared for this madness.

Many of the best presidents in U.S. history had their character forged before they entered politics and carried to it a degree of self-possession and tranquillity that was impervious to the Sturm und Drang of White House life.

Obama is an inner-directed man in a profession filled with insecure outer-directed ones. He was forged by the process of discovering his own identity from the scattered facts of his childhood, a process that is described in finely observed detail in "Dreams From My Father." Once he completed that process, he has been astonishingly constant.

Like most of the rival campaigns, I've been poring over press clippings from Obama's past, looking for inconsistencies and flip-flops. There are virtually none. The unity speech he gives on the stump today is essentially the same speech that he gave at the Democratic convention in 2004, and it's the same sort of speech he gave to Illinois legislators and Harvard Law students in the decades before that. He has a core, and was able to maintain his equipoise, for example, even as his campaign stagnated through the summer and fall.

Moreover, he has a worldview that precedes political positions. Some Americans (Republican or Democrat) believe that the country's future can only be shaped through a remorseless civil war between the children of light and the children of darkness. Though Tom DeLay couldn't deliver much for Republicans and Nancy Pelosi, so far, hasn't been able to deliver much for Democrats, these warriors believe that what's needed is more partisanship, more toughness and eventual conquest for their side.

But Obama does not ratchet up hostilities; he restrains them. He does not lash out at perceived enemies, but is aloof from them. In the course of this struggle to discover who he is, Obama clearly learned from the strain of pessimistic optimism that stretches back from Martin Luther King Jr. to Abraham Lincoln. This is a worldview that detests anger as a motivating force, that distrusts easy dichotomies between the parties of good and evil, believing instead that the crucial dichotomy runs between the good and bad within each individual.

Obama did not respond to his fatherlessness or his racial predicament with anger and rage, but as questions for investigation, conversation and synthesis. He approaches politics the same way. In her outstanding New Yorker profile, Larissa MacFarquhar notes that Obama does not perceive politics as a series of battles but as a series of systemic problems to be addressed. He pursues liberal ends in gradualist, temperamentally conservative ways.

Obama also has powers of observation that may mitigate his own inexperience and the isolating pressures of the White House. In his famous essay, "Political Judgment," Isaiah Berlin writes that wise leaders don't think abstractly. They use powers of close observation to integrate the vast shifting amalgam of data that constitute their own particular situation -- their own and no other.

Obama demonstrated those powers in "Dreams From My Father" and still reveals glimpses of the ability to step outside his own ego and look at reality in uninhibited and honest ways. He still retains the capacity, also rare in presidents, of being able to sympathize with and grasp the motivations of his rivals. Even in his political memoir, "The Audacity of Hope," he astutely observes that candidates are driven less by the desire for victory than by the raw fear of loss and humiliation.

What Bill Clinton said on "The Charlie Rose Show" is right: picking Obama is a roll of the dice. Sometimes he seems more concerned with process than results. But for Democrats, there's a roll of the dice either way. The presidency is a bacterium. It finds the open wounds in the people who hold it. It infects them, and the resulting scandals infect the presidency and the country. The person with the fewest wounds usually does best in the White House, and is best for the country.

Posted by: jbid24 | December 18, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Bill Clinton "was against the war since the beginning", but his wife has voted for the war "because of my experience of 8 years in the other side of Pennsykvania Ave". She also said that her husband's people gave her advice. Who lies? BOTH

Posted by: christophefiero | December 18, 2007 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Republicans for Obama -- the time has come.

Posted by: Dean.Sprague | December 18, 2007 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Smart move by Obama to dilute the "compliments" of Bob Kerrey -- of late of the Clinton campaign -- and equally smart to use Anthony Lake, who is well respected in foreign policy circles.

But, the fact is that no person is ever has the sufficient experience to be president. And there is no experience test, class or activity that readies anyone to be president other than being president itself. Interesting that the omnipotent "founding fathers" didn't supply the necessary criteria other than being a natural born citizen who has attained the age of 35 years.

Obama is a very smart man, who, unlike either Clinton or G. W. Bush does not pursue the office of president with a sense of entitlement or birthright or dowry.

We need someone with a more "global" approach to the problems of the world, and Hillary has demonstrated time and time again, she doesn't possess that instinct.

The "roll of the dice" is putting Bill Clinton back in the White House. Since he is precluded by constitutional amendment from seeking or holding a third term, how will he stay out of policy-making, and how do we protect the constitution (given the secrecy of the Clintons) from this "end-run" to a third term?

The best way is to not "re-elect" them in the first place.

Posted by: jade_7243 | December 18, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama for President of the United States of America.

Say no to nepotism.
Say no to triangulated Iraq vote disasters.
Say no to mud-sling machine politics.

It's time for America to Rise and Shine again.

Posted by: PulSamsara | December 18, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Lake is right. Mr Obama has been tested in many ways. He has the necessary critical intelligence as well as a record of accomplishment in state and federal government. He will make a fine president. What really sets him apart is his one great lack, one that is the virtual trademark of the "inevitable" candidate, Ms. Clinton. He lacks hubris.
Hubris is the unredeeming pride which results in certaintydespite the facts and the unwillingness to admit error. Thank goodness Obama lacks that!
We have had two terms of a hubristic president. We do not need another of such certainty and arrogance. Obama will be just fine, giving us a new and intelligent and thoughtful profile in a world pretty much sick to death of our government's arrogance.

Posted by: rpmcestmoicoxnet | December 18, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

So Lake worked for Bill Clinton. Then he should know that in the past 100 years, only 2 members of the Senate went directly to the White House.
Being on the Foreign Policy Committee does not mean that Obama helped to create policy or implement policy. Has he met with presidents from other nations?
Obama can't speak for any administration and does not represent our nation as a diplomat.
On the matter of experience, at least Bill Richardson worked as our UN ambassador and met with world leaders. Richardson is a 5 star winner on the issue, not Obama.

Posted by: dbu2709399aolcom | December 18, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Remarkably matter-of-fact, non-judgmental reporting. Is there an error in the attribution or is that simply a function of the subject?

Posted by: zukermand | December 18, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

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