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Adviser Defends Obama on Foreign Policy

By Jonathan Weisman
Barack Obama's campaign seemed reticent to respond to John McCain's attacks early this morning, but when the Arizona Republican's latest comments went public, it was forced to answer.

In a hastily arranged conference call, Susan Rice, an Obama foreign policy adviser and State Department veteran, said McCain had distorted Obama's record by saying the Illinois Democrat would bomb an ally, Pakistan. And it was McCain who "was the one who offered confused foreign policy leadership" when he advocated invading Iraq as a response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, then joked about bombing Iran by mimicking a Beach Boys song.

The issue of foreign policy is a soft spot for Obama, who has not served in the military and has minimal experience on international issues. Rice called Obama "a leader" on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but as a subcommittee chairman on the panel, he has yet to chair a hearing.

Rice countered that Obama had more foreign policy experience than Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did when they ran for president, and exit polls from Wisconsin indicated voters yesterday narrowly believed he would make a stronger commander in chief than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Still, Republicans are clearly on the attack. McCain was singling out a statement Obama made last year when he suggested he would take unilateral military action against al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan if Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf was not willing to. Rice repeated that, but said Obama was referring to action only after he had "actionable intelligence" on "high-value terrorist targets."

McCain's foreign policy "is very much a continuation and intensification of the failed Bush policies," she hit back. "Really, in many respects, it's just four more years of George Bush."

That was a far cry from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe's response to McCain only an hour earlier. Then, he said, "the general election is going to be a long general election. We don't have control of when it starts. We need to focus on the nomination" and the fight with Clinton.

By Washington Post editors  |  February 20, 2008; 11:37 AM ET
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Next: Another Bleak Wednesday for Clinton


Mrs Obama is a RACIST!


She is so angry, I will get her pregnant

Posted by: ermias.kifle | February 21, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

How amusing! I guess being a supporter of McCain gives you enough foreign policy experience to debate foreign policy! When are you fearmongers going to wake up from your 7-year nap and grasp this reality: The American people have had enough of this ignorance! We are ready to elect a President who won't wait until September 12 to start being President. Bush failed the US on 9/11, then he pimped the US because of 9/11, now McCain is running his record supporting a surge that has nothing to do with who attacked the US on 9/11.
"Stupid is what stupid does." Yeah, I stole it from Gump's mama.

Posted by: floydknight | February 20, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Cab91, Being wrong about the war is what is weak. Very weak. It leads to the downfall of the U.S. economy as well as an incredible amount of human life lost to this boondoggle. So right off the bat let's be clear how much McCain, Clinton, Biden and Edwards have done to my country because they were wrong about Iraq. Touring war ravaged Iraq may get you closer to the action but it's not necessarily the way to get to the truth of the war. Last spring McCain went to Iraq and toured a market in Baghdad wearing a flack jacket. In an interview at the time, McCain claimed that some parts of Baghdad were safe to walk around in. McCain however did not mention how he had over 100 U.S. military on the ground guarding him for his walk. Nor did McCain mention the helicopter gunships above the tourists as they smiled for camera-ops. Misleading the citizenry is no way for a candidate to gain my support.

Biden, Clinton, Edwards, McCain (all voted for war with Iraq)... they're just followers of a broken system that sees war as the answer to foreign affairs complications. McCain thinks we should have stayed longer (until we won) in Vietnam so you know twenty or thirty years in Iraq is a walk in the park for him. McCain comes from a long line of military officers and sees war as a calling not unlike a spiritual devotion of sorts. John sees war as a way to prove one's self to his family and himself.

Posted by: dionc9 | February 20, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

dionc9 said:

"Joe Biden, John McCain, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the old timers in Washington (aka *The Experienced*) may want to check in with Obama on foreign affairs matters before casting their next vote."

What a weak rebuttal. He doesn't have anything of substance to say.

Posted by: cab91 | February 20, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I had hoped that Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, or Bill Richardson or any of the other candidates with genunine leadership capability and some hope of electability in a national election would be the Democratic nominee. But oh no. Once more the True Believers in the Democratic Party voted as True Believers do like mindless minions. So, I ask myself, so what. The heck with it. It's a sad joke. I've lived through Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Bush years and McCain is a maverick and more like Bush Sr so he'll be as reasonable and not feckless.

Obama versus McCain wow this is going to be more entertaining than American Idol and Dancing with Stars. I can't wait for the debate although my guess is Obama will try to dodge any and all debates. But unfortunately Obamaniacs you can't vote using your mobile phone and Republicans will be voting in the national election. They are a lot like you, the only difference is that they vote R for Royal Republican and of course you will be voting D, for Dumb Democrat. And that is the problem with the American party system, there is no place for people who are independent moderates. Our best candidate this year is McCain. Perhaps we can draft George Clooney. Please. Give us some hope. Somebody run George Clooney. We need an Independent Party.

Posted by: krutkow75 | February 20, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

If foreign policy experience really mattered as much as pundits would have you believe, then you'd think that Dick Cheney would have resolved every foreign policy problem facing America during the past seven years. Instead, he and Bush have managed to alieniate both friend and foe while decimating America's moral, ethical, and economic credibility and leadership worldwide. I agree with Obama - more of the same is just what America does NOT need.

Posted by: mcwong999 | February 20, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

A couple of points, one I have great respect for McCain and was surprised to her him distort Obama's statement about Pakistan. Two if McCain wants to be judged by his experience in foreign affairs, how would he explain his vote for the invasion of Iraq? Please I want to hear that. Furthermore, in what ways is he going to be different from Bush other than personality?

I have great hope that the campaigning between McCain and Obama will be of such caliber and high standard that it would set precedence for subsequent elections. I am disappointed that McCain started the ball by misrepresenting what was said. I still have hope.

Posted by: Sirack | February 20, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

"Joe Biden reads the newspaper whenever Obama asks a question when the FRC meets" said cab91


A: Joe voted for the war. (as did Hillary)

Joe may want to put down the sports section and pay attention to what Obama has to say. Joe Biden, John McCain, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the old timers in Washington (aka *The Experienced*) may want to check in with Obama on foreign affairs matters before casting their next vote.

Posted by: dionc9 | February 20, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure Rice offered up a spirited defense. However, Obama remains a foreign policy lightweight.

"Rice called Obama "a leader" on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but as a subcommittee chairman on the panel, he has yet to chair a hearing."

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note has documents Obama's nonleadership as a subcommittee chairman. I hear Joe Biden reads the newspaper whenever Obama asks a question when the FRC meets.

"Rice countered that Obama had more foreign policy experience than Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush"

Based on what? His experience as a child living abroad? As far as I can tell he's never spent significant time overseas. Even Hillary has been to Iraq. Ever see any photos of Obama in a flak jacket?

Two undistinguished years as a Senator and being a "nice" guy in the Illinois state legislature are laughable, yet Rice wants everyone to believe that Obama has serious foreign policy street cred.

Posted by: cab91 | February 20, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Did it not Dawn on Rice to point out that the Bush Administration has done EXACTLY what Obama had prescribed, targeting Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan without the government's permission?

Posted by: NMP1 | February 20, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like McCain didn't get the morning memo... The U.S. has already bombed a site inside Pakistan.

From MSNBC by Joby Warrick and Robin Wright (WaPo)

In the predawn hours of Jan. 29, a CIA Predator aircraft flew in a slow arc above the Pakistani town of Mir Ali. The drone's operator, relying on information secretly passed to the CIA by local informants, clicked a computer mouse and sent the first of two Hellfire missiles hurtling toward a cluster of mud-brick buildings a few miles from the town center.

Obama's campaign people should get this news about the Pakistan air strike out there.

Posted by: dionc9 | February 20, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

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