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Sweet column: Obama's tough terror fighting talk.

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WASHINGTON -- If he were commander-in-chief, White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said Wednesday, he would sponsor a U.S. strike in Pakistan to root out high-value terrorist targets and he would visit a Muslim country in his first 100 days in office to "make it clear we are not at war with Islam."


While the Bush administration has been accommodating to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, Obama, drawing a contrast, said "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will."

The tough talk came in Obama's most extensive speech to date on combatting terrorism and restoring the United States' image in Muslim nations as a way to battle extremism.

The speech drew criticism from presidential campaign rivals Sen. Chris Dodd and Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The campaign of Obama's main competitor, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, decided not to react.

While not mentioning Clinton by name, Obama increased his criticism of her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war. "With that vote, Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war," Obama said.

Obama's foreign policy advisers said they have been working on the speech for weeks, though it follows a disagreement that started last week with Clinton. Clinton called Obama "irresponsible, and, frankly naive" for saying in a debate that he would agree to meet, without preconditions, with the leaders of Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Iran if he were president.

Both Clinton and Obama are calling for a break with the Bush policy of non-engagement. They are open to meeting with rogue leaders but differ on the diplomatic process. Obama said in agreeing to meet with hostile leaders, "I will do the careful preparation needed, and let these countries know where America stands."

Dodd and Biden overtly criticized Obama as the primary heats up.

"It is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power," Dodd said.

"We find it a little disingenuous that Sen. Obama is hailing this as a new bold initiative," said Biden's campaign manager, Luis Navarro.

The Bush administration is concerned about destabilizing the Musharraf regime. "We think that our approach to Pakistan is one that not only respects the sovereignty of Pakistan as a sovereign government, but is also designed to work in a way where we are working in cooperation with the local government," said White House spokesman Tony Snow, reacting to Obama's speech.

Several of Obama's foreign policy experts who worked on the speech, attorneys Gregg Craig, Jeh Johnson, and from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Samantha Power and Sarah Sewall, watched him deliver the speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington on Wednesday. The speechwriter, Ben Rhodes, recently was hired by Obama's campaign from the center.

Craig, interviewed after the speech said that, as president, Obama would travel to an Islamic nation such as Indonesia or Morocco to launch a public diplomacy drive with Muslim nations.


7 Comments

If Richard Clark wrote a speech for me, I could stand infront of a tele-prompter and read it, too!

Unfortunately for Obama, the debates illustrated that he's as clueless about how to respond to a terrorist attack as he is about Presidential diplomacy.

Senator Clinton and the other members of the Senate who voted in favor of the war relied on "actionable" intelligence and look where it got us. Senator Obama may critize their vote but we must remember that he was not a member of the Senate at that time to participate in the vote. I wonder if the Illinois Senate or House passed any kind of resolution supporting the war? Was Mr. Obama a member of the Illinois Senate in 2002?

Hillary Clinton has no room to criticize anyone as naive or irresponsible. Until she apologizes for her politically motivated vote to go to war, until she apologizes for failing to read the National Intelligence Estimate before voting yes, until she apologizes for her two years of unwavering support for the Iraq war, then she has no room to criticize anyone's foreign policy credentials. HRC can try to re-write history all she wants, but the facts remain.

I believe Clinton actually did make some snide comments about Obama's remarks about Pakistan, but I don't have the time to wade through the vast sea of garbage that has been generated by this "story" to find it. She shouldn't say anything because Clinton said herself on Wed: ‘If we had actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden or other high-value targets were in Pakistan I would ensure that they were targeted and killed or captured. And that will be my highest priority because they pose the highest threat to America." Edwards said the same. However, apparently it's only a media issue apparently when Obama says it. This is the most convoluted media- distorted story I've seen in a long time. Obama is not reckless or irresponsible or unintelligent - the journalists who neglect to report on the other 99% of the speech and write sensationalist and inaccurate headlines are. Clinton has a habit of chiding Obama for opinions quite similar to what she has expressed. She has criticized Obama's discussion of NOT using nuclear weapons, despite the fact that she said in 2006, (regarding Iran): "I have said publicly no option should be off the table but I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table." This is tedious and inane. I saw a comment posted today that I think many, many journalists should be told: "you deserve to live in a country where you are told what to write."

Obama is showing leadership by challenging the status quo and offering a sensible, yet boldly different, foreign policy. His plan strikes me as an effective way to change how we are perceived throughout the world by exercising strength, fairness, and humility. We have the power to regain a lot of lost trust. With trust comes legitimacy. With legitimacy comes success. Go Barack!

Obama is showing leadership by challenging the status quo and offering a sensible, yet boldly different, foreign policy. His plan strikes me as an effective way to change how we are perceived throughout the world by exercising strength, fairness, and humility. We have the power to regain a lot of lost trust. With trust comes legitimacy. With legitimacy comes success. Go Barack!

The Senate did not vote on "actionable" intelligence, they voted by relying on Bush's falsified intelligence. And haven't you heard, Hillary did not even read the whole document that made the case to invade Iraq, she only went through part of it. She admitted that herself!

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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 August 2, 2007 9:58 AM.

Sweet column: New book on Obama reveals "hidden side." was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet blog special: Nuke? No nuke? Obama works to define position. UPDATE. Dodd says Obama "confused." is the next entry in this blog.

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