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Bennet Kelley Headshot

No Country for Old Poli-tricks

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It is 3:00 in the morning, the phone is ringing in the White House and do you know where the facts are? Senator Clinton scored a big victory in the Ohio primary due in large part to her retread of a Mondale commercial asking "who do you want to answer the White House phone in a time of crisis." The commercial reversed Senator Obama's surge in the polls and changed the race in Ohio from a tossup to a commanding lead for Clinton.

The premise of the 3:00 a.m. commercial is that Senator Clinton's foreign policy credentials are significantly superior to Senator Obama's -- but is that really the case? Yes, Senator Clinton was in the White House with her husband for eight years, engaged in symbolic diplomacy through foreign trips as first lady and no doubt met many foreign leaders, but she neither had security clearance nor was she part of the president's foreign policy team. Clinton has claimed that she was "intimately involved" in the Northern Ireland peace process and negotiated with the Macedonia government to open their border to refugees from Kosovo during the NATO-Serbian War. A Washington Post Fact Checker, however, found these claims fail the Pinocchio Test as former Senator George Mitchell, who led the Northern Ireland negotiations said Senator Clinton was not directly involved in the process nor is there any evidence that she negotiated the opening of the Macedonian border.

Senator Obama's response to the 3:00 a.m. spot was to ask the more pertinent question of whose judgment would you trust in a time of crisis. Look at the current administration; while President Bush was a diplomatic novice, he assembled what was arguably the most seasoned national security team ever. Yet it was Obama who had the sense to recognize, what the Bush "wise men" refused to see, that invading Iraq would end up being one of the greatest foreign policy disasters of our history.

Senator Clinton walked the same path as the "wise men" on Iraq and refuses to this day to acknowledge her mistake. While she claims that she relied on the intelligence available at that time, why then did the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- Bob Graham -- vote against the resolution? Yes, Senator Graham, West Point alum Senator Reed and 21 other Senators actually had the courage to vote "no." Given this record, one can only wonder whether the image of Senator Clinton talking on the phone at the end of the commercial is her talking to a world leader or her pollsters.

The 3 a.m. commercial was clearly part of the Clinton campaign's promise of throwing the kitchen sink as they fought to prevent a knockout blow from Senator Obama. In doing so, Clinton decided to seek short term gain at the expense of both her credibility and the party's potential nominee.

What is particularly unfortunate about this commercial is that it obscures the fact that not only have both Senators Clinton and Obama gained valuable national security experience in their work on the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees respectively, but both of them have more experience in this area than every President elected since Watergate (with the exception of the elder President Bush) -- including Senator Clinton's husband and the current occupant of the office. In addition, both Senators have assembled a national security team that includes respected veterans from both the Carter and Clinton administrations.

In October 2004, President Clinton explained that "one of Clinton's laws of politics is . . . [i]f one candidate is trying to scare you and the other one is trying to get you to think, if one candidate is appealing to your fears and the other one is appealing to our hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope." He was right.

As we approach the final stretch of the campaign, both candidates and the party as whole must remember that both campaigns are historic and creating hope and excitement throughout the nation. More importantly, both candidates are fully capable of leading this nation and reversing the disastrous course of the last eight years as soon as the clock strikes noon on January 20. That day will come so long as we remain the party of hope.