For yet another day on the campaign trail, the topic of national security, and the respective readiness of Democratic candidates to be commander-in-chief, took center stage. And as the results from Tuesday's primaries primary's prepared to trickle in, Sen. Barack Obama's camp hit back hard against assertions that Hillary Clinton was better suited for the post.
"This morning the Clinton camp claimed that Senator Clinton had passed a commander in chief test and Senator Obama has not. I know Senator Clinton's record better than anyone," said Greg Craig, a former adviser in the Clinton administration and current Obama foreign policy aide. "If Senator Clinton wants to debate Barack Obama on national security that is a debate he will win and has won in the past."
Craig went on to note several instances where he believed Clinton either exaggerated her record or overemphasized its political significance. The list included peace negotiations in North Ireland, opening up borders in Kosovo, and work in Bosnia. "She has talked about a dangerous mission to Bosnia, but news reports indicate that she was accompanied on that trip by Sinbad and Cheryl Crow," he said.
Much of the conversation, expectedly, centered on Clinton's support for the Iraq war, which Craig and others hammered away at throughout the roughly half-hour session. Her unwillingness to admit that the vote to authorize the war was a mistake, he said, was failure to live up to the Harry Truman doctrine: "the buck stops here." The fact that she didn't read National Intelligence Estimate, meanwhile, signified a "flunk[ing] of the commander-in-chief test."
Reminded that Obama supporter and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry had not himself read the NEI or for that matter considered reading it a big deal, Craig extended his critique to the Massachusetts Democrat.
"It seems to me that the point is that John Kerry should have listened to Sen. [Bob] Graham [who read and championed the NEI] as should have Sen. Clinton," he said. "Perhaps if John Kerry had read the NIE his vote would have been different as well. But the fact is it seems to me that you should be crossing every T and dotting every I and looking at every fact before voting on every issue on voting on war versus peace."
Earlier in the day, the Clinton camp hit Obama yet again for not being equipped to handle national security issues. The senator herself seemingly suggested that Sen. John McCain, because of his 30-plus years in public office, was better positioned to be commander-in-chief come time to take office. She and her aides also hammered the point that, as chair of the subcommittee on Europe of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama did not hold a single hearing on Afghanistan.
It was an argument that seemed to trip up Craig and other aides on the Obama call.
"The record is what it is. He didn't become chairman of that subcommittee until January 2007," said Craig. "He made his announcement for President of the United States in February 2007, so he had other things on his mind."