Sweet column: Obama floats Iraq plan after Clinton puts out proposal. Obama rapid response.

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Iraq is the defining issue at this opening stage of the 2008 presidential campaign. Look no further for evidence than Wednesday, when five of the eight senators making 2008 White House bids were proposing legislative ways Congress could wrest power from the commander in chief to get U.S. troops home.


On the Democratic side were Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Joe Biden of Delaware, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois. On the Republican side was Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

Returning from a four-day swing to Baghdad, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Germany, Clinton spent much of the public part of her day discussing her proposals on Iraq. Clinton is floating an innovative plan to cut funding -- not for U.S. troops, which is political suicide -- but to the Iraqi government, reluctant to police their own, and the private contractors the United States pays to protect them.

Clinton is poised to launch a presidential bid any day now. She'll send a smoke signal about her plans sometime "this month," her senior adviser Howard Wolfson told me.

No sooner did Clinton finish an afternoon news conference than Sen. Barack Obama, who triggered his White House run on Tuesday, sent out a statement saying he, too, will be introducing legislation furthering his concepts for getting troops home.

This is notable politically because it's the first time since Obama started running for president that he directly reacted to Clinton. He at first told reporters he might draft his own plan in a matter of days. It turned out to be a few hours, suggesting he has a rapid response operation either incubating or fully hatched.

It's interesting to see Obama elbowing his way into a developing story line of the day.

Obama and Clinton are starting as the Democratic front-runners. That's a reason why Clinton drew a packed crowd of scribes to the Senate Press Gallery on Wednesday. The scribblers were anticipating something Obama-related, even if it were just a reaction from her about his running.

Clinton said nothing more about Obama -- because no one asked.

On NBC's "Today" show Wednesday morning, host Matt Lauer asked Clinton: Is Obama "completely qualified to be commander-in-chief, in your opinion?" Clinton dodged a direct answer. "We're going to have a vigorous debate, I think, on both sides with both parties, in this primary season. And the voters will make these decisions. That's what's so great about our system," she said.


• • •
All the Senate Democratic presidential hopefuls plus Hagel will be voting in the coming weeks for a resolution opposing President Bush's sending more troops to Iraq.

The resolution will pass -- that seems a safe prediction -- but the win has to be pulled off in the right way for it to influence Bush. Biden and Hagel, with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said their goal was to get a majority vote from both sides of the aisle.

The U.S. "strategy and presence" in Iraq, the resolution states, "can only be sustained with the support of the American people and bipartisan support from Congress."

The latest proposals have to do with capping U.S. troop levels. Clinton wanted to freeze the number of troops in Iraq at their Jan. 1 level and require congressional approval for more. She also wants to send more soldiers to Afghanistan to keep U.S. gains there secure. Dodd also is calling for congressional approval before any escalation.

On page 302 of his book, The Audacity of Hope, which he finished last year, Obama wrote that it was in the interest of the United States and Iraq to begin a phased withdrawal by 2006. In his Nov. 20 Iraq speech in Chicago, Obama revised his timetable, calling for a phased redeployment to begin in four to six months. In an interview Sunday, Obama said a phased withdrawal should start "four to six months from now.'' I asked Obama's office when the clock starts, and I was told it was in November.

Obama's latest: "I not only favor capping the number U.S. troops in Iraq, but believe it's imperative that we begin the phased redeployment I called for two months ago, and intend to introduce legislation that does just that."

Clinton said she was not sure she could pass her plan. "I can count," she said.

Can Obama? The race is on.

17 Comments

Does anyone even care about Hillary Clinton? Why is the MSM cramming her down our throats? Are you trying to insure a Republican victory by putting Hillary "flag-in-the-wind" Clinton on the ballot? Gore/Clark or Gore/Obama or Clark/Obama or I dont vote.

The video of Hillary being all smiles with Prime Minister al-Maliki during her brief stop-over in Iraq are fully at odds with her serious demeanor upon her return.

What transpired during her few hours in the Green Zone to so dramatically change her tone? Or was that just a photo op, while she and her associates had actually prepared her new Iraq strategy days or even weeks previously so that it was attuned to prevailing political winds?

What disturbs me about Obama's hurried statement is what has always disturbed me about Hillary, and I would hope that Obama doesn't go down that road. Hillary has always seemed to make up her opinions and pronouncements to further her own political agenda rather than to honestly and forthrightly reflect the needs and aspirations of Americans. She's overtly political down to her toes. By contract, Obama has seemed rooted, genuine, honest and sincere. Let's hope that he is indeed genuine, because if he isn't then Hillary will roll right over him.

My litmus test for presidential candidate: you can't be stupider than me. I knew Bush was lying when he sold this war. Any professional politician who was fooled by Bush cannot be trusted to figure out the hard stuff.

So I guess that leaves Obama and Kucinich. Guess I'll go with Obama cuz I don't believe a guy with a name like Kucinich can win.

I know he talks a lot,but is there anyone with as much experience as Joe Biden? A Gore/Biden ticket works for me.

Gore, Edwards, Obama, a chimpanzee, ANYONE would be better than a Bush surrogate.

Hilary should bide her time and wait for the other wannabees to wear themselves out. She is most qualified by HER experience, and will have a terrific adviser in Bill. Her only handicap are the Clinton-bashers, and there are many out there - brainless as they may be, they still vote.

Look Joe Biden sat on the 9-11 commission and didn't ask enough or the right questions! He's part of the problem to me!

People keep saying the U.S. isn't ready for a woman or black president. But we put our lives in the hands of either a woman or black doctor, pilot, our kids' teachers, etc. Why not our country?

Ben Bochner, how can you be so sure Obama wouldn't have voted for the war? He is such a McKain and Liberman fan that I think he would have voted for the war. Gore-Kucinich or Gore-Clark.

Being "1st lady" does not qualify you to be president. Hillary Clinton has BAD judgement, she proved it with her Iraq vote.

Obama was against this war from the beginning, he has better judgement than Hillary.

Singh has the right idea Gore, Clark and Obama in any combo but my top ticket choice is a Gore/ Clark with campaign announced cabinet post for Obama, J. Conyers, Moran, Edwards and Lincoln Chafee. Get all the loyal opposition from whatever party together behind Al Gore,the real winner in 2000 and Gen. Wesley Clark. Both of them have been consistently right in the face of the corrupt and illegitimate Bush Administration's uncannily stubborn insistence in adhering to obvious mistakes using unconstitutional Machiavellan manipulation.

The game of one ups-manship between Edwards-Obama-Clinton is intriguing, but in fact it may be good for those of us who want to see the Iraq fiasco end. As they try to raise the bar against this war, I think we're maybe seeing the end of the Iraq conflict in their competition for attention.

Republicans would want America to believe that Hillary will win the primary but cannot win the election because they are afraid that Hillary will absolute win the election. As for Bill Clinton, I admire the man both as a human being as the president of this great country.

Please please please STOP giving Barak Obama SO much attention on every issue! You are playing into the hands of a Republican-dominated mainstream media which is trying to drive middle-of-the-road undecideds and rednecks away from the Democratic Party. The media is trying to cause a split in the Dem. Party by promoting an inexperienced, mixed-race guy with a name that sounds Muslim. Sounds too diabloical? We're talking about the Republicans here! Sad fact is the Democrats will need bunches of the ignorant, prejudiced masses to beat the crafy lying Republicans in '08.

Go Obama! I was hoping Hillary was not running. Alot of people in the West do not care for her. Obama will be our new president. Pretty soon he will attract more voters to his side then what she will. Wait till he starts to go to State to State. Watch the polls then. Go Obama

It's Billary for me! count me in as a 100% supporter.. I think I am at least. I'll know for sure if I send in $25.00 to the campaign... its hard earned money!

Army four star General Clark has tossed his support behind Hillary. Hillary is too conservative for the bleeding heart liberal and too Bill Clinton for the Conservative. And too female for many men. Too bad, she is going to be our next President.

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Lynn Sweet

<Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 18, 2007 6:55 AM.

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