Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-ranking party leader in the Senate, says President Bill Clinton’s comments about Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) are getting “too personal” and called on the former president to refrain from attacking Obama’s integrity.
“I’m really troubled by his questioning the sincerity of Barack Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq” Durbin said. “I really think it is unfortunate to question Barack’s sincerity on the war. He has been there from the start, opposing this war.”
The unsolicited comments — in a phone call to Politico from Springfield, Ill. — were a sign that the Obama campaign is going to react aggressively to perceived attacks on the senator’s character.
“I really had hoped … that it wouldn’t become too personal or too negative” Durbin said. “I don’t think that’s good for either of the candidates or for our party. There may be clear some clear differences on some issues.”
Durbin suggested that the former president has been giving somewhat revisionist accounts on the way the Iraq war debate played out.
“It was not easy to be against that war back when we cast that vote in October of 2002” Durbin said. “I was one of 23 who voted against the war. Barack was supportive — one of the few candidates speaking out strongly against it in Illinois.
“If President Clinton had opposed that war as strongly as Barack Obama at the time, it would have helped a lot of us who had voted against authorizing an invasion.”
What Durbin’s doing there is essentially calling Bill Clinton a liar, because as we all know, in addition to Obama trying to sugarcoat his record on Iraq, Bill Clinton late last year tried to revise his own record by claiming he was “against it” from the get go.
More from the Politico piece on how Clinton is talking about Obama’s Iraq record:
“I think that his story line is not accurate” Clinton said Friday on a liberal talk show on Sirius satellite radio.
Clinton, seeking to tamp down discontent among black leaders about comments he made about Obama in New Hampshire, told Mark Thompson on the Talk Left channel:
“This is what happens any time anyone tries to question a statement or a position of Sen. Obama. The response is, â€˜You’re attacking me personally,’ and that relieves him of the obligation to address the substance.”
Hmmm. Is that anything like someone playing the gender/victim card in response to legitimate criticisms of their own record? I believe this is what they call “pot, kettle.”
For the record, here are Bill Clinton’s remarks on Obama and Iraq:
“But since you raised the judgment issue, let’s go over this again. That is the central argument for his campaign. ‘It doesn’t matter that I started running for president less a year after I got to the Senate from the Illinois State Senate. I am a great speaker and a charismatic figure and I’m the only one who had the judgment to oppose this war from the beginning. Always, always, always.’ ”
“First it is factually not true that everybody that supported that resolution supported Bush attacking Iraq before the UN inspectors were through. Chuck Hagel was one of the co-authors of that resolution. The only Republican Senator that always opposed the war. Every day from the get-go. He authored the resolution to say that Bush could go to war only if they didn’t co-operate with the inspectors and he was assured personally by Condi Rice as many of the other Senators were. So, first the case is wrong that way.”
“Second, it is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, numerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, ‘Well, how could you say, that when you said in 2004 you didn’t know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war and you took that speech you’re now running on off your website in 2004 and there’s no difference in your voting record and Hillary’s ever since?’ Give me a break.
“This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen…So you can talk about Mark Penn all you want. What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the Senator from Punjab? Did you like that?”
The statements Clinton made about Obama’s Iraq stance are right on the money. Bill Clinton’s criticism of Obama’s nuanced Iraq war position has been echoed by at least two other Democrats, one being Hillary Clinton supporter Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), back in November. His comments, however, haven’t drawn the attention that Bubba’s have, because, well, he’s not the husband of Obama’s main rival for the nomination. Former Dem contender for the nomination Senator Chris Dodd questioned Obama’s record on Iraq as well, but it didn’t get much play, presumably for the same reason’s McGovern’s didn’t.
The narrative behind all this is that Obama supporters simply do not want The Golden Boy’s record questioned. I suspect the primary reason is what with him serving 8 years in the Ill. Senate, and being a 1st term US Senator who has been in the Senate for only three years (while campaigning for president for the last year+) he doesn’t have much of a record of accomplishment to question. And what we do know about Obama’s record in the Illinois state senate (beyond the fact that he has “no papers” from that time in his political life) suggests a senator at the time who dodged important, hot button votes by voting “present” rather than “yay or “nay.”
Obama’s lists of political accomplishments can be summed up thusly: “Served 8 years in the Illinois state senate. Elected to the US Senate, 2004.” That speaks volumes about his experience – or lack thereof, to be more precise – and his lack of a significant list of accomplishments while serving in either. His record is unremarkable. What’s driving the Obama campaign at this point – and, in fact, what has been the driving force on it from the word go – is a mixture of rock star-like appeal to, among others, the fickle “Rock the Vote” crowd, inspiring speeches like the one he made at the 2004 DNC (where he was, incidentally, introduced by Dick Durbin himself) – which was where Obamamania was born, and the novelty of the attractiveness of first serious black contender for the presidency.
Obama’s supporters get testy over the questioning of Obama’s political record because they know it’s sort of like opening up a big shiny box with a pretty red bow on it on Christmas day, only to find there’s nothing in it but glittery tissue wrap. It’s spotless – literally. They’re worried that once people see beyond the charm and charisma that they’ll figure out what the Clinton campaign – and anyone else who has taken a closer look at Barack Obama – has known all along: the substance and the experience simply aren’t there.
Of course, keeping in mind how the media has contributed to the building up of Barack Obama’s reputation with glowing news reports like these, Obamamaniacs may not have to worry. There’s no question that, in concert with liberal Democrats who are on the Obama bandwagon, the media will act as sort of an “affirmative action” program in and of itself to Obama’s nomination, should it come to that – effectively giving him a leg up against whoever his opponent may be in the general election (something they would do in the case of a Hillary nomination, too). The question is: will the Republican nominee be able to overcome it? Because he, too, will be subjected to the same warnings and the same criticisms for attacking Barack Obama’s record – except in his case, the racism accusations will be a lot louder, have a lot more longevity to them, and be taken more seriously – because he’s a Republican.
Cross-posted to Right Wing News, where I am helping guestblog for John Hawkins on Sundays.