Words of War: Clinton Camp Muddies Obama's Anti-War Stance but Record Is Clear

ByABC News
March 20, 2007, 12:47 PM

March 20, 2007— -- The campaign team of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. -- most notably her husband -- has expressed frustration in recent days over how the media has portrayed the respective views of Sen. Clinton and her rival Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., on voting to go to war in Iraq in 2002 and 2003.

Clinton Camp Spins Obama Record

Clinton's vote to authorize the use of force has emerged as a campaign issue among many anti-war liberals who want her to say her vote was a mistake. Obama was not in the Senate at the time but constantly reminds voters that he opposed the war from the beginning.

Last week at a Manhattan fundraiser, former President Clinton reportedly complained about The New York Times' coverage of his wife, saying the paper of record is attacking his wife because she refuses to apologize for her October 2002 vote, while, according to the former president, Obama expressed confusion back then about how he would vote had he been in the Senate at the time.

Clinton noted an excerpt from an interview Obama gave the Times in July 2004, "What would I have done? I don't know."

Earlier this week at a forum at Harvard University, Clinton pollster Mark Penn cited the same Times quotation.

The full context of those remarks include Obama saying that he's "not privy to Senate intelligence reports," and that "what I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made."

Allies of the Clinton campaign deny that anyone is trying to accuse Obama of not having opposed the war.

The issue raised by the former President and Penn, they say, is that Obama's rhetoric has changed on how he speaks about those who were in the Senate and cast the 2002 vote to go to war.

Asked by National Public Radio about the pro-war votes of the Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominess, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John Edwards, D-N.C., Obama said, "I don't consider that to have been an easy decision, and certainly, I wasn't in the position to actually cast a vote on it. I think that there is room for disagreement in that initial decision."

"The important thing here is that Obama has been 100% consistent in his opposition to the war, and now he has a responsible plan to end the conflict," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. "Even when you look at the statements he's made about others who supported the war, it's clear that he's in sharp opposition to the war."

ABC News Review Shows Consistent Anti-War Message

And in fact, a review of comments Obama made in 2002 and 2003 -- in video obtained by ABC News -- makes it clear that the junior senator from Illinois, then a mere state senator, stood out during a time as opposing the war quite firmly when the war was overwhelmingly popular.

At an anti-war rally on October 2, 2002, Obama said, "I don't oppose war in all circumstances. When I look out on this crowd today, I know there is no shortage of patriots or patriotism. What I do oppose is a dumb war."

On the local Chicago talk show "Public Affairs With Jeff Berkowitz" on November 25, 2002, just weeks after the Senate voted, Obama said, "If it had come to me in an up or down vote as it came, I think I would have agreed with our senior Sen. Dick Durbin and voted 'Nay.'"