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Bob Graham: Iraq War Vote Was Commander In Chief Test

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Former Sen. Bob Graham is staying neutral in the Democratic presidential race. But when it comes to defining the qualities that make a good commander-in-chief, he's espousing talking points that sound eerily similar to Barack Obama's.

"I don't believe there is a school you can go to, to train to be commander-in-chief," Graham said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "I think the qualities you are looking for would include, judgment, the willingness to surround yourself with strong people, listening to a diversity of ideas and then forming a conclusion. I think curiosity is important.

"If there had been a little more curiosity in the fall 2002 -- if the questions had been asked -- [it] would have raised a lot of suspicions," he said, referencing the Iraq war authorization vote. "I think you have to look to see whether those qualities exist. And if they do, you have reason to believe that the person who has those qualities would become an effective commander-in-chief."

Graham, who headed the Senate Intelligence Committee in the run up to Iraq, famously declared his war opposition after reading the National Intelligence Estimate, a document he thought did not make the case (and one that Sen. Hillary Clinton has acknowledged not reading). That aside, Graham noted that "experience" in and of itself was not a prerequisite for becoming leader of America's armed forces.

"If you look at recent presidents, certainly George W. Bush didn't have any commander-in-chief experience, neither had Bill Clinton," he said. "George H. W. Bush had served in the military. Reagan didn't serve in the military. Carter was an Annapolis graduate. He was probably as close to what you would consider prepared to be commander-in-chief of the recent presidents."

The Florida Democrat was less hesitant to weigh in on the other major campaign issue of the day -- what to do about Florida's delegates -- in part because he simply didn't have the magic bullet to resolve the crisis. But he did offer some detailed analysis and colorful metaphors.

On Florida's decision to move up its primary and the DNC's retaliation of stripping the state of its delegates:

"This was like a bank robbery. The Republicans [who controlled the legislature and governor's chair and pushed to move up the primary] were in the vault, putting their money in the bags. The Democrats were in the car out on the street, ready to drive the bank robbers away after the heist. The bank robbers in the vault got a light tap on the wrist [from the RNC] and we got a chainsaw that took off our right arm."

On what to do to get those delegates counted at the convention:

"Our options are not many and none of them are very good. There has been a lot of interest in maybe a mail-in ballot because it is not inexpensive. But apparently there are a lot of legal problems with doing a mail-in ballot [Florida's entire House delegation opposes the idea as well]... The other two options are to try and run a full scale primary, which will be very expensive and difficult because many counties use this period in the spring and summer to switch out machinery and a number of counties say they can't physically put on an election... The third is to have a caucus, but that has never been our tradition, and it doesn't seem to have gotten much lift."

So what should be done?

"We are in a real mess. If Michigan and Florida are sufficiently teed off as a result of it, then it changes enough votes to put them in the Republican column. That represents about 45 or so electoral votes, which would be more than the margin of victory in most recent presidential elections. So it is a very bad place for Democrats. We are waiting for the Huffington Post to give us a creative option."

Um... Don't hold your breath.