Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What will Clinton do on Iraq and Iran? And Edwards?

I love how the Edwards campaign is getting so bold and so...well...I guess it could be described as snarky. As others have said before me, the truth can never be an attack, but the truth can sure hurt. Here's another example.

Now John Edwards has asked Senator Clinton to answer 5 simple yes or no questions on Iraq. Should be easy, right? It also should be something a presidential candidate should be ready to do. Will she do it?

Is there something that should be hard about answering these 5 questions?

“Senator Clinton has repeatedly said she will ‘end the war.’ Yet she has provided no plan for how she’ll do it. She has only said that she will hold a meeting with her advisors within 60 days of taking office. That’s not a plan. It’s a promise of a planning meeting. On such an important question we need honesty and answers, not double-talk and evasions.

“As president, I will immediately withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 troops to jump-start the political solution that will end the violence, launch a diplomatic offensive with all local, national, and regional parties, and completely withdraw all combat troops within nine to ten months. If Senator Clinton is the Democratic nominee, the debate with the Republicans will be about how much war we will have in Iraq. If I’m the nominee, the debate will only be about ending the war. We can’t be just a little bit better than the Republicans. We have to win this election and bring our brave men and women home to the heroes’ welcome they deserve.

“And so today, I am calling on Senator Clinton to offer specific answers to five questions of most concern to voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and all across America.”

Five Questions on Iraq that Every Candidate Should Have to Answer:

Question #1: Do you have a specific plan to end the war in Iraq?

Edwards: YES Senator Clinton: ?

Question #2: As president, will you withdraw all combat troops?

Edwards: YES Senator Clinton: ?

Question #3: Will you withdraw all combat troops within the first nine to ten months of your presidency?

Edwards: YES Senator Clinton: ?

Question #4: Will you conduct combat missions with troops stationed inside Iraq?

Edwards: NO Senator Clinton: ?

Question #5: Will you leave permanent military bases in Iraq?

Edwards: NO Senator Clinton: ?

And these are questions that really SHOULD be able to be answered with a straight yes or no. But will Senator Clinton do it?

It's all very well, you may say, for John Edwards to ask five direct questions that he has already answered and expect Hillary Clinton to also answer them. The cynical among us may even say that Edwards has asked five questions that make his plan look good. Well, yes, but they also pin him down to a specific answer, something we should demand of all the presidential candidates. But surely Hillary Clinton has already been asked and answered these questions, right? Let's check it out.

Question 1: Do you have a specific plan to end the war in Iraq?

Why, yes. Her plan is right here on her website. Well, OK, reading that, it's not very specific.

Wait. Does she really have a plan at all? Does it count if part of her plan is to come up with a plan?

The most important part of Hillary's plan is the first: to end our military engagement in Iraq's civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home. As president, one of Hillary's first official actions would be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration.

Question 2: As president, will you withdraw all combat troops?

Here's what she said in the September 26th Democratic debate:

Russert: Senator Clinton, Democrats all across the country believed in 2006 when the Democrats were elected to the majority in the House and Senate that that was a signal to end the war, and the war would end.

You have said that you will not pledge to have all troops out by the end of your first term, 2013. Why not?

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Well, Tim, it is my goal to have all troops out by the end of my first term. But I agree with Barack; it is very difficult to know what we are going to be inheriting. Now, we do not know, walking into the White House in January of 2009 what we are going to find.

That was just the beginning of a lengthy answer that really didn't quite answer the question. I think we can paraphrase that answer as "maybe."

Or... maybe not. Here's a quote on that from the October 30th Democratic debate:

Clinton: Number one, when we talk about combat missions in Iraq, my understanding is that we had the same agreement -- most of us on this stage -- that we would bring out combat troops but we would pursue a mission against Al Qaida in Iraq if they remained a threat.

Now, I don't know how you pursue Al Qaida without engaging them in combat. So I think we're having a semantic difference here. I think we should get as many of the combat troops out as quickly as possible.

If we leave any troops in, like special operations, to go after Al Qaida in Iraq, I assume that we don't want them just sitting around and watching them. We want them to engage them. That is a very limited mission. That is what I have said consistently.

Looks like a firm maybe...or no. A maybeno?

Question 3: Will you withdraw all combat troops within the first nine to ten months of your presidency?

See above. A firm maybeno.

Question 4: Will you conduct combat missions with troops stationed inside Iraq?

See above answer to question 2 again, only this time I think it's a firm maybeyes.

But wait...her goal is to bring all troops out by the end of her first term...but...she "would pursue a mission against Al Qaida in Iraq if they remained a threat." I get it. Maybe it won't be a war anymore. Maybe it'll be a police action. Wait. Wasn't Vietnam a "police action?"

Question 5: Will you leave permanent military bases in Iraq?

Anybody? I haven't heard her answer this question, and I'm not even sure I've heard her not answer it, but with her firm maybeyes to continuing combat missions, I have to wonder where she think she's going to house all those combat troops that may or may not be continuing combat missions while she may or may not be bringing troops home.

But will Edwards answer these questions?

See above. He already has, and with clear one-word answers. He has also provided longer, more detailed answers, consistent with the above one word answers, in debates, speeches, and townhalls.

Here's a link to his plan on Iraq.

What about Iran?

Today in New Hampshire, Edwards is outlining his five-point strategy for dealing with the challenges facing our relationship with Iran.

Edwards outlined his comprehensive five-point strategy to contain Iran and force the country to give up its nuclear ambitions and its support of terrorism and insurgent activity:

First and foremost, end the preventive war doctrine.

Second, use tougher and more targeted economic sanctions to force Iran's leaders to understand that they cannot continue to buck the will of the international community without destroying their ability to be a modern, advanced nation.

Third, use incentives to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and re-join the world community.

Fourth, reengage with Iran using a new multi-level diplomatic approach.

Fifth, reengage with other major nations like Russia and China on the challenges facing Iran.

This follows on the heels of a speech in Iowa where he laid out this plan in detail.

What about Clinton on Iran?

One thing that we know for sure is that she voted for Lieberman-Kyl , which designates the Iranian National Guard as a terrorist organization, something that Senator Jim Webb described as Cheney's fondest pipe dream.

So does she want war with Iran? Or doesn't she?

Russert: We're going to get to Social Security in a little bit, but I want to stay on Iran, Senator Clinton.

As you know, you voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, the only member of the stage here who did that.

Senator, Jim Webb of Virginia said it is for all practical purposes mandating the military option, that it is a clearly worded sense of Congress that could be interpreted as a declaration of war.

Why did you vote for that amendment which would -- calls upon the president to structure our military forces in Iraq with regard to the capability of Iran?

Clinton: Well, first of all, I am against a rush to war. I was the first person on this stage and one of the very first in the Congress to go to the floor of the Senate back in February and say George Bush had no authority to take any military action in Iran.

Secondly, I am not in favor of this rush for war, but I'm also not in favor of doing nothing.

Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. And the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism.

So some may want a false choice between rushing to war, which is the way the Republicans sound -- it's not even a question of whether, it's a question of when and what weapons to use -- and doing nothing.

I prefer vigorous diplomacy. And I happen to think economic sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy. We used them with respect to North Korea. We used them with respect to Libya.

And many of us who voted for that resolution said that this is not anything other than an expression of support for using economic sanctions with respect to diplomacy.

I'll take that as a firm maybeyesno. Or as Jon Stewart might say, she supportopposes it...or opposupports it...or something.

As for John Edwards, he had this to say in the same debate:

Well, I just listened to what Senator Clinton said and she said she wanted to maximize pressure on the Bush administration. So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written, literally, by the neo-cons.

I mean, has anyone read this thing? I mean, it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted. It didn't just give them what they wanted. They acted on it.

A few weeks later, they declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, and -- this is going to sound very familiar -- remember from Iraq? The prelude to Iraq? -- proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.

The way you put pressure on this administration is you stand up to them; you say no.

The Edwards campaign has, however, backed off their earlier claim that Clinton double-talks and never answers direct questions with a direct answer. I mean, it sure seemed like that after the October 30th debate, so I can understand their mistake.

Sometimes she IS more direct.

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