Obama: Clinton Would Continue “Bush Doctrine”

Jul 26, 2007 11:21am

ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: Sen. Barack Obama lobbed another verbal grenade at Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday, continuing a feud that first erupted at Monday night’s Democratic presidential debate.

In a conference call with reporters, Obama said Clinton would continue the "Bush doctrine" of only speaking to leaders of rogue nations if they first meet conditions laid out by the United States. He went on to suggest that being "trapped by a lot of received wisdom" led members of Congress — including Clinton — to authorize the war in Iraq.

"The Bush administration’s policy is to say that he will not talk with these countries unless they meet various preconditions — that’s their explicit policy, and that was the question that was posed at the debate," Obama said. "This is the assertion that she made during the debate and subsequently, was that she would not meet with various leaders unless certain preconditions were met. Now, if that’s not what she means, then she should say so, but that was the question that was posed at the debate."

Obama added that he believes the U.S. needs the fresh perspective that he would bring to the Oval Office, one that would welcome conversations with all foreign leaders "to talk about our ideals, our values, and our interests."

"What’s been interesting about this debate over diplomacy," he added, "is I really think it’s the debate over the same conventional thinking that led people to authorize the war in Iraq without asking questions, versus an approach to foreign policy that asks questions, is informed by a knowledge, a perspective on cultures like those in Iraq, and is not trapped by a lot of received wisdom."

The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Clinton has sharply criticized Obama for committing to meetings with the leaders of countries that are often hostile to U.S. interests, saying on Tuesday that such statements were "irresponsible and frankly naive" because such a stance could lead to a president being used for "propaganda" purposes.

The exchange at the debate centered on a question about whether the candidates for president would be willing to meet, within their first year in office, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

Obama quickly said yes, while Clinton said no, arguing that the president should only meet with world leaders who are hostile to the US after lower-level diplomatic contacts are conducted. Obama has said in the aftermath of the debate that he never meant to suggest that he would meet with foreign leaders without first having aides make sure such such meetings would be worthwhile.

Though Clinton was the first to go on the attack after the debate, the Obama camp has been far more aggressive in the aftermath in keeping the story alive. As of mid-day Thursday, Clinton still hadn’t expanded on her initial comments, made to an Iowa newspaper, the Quad City Times.

Thursday’s conference call — ostensibly held to discuss his endorsement by Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H. — also showed a flash of Obama’s greenness. Obama appeared not to know what year Hodes was elected to Congress; he said Hodes "overcame predictions that he couldn’t beat an incumbent several years ago," when in fact Hodes lost his first congressional race, in 2004, and only won his seat in last year’s Democratic wave.

Later in the call, when Hodes jumped in to reiterate a point Obama was making, Obama cut him off: "I’m sorry, who’s this?" Obama said. Hodes responded, "This is Paul Hodes — Congressman Hodes."

Obama’s comments were considerably sharper than they’ve been in the past in regard to the 2002 war-authorization vote.

Obama, who said while running for the Senate that he opposed the war, was careful in an interview as recently as last fall to not criticize Clinton for her vote.

"I’m always careful to say that I was not in the Senate, so perhaps the reason I thought it was such a bad idea was that I didn’t have the benefit of U.S. intelligence," he told The New Yorker in October. "We were in different circumstances at that time: I was running for the U.S. Senate, she had to take a vote, and casting votes is always a difficult test."

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