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We'll be seeing fireworks today from both the campaigns on the trail in Pennsylvania. Here's the first salvo in the form of talking points from the Obama campaign:

Message of the day:  A choice in this election

Recently, the Clintons have been saying that Barack Obama would be a good Vice President for Senator Clinton. But Obama has won twice as many states as Senator Clinton. He has also won more delegates and more of the popular vote than Senator Clinton. So it’s curious for somebody who is in second place to be offering the Vice Presidency to the person who is in first place.

Back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was asked about his selection for Vice President, he said the most important criteria is that that person is ready to be Commander-in-Chief if something happened to the President during his first week in office.

Now, the Clintons have been saying that Barack Obama isn’t ready on Day One. But you can’t say that he is not ready on Day One if you’re willing to say he should be Vice President. That is exactly the kind of double talk that people who spend a lot of time in Washington have a lot of
experience at, but it is not going to solve the problems of the country.

Barack Obama is not running for Vice President. He is running to be President because he believes that the most important criteria to be Commander-in-Chief is what kind of judgment you have, not how long you’ve been in Washington. And Obama has shown better judgment than Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton went along with George Bush on the war in Iraq and on his willingness to saber rattle when it came to Iran . And she went along with the conventional thinking about foreign policy that has gotten us into trouble. That is what Barack Obama intends to change as President.

So don’t think that we can get both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton on the same ticket. Americans have to make a choice in this election. It’s between change and more of the same. It’s the future versus the past. And Barack Obama represents the future.

Supporting working families

Today, Barack Obama is speaking at a green energy company in Fairless Hills , Pennsylvania to talk about what he’ll do as President to strengthen our middle class and put the American dream within reach for every American.

Obama’s plan for strengthening our middle class starts with investing in green jobs. These are the jobs of the future – not just because they pay well and can’t be outsourced. And not just because they’ll help strengthen our economy and lift up our middle class. But because they’ll help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and save this planet for our children.

That’s why as President, Obama will invest $150 billion over ten years in establishing a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million new jobs, including jobs in Pennsylvania . He’ll pass a law that says 25 percent of our electricity has to come from renewable energy sources by 2025, which will spur the development of new technologies and could create hundreds of thousands of new jobs on its own. He’ll also invest in clean energies like wind, solar, biodiesel, and in the technology to make clean coal. And we’ll also provide funding to help manufacturers convert to green technology and help workers learn the skills they need for these jobs.

But if we truly want to make a difference in the lives of working families, we’ll need to make broader investments in the middle class as well. And that’s exactly what Obama intends to do as President. He’ll make sure our trade deals have strong labor and environmental protections to help keep jobs in Pennsylvania . He’ll pass the Patriot Employer Act that he’s been fighting for since he ran for the Senate – we will end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and give those breaks to companies that create good jobs with decent wages here in America. He’ll put a $1,000 tax cut into the pockets of working families, and struggling homeowners, and he’ll eliminate income taxes altogether for seniors making less than $50,000 a year.  And he’ll bring Democrats and Republicans together to finally pass universal health care and cut the cost of a typical family’s premiums up to $2,500 a year.

Senator Clinton’s "3 a.m." TV ad

The Clinton campaign seems to be saying that because Hillary Clinton ran a TV ad, she’s somehow more experienced than Senator Obama to be Commander-in-Chief. The truth is, she’s just inflating what little "foreign policy experience" she actually has.

She did not sit in on any National Security Council meetings when she was First Lady. She said she played an important role in the Northern Ireland peace process, but as Nobel Peace Prize-winner Lord Trimble said the other day, her claims are a "wee bit silly."  She points to her role in standing up for women’s rights in China . But this boils down to a speech she gave in Beijing , and Senator Clinton has repeatedly told us that speeches don’t count for anything. She said she negotiated "on matters such as opening borders for refugees during the war in Kosovo" – but she did not. She visited Macedonia , and American diplomats negotiated opening up those borders before she arrived. She has touted a dangerous mission to Bosnia , but news reports then found that she was accompanied on that trip by the comedian Sinbad and Sheryl Crow.

This isn’t about a TV ad, it’s about who has the judgment and experience to be Commander-in-Chief. On the most important foreign policy question of our generation, Barack Obama got it right and Hillary Clinton got it wrong. Not only did he strongly oppose the war in Iraq , but he predicted its consequences, and called on us to finish the fight in Afghanistan . And Obama’s record of good judgment is backed by more foreign policy experience than Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton had when they were elected. He has worked in the Senate to pass legislation to secure loose nuclear weapons and materials around the world; to stop the genocide in Darfur and the killing in Congo ; to increase funds to combat epidemic disease like avian flu; and to provide more care and support for our wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s a record of judgment and experience that is more impressive than Hillary Clinton’s.

And the Obama campaign continues to attack Clinton's so-called foreign policy credentials:

To: Interested Parties

From: Greg Craig, former director, Policy Planning Office, U.S. State Department

RE: Senator Clinton’s claim to be experienced in foreign policy: Just words?

DA: March 11, 2008

When your entire campaign is based upon a claim of experience, it is important that you have evidence to support that claim. Hillary Clinton’s argument that she has passed "the Commander- in-Chief test" is simply not supported by her record.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton played an important domestic policy role when she was First Lady. It is well known, for example, that she led the failed effort to pass universal health insurance. There is no reason to believe, however, that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff. She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis. As far as the record shows, Senator Clinton never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue – not at 3 AM or at any other time of day.

When asked to describe her experience, Senator Clinton has cited a handful of international incidents where she says she played a central role. But any fair-minded and objective judge of these claims – i.e., by someone not affiliated with the Clinton campaign – would conclude that Senator Clinton’s claims of foreign policy experience are exaggerated.

Northern Ireland:

Senator Clinton has said, "I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland." It is a gross overstatement of the facts for her to claim even partial credit for bringing peace to Northern Ireland. She did travel to Northern Ireland, it is true. First Ladies often travel to places that are a focus of U.S. foreign policy. But at no time did she play any role in the critical negotiations that ultimately produced the peace. As the Associated Press recently reported, "[S]he was not directly involved in negotiating the Good Friday peace accord." With regard to her main claim that she helped bring women together, she did participate in a meeting with women, but, according to those who know best, she did not play a pivotal role. The person in charge of the negotiations, former Senator George Mitchell, said that "[The First Lady] was one of many people who participated in encouraging women to get involved, not the only one."

News of Senator Clinton’s claims has raised eyebrows across the ocean. Her reference to an important meeting at the Belfast town hall was debunked. Her only appearance at the Belfast City Hall was to see Christmas lights turned on. She also attended a 50-minute meeting which, according to the Belfast Daily Telegraph’s report at the time, "[was] a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times." Brian Feeney, an Irish author and former politician, sums it up: "The road to peace was carefully documented, and she wasn’t on it."

Bosnia:

Senator Clinton has pointed to a March 1996 trip to Bosnia as proof that her foreign travel involved a life-risking mission into a war zone. She has described dodging sniper fire. While she did travel to Bosnia in March 1996, the visit was not a high-stakes mission to a war zone. On March 26, 1996, the New York Times reported that "Hillary Rodham Clinton charmed American troops at a U.S.O. show here, but it didn’t hurt that the singer Sheryl Crow and the comedian Sinbad were also on the stage."

Kosovo:

Senator Clinton has said, "I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo." It is true that, as First Lady, she traveled to Macedonia and visited a Kosovar refugee camp. It is also true that she met with government officials while she was there. First Ladies frequently meet with government officials. Her claim to have "negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo," however, is not true. Her trip to Macedonia took place on May 14, 1999. The borders were opened the day before, on May 13, 1999.

The negotiations that led to the opening of the borders were accomplished by the people who ordinarily conduct negotiations with foreign governments – U.S. diplomats. President Clinton’s top envoy to the Balkans, former Ambassador Robert Gelbard, said, "I cannot recall any involvement by Senator Clinton in this issue." Ivo Daalder worked on the Clinton Administration’s National Security Council and wrote a definitive history of the Kosovo conflict. He recalls that "she had absolutely no role in the dirty work of negotiations."

Rwanda:

Last year, former President Clinton asserted that his wife pressed him to intervene with U.S. troops to stop the Rwandan genocide. When asked about this assertion, Hillary Clinton said it was true. There is no evidence, however, to suggest that this ever happened. Even those individuals who were advocating a much more robust U.S. effort to stop the genocide did not argue for the use of U.S. troops. No one recalls hearing that Hillary Clinton had any interest in this course of action. Based on a fair and thorough review of National Security Council deliberations during those tragic months, there is no evidence to suggest that U.S. military intervention was ever discussed. Prudence Bushnell, the Assistant Secretary of State with responsibility for Africa, has recalled that there was no consideration of U.S. military intervention.

At no time prior to her campaign for the presidency did Senator Clinton ever make the claim that she supported intervening militarily to stop the Rwandan genocide. It is noteworthy that she failed to mention this anecdote – urging President Clinton to intervene militarily in Rwanda – in her memoirs. President Clinton makes no mention of such a conversation with his wife in his memoirs. And Madeline Albright, who was Ambassador to the United Nations at the time, makes no mention of any such event in her memoirs.

Hillary Clinton did visit Rwanda in March 1998 and, during that visit, her husband apologized for America’s failure to do more to prevent the genocide.

China

Senator Clinton also points to a speech that she delivered in Beijing in 1995 as proof of her ability to answer a 3 AM crisis phone call. It is strange that Senator Clinton would base her own foreign policy experience on a speech that she gave over a decade ago, since she so frequently belittles Barack Obama’s speeches opposing the Iraq War six years ago. Let there be no doubt: she gave a good speech in Beijing, and she stood up for women’s rights. But Senator Obama’s opposition to the War in Iraq in 2002 is relevant to the question of whether he, as Commander-in-Chief, will make wise judgments about the use of military force. Senator Clinton’s speech in Beijing is not.

Senator Obama’s speech opposing the war in Iraq shows independence and courage as well as good judgment. In the speech that Senator Clinton says does not qualify him to be Commander in Chief, Obama criticized what he called "a rash war . . . a war based not on reason, but on passion, not on principle, but on politics." In that speech, he said prophetically: "[E]ven a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences." He predicted that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would "fan the flames of the Middle East," and "strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda." He urged the United States first to "finish the fight with Bin Laden and al Qaeda."

If the U.S. government had followed Barack Obama’s advice in 2002, we would have avoided one of the greatest foreign policy catastrophes in our nation’s history. Some of the most "experienced" men in national security affairs – Vice President Cheney and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others – led this nation into that catastrophe. That lesson should teach us something about the value of judgment over experience. Longevity in Washington, D.C. does not guarantee either wisdom of judgment.

Conclusion:

The Clinton campaign’s argument is nothing more than mere assertion, dramatized in a scary television commercial with a telephone ringing in the middle of the night. There is no support for or substance in the claim that Senator Clinton has passed "the Commander-in-Chief test." That claim – as the TV ad – consists of nothing more than making the assertion, repeating it frequently to the voters and hoping that they will believe it.

On the most critical foreign policy judgment of our generation – the War in Iraq – Senator Clinton voted in support of a resolution entitled "The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of U.S. Military Force Against Iraq." As she cast that vote, she said: "This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make — any vote that may lead to war should be hard — but I cast it with conviction." In this campaign, Senator Clinton has argued – remarkably – that she wasn’t actually voting for war, she was voting for diplomacy. That claim is no more credible than her other claims of foreign policy experience. The real tragedy is that we are still living with the terrible consequences of her misjudgment. The Bush Administration continues to cite that resolution as its authorization – like a blank check – to fight on with no end in sight.

Barack Obama has a very simple case. On the most important commander in chief test of our generation, he got it right, and Senator Clinton got it wrong. In truth, Senator Obama has much more foreign policy experience than either Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan had when they were elected. Senator Obama has worked to confront 21st century challenges like proliferation and genocide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He possesses the personal attributes of a great leader – an even temperament, an open-minded approach to even the most challenging problems, a willingness to listen to all views, clarity of vision, the ability to inspire, conviction and courage.

And Barack Obama does not use false charges and exaggerated claims to play politics with national security.

And Hillary Clinton herself will be on the warpath, again distorting Obama's record on NAFTA and on the energy bill which he voted for:

Clinton Remarks on Obama Iraq and Environmental Policies

From the Clinton campaign:

After seven years of an energy policy written by and for the oil companies – with help from Dick Cheney – oil has now reached $107 a barrel – and gas prices in some areas are approaching $4 a gallon.

I understand Senator Obama is talking about energy today, right here in Pennsylvania. And that’s great. But talking about problems is easy. Solving problems is hard. And speeches are no substitute for solutions. Speeches won’t lower gas prices, stop climate change, or lessen our dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia.

The true test comes when it’s time to match rhetoric with results. And unfortunately, we’ve seen that Senator Obama’s promises and speeches are often just words.

On the campaign trail, Senator Obama talks about clean energy. But in the Senate, he voted for Dick Cheney’s energy bill loaded with new tax breaks for oil companies. When he faced a tough choice, his support for a clean energy future turned out to be just words.

It’s like how he talks about fixing NAFTA. But his top economic adviser assured the Canadian government that he wouldn’t really follow through. His position? Just words.

Senator Obama promises to withdraw from Iraq within 16 months. But his top foreign policy adviser said he’s not really going to rely on that plan. I guess that plan is just words, too.

We need a president who will solve problems. Who will fight for our families long after the speeches are over and the cameras are gone. That’s the choice in this campaign: Solutions you can rely on – versus words you can’t.

It looks like she's going to try to destroy Obama's credibility on the environment, NAFTA, and his anti-war Iraq position. We need to help Obama push back on this, kossacks. We need to say that Clinton is lying about Obama's record on NAFTA and how Goolsbee said that Obama would seek labor and environmental standards for NAFTA and for every other fair trade deal.

And also frame the Clinton attack on his Iraq stance as "more of the bamboozling and hoodwinkin'" going on, and how "she doesn't have a leg to stand on this, given how happily she gave George Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq."

Just in now from The Page, the Obama campaign has begun to hit the Clinton campaign on the remarks made by Geraldine Ferraro, one of her strongest supporters:

Obama Aide Calls Ferraro Remarks "Far Worse" Than Power Comments

Foreign policy adviser Susan Rice on MSNBC calls remarks "outrageous and offensive."

"I think if Sen. Clinton is serious about putting an end to statements that have racial implications... Then she ought to repudiate this comment."

Earlier: Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferarro says, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position... He happens to be very lucky to be who he is."

MORE UPDATES!

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, just put the kibosh on the idea of an unity ticket!

Nancy Pelosi tells Boston TV that a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket is "impossible."

"I think that the Clinton administration has fairly ruled that out by proclaiming that Senator McCain would be a better Commander in Chief than Obama. I think that either way is impossible," she said.

Also: "Nothing ever resolves itself -- it has to be resolved by some outside forces," she said.

And the Obama Campaign just finished their press conference and had this to say about Clinton's pattern of dog-whistling to the racist base:

The Obama campaign made the clearest allegations yet that the Clinton campaign is playing the race card in a conference call today with reporters.

Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, grouped former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro's suggestion that Obama owes some part of his success to the fact that he's black with other gaffes by Clinton backers Robert Johnson and Bill Shaheen, and with Clinton's "own inexplicable unwillingness" to flatly deny that Obama is a Muslim in a "60 Minutes" interview.

"All this is part of an insidious pattern that needs to be addressed," he said.

Axelrod asked "whether she's trying to send a signal to her supporters that anything goes."

Axelrod called on Clinton to drop Ferraro from her finance committee.

"When you wink and nod at offensive statements you're really sending a signal to your supporters that anything goes," he said.

He also responded to a question about Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson, who he described as a friend.

"He has assumed a kind of junkyard dog role in this campaign," he said.


RESPONSE FROM HILLARY HERSELF:

"I dont agree with that, and I think its important that we try to stay focused on issues that matter to the American people," she said. "And both of us have had supporters and staff members who've gone over the line and we have to rein them in and try to keep this on the issues. There are big differences between us on the issues - lets stay focused on that."

Originally posted to slinkerwink on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 06:31 AM PDT.

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