Hillary Challenges Both McCain and Obama on Iraq

I did a radio show yesterday, and the host asked me, “If you were Hillary Clinton’s top campaign strategist, what would you tell her to do right now?” I said, “Go after McCain with a vengeance.”

Throwing the kitchen sink at Obama helped deliver wins in Ohio and Texas, but the campaign has not fundamentally changed this month — Obama continues to pad his delegate lead and pick up more superdelegates. Clinton, I argued, can change the dynamics by dropping the attacks against Obama (which too often spur a backlash anyway) and targeting McCain exclusively. It would help her present a different kind of case to superdelegates: “Forget the math and the numbers, and look at how well I can take on the Republican nominee.”

Today, at a speech at my alma mater, Clinton did one of the two — she went after both McCain and Obama. (I can’t find the whole speech online, but the campaign posted an outline of the Clinton plan for Iraq today, and put a brief excerpt of the address on YouTube.)
From the start of this presidential campaign, the consensus among most Democrats is that the war in Iraq was an issue that was problematic for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. She voted to authorize the war, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois spoke out against it from the start, and Democratic primary voters overwhelming oppose it. The war was an issue that Mrs. Clinton, presumably, would need to finesse.
But Senator Clinton moved today to try to turn that assumption on its head. She delivered a speech in Washington dedicated completely to the war in Iraq, saying she would begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 60 days of taking office, should she win. And she attacked both Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the likely Republican nominee.
In attacking Mr. McCain, Mrs. Clinton noted that he had at one point said he would be comfortable with the United States having a presence in Iraq for 100 years. With Mr. Obama, she noted that Samantha Powers, a former senior foreign policy adviser, had been quoted as telling a British newspaper that Mr. Obama’s schedule for withdrawal outlined on the campaign trail would not be what he would necessarily follow in the White House.
“One choice in this election is Senator McCain, who is willing to keep this war going for 100 years,” Mrs. Clinton said. “You can count on him to do that. Another choice is Senator Obama, who has promised to bring combat troops out in 16 months. But according to his foreign policy adviser, you can’t count on him to do that.”

Now, it’s likely that the Clinton speech will get lost today in a very busy news cycle, but the criticism of McCain on Iraq is certainly welcome and a positive development.

Frankly, outside of the debates, I have a hard time thinking of recent high-profile examples of Clinton taking on McCain directly. Much to my disappointment, I can actually think of more recent examples of her praising McCain, and suggesting he was better prepared for the presidency than her Democratic rival.

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