Game on, folks.
While there's been some discussion about his nukes stand in the speech today, what's significant is that Barack Obama directed his fire directly at Hillary Clinton today.
In very stark terms. Drawing contrasts.
And he's not taking just her on. He's taking the entire way of thinking that she represents on.
First of all, it should be noted that today's date, October 2, 2007, is not coincidental. This is the 5th anniversary of Obama's much-touted speech opposing the invasion of Iraq. And he uses that date to drive home the big advantage he has over Senator Clinton--judgment.
You are students. And the great responsibility of students is to question the world around you, to question things that don’t add up. With Iraq, we must ask the question: how did we go so wrong?
There are those who offer up easy answers. They will assert that Iraq is George Bush’s war, it’s all his fault. Or that Iraq was botched by the arrogance and incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Or that we would have gotten Iraq right if we went in with more troops, or if we had a different proconsul instead of Paul Bremer, or if only there were a stronger Iraqi Prime Minister.
These are all challenges to Hillary, who has issued several of those statements, including the complaint about al-Maliki and the claim that this is George Bush's war.
These are the easy answers. And like most easy answers, they are partially true. But they don’t tell the whole truth, because they overlook a harder and more fundamental truth. The hard truth is that the war in Iraq is not about a catalog of many mistakes – it is about one big mistake. The war in Iraq should never have been fought.
Damn straight. Collective guilt is no excuse for individual sin.
But the conventional thinking in Washington has a way of buying into stories that make political sense even if they don’t make practical sense. We were told that the only way to prevent Iraq from getting nuclear weapons was with military force. Some leading Democrats echoed the Administration’s erroneous line that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. We were counseled by some of the most experienced voices in Washington that the only way for Democrats to look tough was to talk, act and vote like a Republican.
The use of the word 'experienced' is not accidental.
But note, the indictment of Hillary is not that she is so much worse than everyone else in Washington. Rather, it's that she's so typical of the Beltway echo-chamber.
Obama rattles off all the people who were complicit and failed the American people back in 2002-2003:
But it doesn’t end there. Because the American people weren’t just failed by a President – they were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts. By a foreign policy elite that largely boarded the bandwagon for war. And most of all by the majority of a Congress – a coequal branch of government – that voted to give the President the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. Let’s be clear: without that vote, there would be no war.
Yes. Congress handed the ball off to George W. Bush. And once The Decider gets the ball and takes it into Iraq, it's harder than hell to get it back.
Some seek to rewrite history. They argue that they weren’t really voting for war, they were voting for inspectors, or for diplomacy. But the Congress, the Administration, the media, and the American people all understood what we were debating in the fall of 2002. This was a vote about whether or not to go to war. That’s the truth as we all understood it then, and as we need to understand it now.
That's exactly right. Everyone knew that Bush had his heart set on war.
And we need to ask those who voted for the war: how can you give the President a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?
Again, the target here is clearly Hillary. John Edwards doesn't pretend that he wasn't voting for war. Hillary has slowly but surely backtracked to the point that one would think her vote was a vote for peace.
With all that we know about what’s gone wrong in Iraq, even today’s debate is divorced from reality. We’ve got a surge that is somehow declared a success even though it has failed to enable the political reconciliation that was its stated purpose. The fact that violence today is only as horrific as in 2006 is held up as progress. Washington politicians and pundits trip over each other to debate a newspaper advertisement while our troops fight and die in Iraq.
The big flap over the Moveon ad is inded proof that Washington is still broken and populated by idiots.
And the conventional thinking today is just as entrenched as it was in 2002. This is the conventional thinking that measures experience only by the years you’ve been in Washington, not by your time spent serving in the wider world. This is the conventional thinking that has turned against the war, but not against the habits that got us into the war in the first place – the outdated assumptions and the refusal to talk openly to the American people.
Exactly. How can we complain about the tragically disastrous and morally bankrupt Washington establishment thinking and then vote to keep that Washington establishment in power?
Well I’m not running for President to conform to Washington’s conventional thinking – I’m running to challenge it. I’m not running to join the kind of Washington groupthink that led us to war in Iraq – I’m running to change our politics and our policy so we can leave the world a better place than our generation has found it.
He's taking on the establishment, the Very Serious People. He's not just taking Hillary Clinton on. He's taking her machine on.
So there is a choice that has emerged in this campaign, one that the American people need to understand. They should ask themselves: who got the single most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War right, and who got it wrong. This is not just a matter of debating the past. It’s about who has the best judgment to make the critical decisions of the future. Because you might think that Washington would learn from Iraq. But we’ve seen in this campaign just how bent out of shape Washington gets when you challenge its assumptions.
This is a charge that Hillary can only hope to deflect, not take on directly. He got the big question right, and she got it wrong.
We need to question the world around us. When we have a debate about experience, we can’t just debate who has the most experience scoring political points. When we have a debate about experience, we can’t just talk about who fought yesterday’s battles – we have to focus on who can face the challenges and seize the opportunities of tomorrow. Because no matter what we think about George Bush, he’s going to be gone in January 2009. He’s not on the ballot. This election is about ending the Iraq War, but even more it’s about moving beyond it. And we’re not going be safe in a world of unconventional threats with the same old conventional thinking that got us into Iraq. We’re not going to unify a divided America to confront these threats with the same old conventional politics of just trying to beat the other side.
He's pointing out that change from George W. Bush is not enough. George W. Bush is not on the ticket. He is not the issue.
And here it is folks:
In 2009, we will have a window of opportunity to renew our global leadership and bring our nation together. If we don’t seize that moment, we may not get another. This election is a turning point. The American people get to decide: are we going to turn back the clock, or turn the page?
And he is exactly right. We either change our party and our nation dramatically now, or wait at least a decade and maybe two before we get another chance.
I want to be straight with you. If you want conventional Washington thinking, I’m not your man. If you want rigid ideology, I’m not your man. If you think that fundamental change can wait, I’m definitely not your man. But if you want to bring this country together, if you want experience that’s broader than just learning the ways of Washington, if you think that the global challenges we face are too urgent to wait, and if you think that America must offer the world a new and hopeful face, then I offer a different choice in this race and a different vision for our future.
The Democratic party has a choice. The stakes are clear. The positions are clear. Status quo thinking rejects the idea of Barack Obama's candidacy.
I'll conclude this diary by noting his language on Iraq:
The first thing we have to do is end this war. And the right person to end it is someone who had the judgment to oppose it from the beginning. There is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was. I will begin to remove our troops from Iraq immediately. I will remove one or two brigades a month, and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months. The only troops I will keep in Iraq will perform the limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on al Qaeda. And I will launch the diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives that are so badly needed. Let there be no doubt: I will end this war.
No training troops for the Iraq military. He had before said that he would include trainers if the Iraqi security forces got their act together, which translates to "off theh table." You're probably looking at under 10,000 troops under an Obama administration by 2013. Maybe none.
For a take on other elements, see this diary.
Permission granted to reproduce this diary is freely granted so long as proper credit is attributed