Obama Campaign Push Back to the Clintons: Send in the Surrogates

Jan 13, 2008 4:35pm

ABC News Sunlen Miller Reports: After a morning conference call where Sen. Barack Obama pushed back hard against Democratic presidential rival Sen. Hillary Clinton’s "Meet the Press" interview, the Obama campaign had a second round of conference calls, unleashing their surrogates for even more pushback.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Obama’s national co-chair, and Susan Rice, Obama’s senior foreign policy advisor, were dispatched to dispel recent comments by both Clintons, especially Hillary Clintons’ interview on "Meet the Press" this morning.

"That interview contained, in my judgment, a record number of distortions and counterfactual statements," Rice said, "the purpose of which we have to assume was designed to obscure Clinton’s original vote for war and her long term support for it thereafter."

Sen. Dick Durbin agreed, and capitalized on the Clinton’s framing of Obama’s Iraq war record.

"I’ve really been troubled by the developments over the last several days and weeks," Durbin said, "where the Clinton campaign has been questioning Barack Obama’s sincerity when it came to his opposition to the war."

Durbin told reporters that he, as senator at the time, knew that the vote for war was a serious vote which assumed a very realistic option for invasion of Iraq. He said that Obama’s position on the war has never changed, and that he’s been consistently opposed to the war.

"When I hear President Clinton questioning the sincerity of Sen. Obama on this issue, I’m afraid he’s getting bad information and drawing wrong conclusions about Sen. Obama’s clear position and opposition to this war," Durbin said. "I don’t think this is good for the campaign, I don’t think this is good for the election, I don’t think it’s good for our party. I think the facts should speak for themselves."

Rice offered up evidence, which the Clinton campaign said was lacking, to demonstrate that after Obama’s initial speech in 2002 opposing the war, that he did something about it upon entering the Senate, citing Obama’s push for timelines, capping of the surge, and pressure to use influence with the Iraqis to bring about political accommodations.

Rice then turned the table on Clinton’s own assertion that Obama had not done anything to move toward ending the war while he was a senator.

"Sen. Clinton has not been a legislative leader to date on the issue of Iraq. She waited until Sen. Obama cast his vote on the Feingold legislation and after watching him do it then cast her own against funding."

Durbin compared this back and forth to the 2004 election and the series of "swiftboat" attacks on John Kerry.

"As we’ve seen in previous campaigns, what you try to do is go after your opponent’s position of strength," he said. "And I think Barack’s position of strength and credibility, with many voters in the Democratic primary was his early and consistent opposition to the war, so they’ve been trying to call this into question."

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer rejected the "swiftboat" comparison.

"It’s a false comparison, because the attacks against John Kerry were lies," Singer said. "We are talking about the record that Sen. Obama put together after he delivered his 2002 speech.  It is a fact that after Sen. Obama spoke out against the war in 2002, he removed the speech from his Web site when he started running for the Senate. By 2004, he said there wasn’t much of a difference between him and George Bush on the war, and by 2005, 2006 and 2007, he was voting for $300 billion in funding for the war. Voters should have complete information about the records of all the candidates."

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