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In contrast to Obama appearances on the “prestigious” NBC Sunday morning talk show Meet The Press, Tim Russert tried and tried to bring up every painful episode in Hillary’s life and tried to assist the Obama campaign by circulating their smears.
Hillary was extremely effective in countering Russert’s “not one shred of truth” attacks regarding race. Russert, almost a surrogate for the Obama campaign, tried vainly to prop up Obama’s real record concerning the Iraq war.
Hillary asked of Obama “What did you do?” after the 2002 speech.
Hillary repeatedly challenged Russert’s assertions and Russert failed to engage the debate with complete quotes and facts. Finally Russert issued a challenge of sorts. We’ll take up the challenge. [We also provide the links.]
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Here is the transcript of the segment that begins the discussion on Iraq and the difference between action and words (note Hillary’s first sentence confronts Russert directly on his distortions):
MR. RUSSERT: In Newsweek, you gave an interview to Jon Meacham, and you talked about the personal narrative that candidates develop. You seem to compare Barack Obama to, you say, demagogues like Huey Long.
SEN. CLINTON: Oh, that is so untrue and unfair. Look, if you are running for president based primarily on a speech you gave in 2002 and speeches you have given since, most notably at the Democratic Convention, then I think it is fair to say we need to know more beyond the words. You know, if you are part of American political history, you know that the speeches are essential to frame an issue, to inspire and lift up people. But when the cameras are gone and when the lights are out, what happens next? How do you translate your words into deeds?
And I think, you know, starting in New Hampshire it became clear that one of the significant contrasts in this campaign is between talking and doing, between rhetoric and reality. And I have the greatest regard for rhetoric and particularly the ability that Senator Obama has to, you know, lift our sights and our hearts with his oratory. But I think it is fair to point out that he has not had a record of actually producing positive change. Translating those words into action is something that is the, you know, the slow, hard, boring of hard boards in politics, and I think that people, you know, deserve to ask themselves questions about that contrast.
Here is the segment wherein Russert issues a challenge regarding Obama’s record on Iraq:
SEN. CLINTON: Because by 2004, Tim, by the summer of 2004, Senator Obama said he wasn’t sure how he would have voted. And when you asked him about that, he said, well, he didn’t want to say something that could have hurt our nominees, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards. Well, the fact is he’s always said he doesn’t take positions for political reasons. That is a political explanation. If he was against the war in 2002, he should’ve strongly spoke out in 2004. He should’ve followed what he said in his speech, which was that he would not vote for funding in ‘05, ‘06 and ’07. That is inconsistent with what he is now running his campaign on. The story of his campaign is premised on that speech.
MR. RUSSERT: Viewers can read the transcript from November 11 when I did talk to Senator Obama about this. He also added that from his vantage point, the administration had not made the case, but let people read it and make up their own minds.
Here is the November 11, 2007 Meet The Press show Tim Russert referenced which featured Barack Obama. [Transcript HERE]
Is Hillary correct? Does Hillary mischaracterize Obama’s “political explanation” in any way? We’ll let you meet the press challenge:
MR. RUSSERT: You were not in the Senate in October of 2002. You did give a speech opposing the war. But Senator Clinton’s campaign will say since you’ve been a senator there’s been no difference in your record. And other critics will say that you’ve not been a leader against the war, and they point to this: In July of ‘04, Barack Obama, “I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports. What would I have done? I don’t know,” in terms of how you would have voted on the war. And then this: “There’s not much of a difference between my position on Iraq and George Bush’s position at this stage.” That was July of ‘04. And this: “I think” there’s “some room for disagreement in that initial decision to vote for authorization of the war.” It doesn’t seem that you are firmly wedded against the war, and that you left some wiggle room that, if you had been in the Senate, you may have voted for it.
SEN. OBAMA: Now, Tim, that first quote was made with an interview with a guy named Tim Russert on MEET THE PRESS during the convention when we had a nominee for the presidency and a vice president, both of whom had voted for the war. And so it, it probably was the wrong time for me to be making a strong case against our party’s nominees’ decisions when it came to Iraq.
Look, I was opposed to this war in 2002, 2003, four, five, six and seven. What I was very clear about, even in 2002 in my original opposition, was once we were in, we were going to have to make some decisions to see how we could stabilize the situation and act responsibly. And that’s what I did through 2004, five and six, try to see can we create a workable government in Iraq? Can we make sure that we are minimizing the humanitarian costs in Iraq? Can we make sure that our troops are safe in Iraq? And that’s what I have done. Finally, in 2006, 2007, we started to see that, even after an election, George Bush continued to want to pursue a course that didn’t withdraw troops from Iraq but actually doubled down and initiated the surge. And at that stage, I said, very clearly, not only have we not seen improvements, but we’re actually worsening, potentially, a situation there. And since that time I’ve been absolutely clear in terms of the approach that I would take. I would end this war, and I would have our troops out within 16 months.
Hillary is right. Obama says he does not make decisions based on politics but on November 11, 2007 Obama admitted he made a political decision on the Iraq war based on political considerations. Again, when the New York Times in July 2004 asked Obama how he would have voted in 2002, Obama said, “What would I have done? I don’t know.” In a 2006 interview with The New Yorker Obama said “I didn’t have the benefit of U.S. intelligence.” “And, for those who did, it might have led to a different set of choices.” When Obama spoke with the Chicago Tribune Obama said, “On Iraq, on paper, there’s not as much difference, I think, between the Bush administration and a Kerry administration as there would have been a year ago. […] There’s not much of a difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage.”
CLINTON: What he was talking about was very directly about the story of Sen. Obama’s campaign, being premised on a speech he gave in 2002 and that was to his credit. He gave a speech opposing the war in Iraq. He gave a very impassioned speech against it and consistently said that he was against the war, he would vote against the funding for the war. By 2003, that speech was off his website. By 2004, he was saying that he didn’t really disagree with the way George Bush was conducting the war. And by 2005, 6, and 7, he was voting for $300 billion in funding for the war. The story of his campaign is really the story of that speech and his opposition to Iraq. I think it is fair to ask questions about, what did you do after the speech was over? And when he became a senator, he didn’t go to the floor of the Senate to condemn the war in Iraq for 18 months. He didn’t introduce legislation against the war in Iraq. He voted against timelines and deadlines initially. So I think it’s important that we get the contrast and the comparisons out. I think that’s fair game. [Meet the Press, 1/13/07]
Yesterday Tim Russert discoverd that Reality Bites.