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Sweet column: All talk. Windy Obama botches question at Iraq hearing.

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WASHINGTON -- There have been enough Democratic presidential debates to conclude that White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has not mastered the short answer format. Obama demonstrated at Tuesday's Senate Foreign Relations hearing with Gen. David Petraeus and Iraq Ambassador Ryan Crocker he also has trouble with questions.

The long-winded Obama, who bills himself as a consensus builder, wasted an opportunity to show how it could work.

Each member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had seven minutes to question Petraeus and Crocker about the Iraq War. Obama used about six minutes of his time to lecture Petraeus and Crocker that the surge is of modest success given the cost and the Iraq central government is ineffectual -- points he has been making in speeches and debates. As Obama was wrapping up, he said, "That, of course, now leaves me very little time to ask questions, and that's unfortunate."

"That's true, Senator," piped up Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the committee chairman and a rival for the Democratic nomination.

Petraeus never got to answer Obama's 266-word question. Rushed at the end, Obama asked about benchmarks not met. Crocker said, "Senator, I described for Senator Sununu a little bit ago some of the things that I think are going to be very important as we move ahead."


Obama tossed a softball: "Can you repeat those?

Biden asked Crocker to summarize and racing the clock, Crocker got in 215 words before Obama's time was up.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) followed Obama. He told Petraeus and Crocker, "As you have found, our hearings are more about listening to ourselves than listening to our witnesses."

Today Obama will deliver a new Iraq policy speech at Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa. He will offer, I was told by the campaign, new proposals on troop withdrawal, how to conduct diplomacy in the region, the cost of the war and solutions to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

Obama was not going to waste new insights on Iraq with Petraeus and Crocker.

There is a major discussion going on in the Democratic primary race over the importance of experience -- Obama has the shortest track record -- and if judgment trumps experience -- Obama's position.

Writing in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, Obama says in this tense era, "it is time for a president who can build consensus here at home" in order to chart an ambitious foreign policy course.

At the hearing, Obama complained about the time constraint. But it was his choice not to figure out how to ask even one thoughtful question and leave time for an answer. He chose not to show that he is interested in finding a way to engage with one of the nation's top generals. He chose not to grill Crocker about the millions of dollars of humanitarian assistance the U.S. is giving to Iraq.

When Obama had a chance he did not use it to show, not tell.


54 Comments

Just showa you that some people are not interested in listening and learning. Obama was so into thinking and speaking his own thoughts he forgot to listen. Who needs someone who does not listen /hear for president?

Obama must have had "war 101" so he thinks he knows more that the General agraduate of West Point and in the military for years instead of lecturing he maybe just maybe if he listened he just might learn something. Anyone who did not stand up against moeon.org does not have my vote ....Eileen

Typical

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) followed Obama. He told Petraeus and Crocker, "As you have found, our hearings are more about listening to ourselves than listening to our witnesses."

This was the one moment of truth in the entire two day farce at both the House and Senate "hearings".

LONG WINDED!! MADE TOO MUCH OF HIS COMPLAINTS!! COULD HAVE CUT IT SHORTER AND GOTTEN AN ANSWER!!

Obama is going to be Hillary's boy. Everyone knows it. Even him.

This is the standard amongst liberals. They refuse to listen to facts and only want to tell the rest of us 'how things should be done'. This is the same reason most of our schools have an overwhelming amount of liberals teaching our kids. It's in their nature to try and tell us how we should live our lives. LISTEN to the general you idiots, you may learn something.

This is typical of the Democrats. A General appears before Congress to give a report, and it's rapidly turned into a sound-stage so Democrats can throw a meatless bone to the rabid anti-war portion of their base.

It has been disheveling enough to endure the hyper-extended sound bite primary scenario; but this man, Barak Obama, has proven the saddest sound bite of them all. Empty suit doesn't have enough E's or S's to describe Mr. Obama's grasp for anything real politic. His continual flow of unlearned platitudes could embarrass a stripper. But the press has covered it up. You in Chicago knew best how his predecessor's sealed records were exposed by the Tribune to get Barak in. Since then his plethora of press-varnished gaffs have made him even more the stooge of Chicago hard-ball politics. On a lighter note, it has been a hoot to see him square off with the other empty suit, Hillary Clinton, at the DNC forefront. Adding his foolish understanding of anything outside the realm of Chicago ambulance chasing with Hillary's continuum of phoneobaloneo camera play has been some what entertaining. He seems like a nice enough guy...just way out of his league.

Mark Norris

you've got 2 ears and 1 mouth, you should use them in that order

Obama, what is the point in asking questions when you don't listen? That there was only an 12 word question. Tons of time for an answer...

Typical that both this commentary and the responding comments attack Obama on style but dont want to discuss the substance. And no one cast aspersions on the General's military skills. Any criticism of the General is about the statistic he presented and how military progress has advanced the real goal: political progress. By the time Obama spoke, all the questions had been asked. And it was clear the General was not going to add anything more to the record.

I didn’t think it was possible, but they have found a nominee even more arrogant than Hillary. Where does this "PUNK" get off lecturing a U.S. General, he was there to give his honest assessment on progress not to listen to a bunch of windbags spout their uninformed opinions and infer that he and the ambassador are liars. These two men have done nothing to deserve such shoddy treatment, except of course not following the "war is lost" crowd’s mantra, respectfully presented questions would be one thing this was quite another. The report seemed honest, it did not paint a rosy picture but it does show some progress and I would think that would be "good" news, guess not to some. Some people will accept no less than our defeat and retreat.

Barack Obamanation is a typical Dumocrat...just like Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Hitlery Clinton and then rest of that bunch...they think that they, sitting in their nice, cozy offices in Washington, DC, know more about the situation on the ground in Iraq than the folks that are actually there! And they like to hear themselves talk, too.

During my 20 years in the Army, one of my many duty stations was the American Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua. I was there in '86 and '87, when the Sandinista's were running the show and the liberal, Democrat controlled Congress cut off funding for the Contras. It seemed like every weekend (especially in the wintertime when it was cold in DC), we had a planeful of Senators and Representatives coming down to "check out the situation on the ground", and BAM!, they were experts on the situation. Chris Dodd was one of them. Apparently, some things haven't changed.

Repeal the 17th amendment and increase the number of seats in the House of Representatives fourfold. The amount of money currently necessary to campaign for Congress will continue to ensure a pitifully small and woefully underqualified candidate pool.

Don't be so hard on "Stinky" Obama. He has to placate the fools at Moveon. Remember: They paid for the Democrat Party. They own it.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) followed Obama. He told Petraeus and Crocker, "As you have found, our hearings are more about listening to ourselves than listening to our witnesses."

This was the one moment of truth in the entire two day farce at both the House and Senate "hearings".

What Scott said.

Considering that many Democrats had already decided what they were going to do before they even heard Patreaus' testimony, is it any surprise that Sen. Obama used the platform to grandstand? I am so unimpressed with this man.

Too funny. Once again Obama mistakenly leaves his suit jacket unbuttoned, and we see inside -- nothing there.

This morning Obama also praised ethnic cleansing going on in Iraq as a positive step.

Here's the video

http://video.msn.com/v/us/fv/fv.htm??g=adb828f8-5f4b-46d1-b706-289539ac23a2&f=34&fg=rss

If Gen. Petraeus is a liar and playing politics with the lives of our servicemen as the Democrats accuse in their pontificating attacks, why don't they bring him up on charges? It is my understanding that it is illegal to lie to Congress. They never would though, because they are simply using this hearing as a stage to pander to their far left base.

His talk about consensus building gets more and more ridiculous the more you listen. Obama is an ideologue, and too many people in the media(this columnist excepted)are unwilling to tell the real story. Moderate schmoderate.

Obama is the Britany Spears of politics, lip-syncing will only get you so far.

Politicians don't listen and we don't call them on it. Immigration is another example, they don't listen to the mainstream middle. The middle wants the General to run the war with the support of congress to win it. We want politicians to have an exit strategy....how hard is that to figure out.

The only people whose opinion matters at this point are the Iraqi citizens. They've made it clear they feel LESS SAFE since the surge began. They've made it clear they think the situation "on the ground" would get better if we were to LEAVE. Both these facts were presented in polls released a few days ago. The only thing that's uniting the Iraqi people right now is opposition to our troops being on their soil.

If they don't think our presence is helping them, we have no business wasting our time, money, and blood over there. We should have split the minute their parliament decided to take a month-long vacation.

It's amazing how most of the media lets this guy slide on things. If he weren't black - excuse me- half black - and a liberal dem - the media would be ripping him apart. Unfortunately the Brittany Spares and Oprah Windbag culture in this country have taken root and are causing the deterioration of too many people's intelligent thought.

you've got 2 ears and 1 mouth, you should use them in that order...

I've got 10 fingers - does that mean I should touch them 5X more than I listen to them, and 10X more than I say something to them?

Obama.
Osama.

Must be brothers.
Whats the diff?

You cannot run a country and not listen to your generals. The war on terrorism will still be waging in 2008 and beyond. Shut up and listen Obama!

Barack was the only one that pointed out that the timing of the hearings are another pathetic attempt to link what is going in in Iraq with 9-11.They never had anything to do with each other and never should have. It was a point that needed to be brought up. Lets not get side tracked on the real issue here. We will spend a trillion dollars before its over,progress has been very slow and very expensive , much of the progress being made has nothing to do with the US military, 3700 plus American troops have been killed and Al Queda has grown in strength and various terrorist factions are helping them to kill our kids in Iraq.We have lost credibility as a "fair" nation all aroud the world. I`ll take Barack Obama in a second over this administration.

That figures, a state senator with no foriegn policy experience. I hope he realizes that Rock Island, Stony Island and Blue Island are not part of the Marianna's.

Obama has the courage to speak up when he knows the Congress is being steamrolled. This article was all style no substance, and the suntimes is just another Fox News opinion rag.

no, let's not talk about how the GAO report had conflicts with the Petraus report, let's not talk about the hundreds of thousands of civilan deaths and the thousands of military deaths. Let's not address the fact that growing numbers of active duty military are coming forward to ask questions about why they are in Iraq and what the real strategy is.

Let's also not discuss anything even remotely interesting Petreaus's answers to Warners direct question "Are we making America safer in Iraq?" (Petreaus' answer == no)

No, let's just talk about how Obama talked too much so that Rush Limbaugh jackasses from Joliet and McHenry country can jump on this forum and say, "See I told you he was a windbag". This article was more appropriate for the RedEye, it was as vacant and useless as another story lamenting Britney's failed VMA performance.

Of course the democrat politicians know more about conducting military actions than do the generals. History has proven this. Just look at how well we did in Viet Nam when Johnson decided that he would run the battles from the White House, or when Peanut Carter allowed a foreign nation to invade our country (Iran embassy) without any response. Geeeee, I wonder why we're having problems!!!

Empty suit, probably fronting for Ethanol bandits.

Nice job General Obama!


Great video clip Jerry. Obama states that ethnic cleansing is a good thing and Gregory ives him a pass. He goes on to say that no changes in Iraq would make him change his mind about withdrawing troops, but would leave some in the area. The number he would leave would depend on his Generals, the same Generals he will not talk with now. He only wants to talk at them.

I feel like this is yet another typical example of how many of the Democrats in Washington are these days... that is they are willing to go off all day long about a problem here and what they don't like about that over there, but when it comes down to it that is all they are willing to do--talk. They will talk and talk all day but refuse to 1. Open their ears to someone that might know more than them and/or 2. Actually decide to step it up and do something about what ever it is that they are whining about. Anyone can whine and place blame on someone else, but it takes a true leader to stand up and do something about it!

Obama has the stupidity to speak up when he knows the Congress is being steamered on by the American people. This article was one of a few that will actually question the "reverend Obama"

Let's talk about how the GAO report has shown how well the strategy has worked thus far.

Let's also discuss whats so interesting in General Petreaus's.
After all he was chosen by both the Democraps and the republicans to give his assessment.

Let's just talk about how Obama makes such a fool of himself with rambling preacher style speeches with no substance. This article was more appropriate for the headlines for all the major networks. Thank you little timmy - perhaps you will be able to marry your man mate if ur big eared man crush or crime boss hag are elected.

What was the purpose of having the hearings with General Patraeus
and Ambassador Crocker when they were not given the time to answer so many of the questions...It appeared to me, and I watched both days hearings that the democrats (mostly) just wanted to take the time to hear themselves speak...they could have summitted their questions in writing, and let the General and the Ambassador give their answers in written form, and they would not have had to sit there for 2 days listening to nothing but crap...from the Senators....

Barak Obama is nothing short of a power-grabber. His intentions strike me as nothing short of wanting to make a mark in history... nothing more. He wants the prestige of the office and to be able to say he was President. Does he care about us and have the experience to steer our nation into a troubled future... no. This is but one example of his ineptness. Vote for Barak Obama... never! If he won't listen to his generals... what makes anyone believe he'll listen to us? We're the ones that matter most... and he could really give a rat's butt. It's all about him.

Ummm, Hillary suporter much, Ms. Sweet? ...no wait! Only a closeted crypto-Republican would EVER try to use Jim friggin' DeMint as a reference point for staking out any kind of credibility! That man is CONSTANTLY tricked into looking foolish by his own doorknobs! He can't even outsmart his shoes. Do you think I'm kidding? Just follow that dim-bulb dolt around for a day or two. He's definitely NOT the brightest spark in the box full of wet matches known as the GOP.

The hearing are held publicly to illuminate the public, not to allow Pentagon hacks, cookie-pushers like Ambassahole Crocker and/or pro-war Generals to fillabuster, duck and dodge questions. If we're going to hear long dialogue, logic dictates that it SHOULD be from the only man in the rom who got it right. Obama illuminated the discussion.

The more I hear from Obama the less impressed I am. I can't believe he thinks ethnic cleansing is a good thing. If a Republican said that the news would be all over it. But, he's a liberal so everything he says is gold.

As I and many of my fellow soldiers here in Iraq sat around the TV watching the 'hearing', we were very proud of our leader, the General, who accurately described our progress and what we see on a daily basis. We were very disappointed in the way many congressmen and women spoke down to him and appeared to be disrespectful. I am not sure what they were trying to 'prove' but if this is the way they treat our leader, many of us wonder what they really think about us. I wonder what they really think of us American warriors...what is really behind their handshake and smile when they meet us...if they really supported the troops, they would not be so disrespectful to our leader, General Petraeus, a man we certainly admire and willingly follow into combat with great respect. To disagree is one thing, but to be disrespectful is another.

Obama's positions are nothing new, he is tax and spend all the way. Can anyone tell me one position of his that is in any way new?

Typical, hypocritical, loud mouth democrat.IGNORANT EGOMANIAC AND A JERK!

Referring to Hillary Clinton as "Hitlery" or calling Barak Obama "Osama" or typing Democrat as "Dumbocrat" is intellectually vacant [i.e., STUPID].

Arguments are won on issues, but lost with name-calling. I suspect those who practice such 3rd grade behavior are "Reagan Republicans" [i.e., former Democrats].

Real Republicans are confident and gracious, and do not engage in childish taunts.

Given that Petreaus admitted Tuesday that he has not thought about whether our strategy in Iraq makes the United States more secure, focussing on Obama's remarks, Biden's high-handedness, or the MoveON ad is besides the point. Otherwise, the General presented lies and statistics, which Obama did catch the General and Crocker on. Given the watering down of any benchmarks, Obama asked what would have to happen to get our troops out. No answer. Since violence reduction in Anbar province preceeded the surge, and was the consequence of ethnic cleansing and internal Iraqi score settling, Obama asked for evidence linking the surge to the "successes" the General and the Ambassador touted. No answer there.

"I`ll take Barack Obama in a second over this administration."
?? Ok you can have him, take Billery in a three-for-one deal and let the rest of us elect, and support defenders of Freedom. Never has the political juggernaught been this active in a national election. I can only assume that by the time elections roll around the politico's hope we are too numb from the shear amount of politicking to even care anymore.

"it was as vacant and useless as another story lamenting Britney's failed VMA performance." Interesting that you compare Barack's performance to Britney's. I concurr.

Obama did put out a good question--or, rather, sort of a riff on his question. He asked "...at what point do we say enough, General--Ambassador?" And, "I don't see, at any point, where you say, if this fails...", and finally, are there "any circumstances in which you would make a different recommendation and suggest it is now time to start withdrawing out troops...?"

Ambassador Crocker ran out the clock saying nothing new.

I remember commenting on a blog that the senator did not ask for an answer to his questions in writing, which frustrated me. The basic questions were good--could have been more succinct and to the point. Could have been asked early enough to get them on the record. Pretty difficult, however, to get either of them off script.

Obama and so many other of our elected leaders continually demonstrate two things to be beneficial (or at least not harmful):
(1) Select all elected leaders ala lottery as is done with jury duty. Hard to imagine random drawing would give us a less competent, corrupt govt.

or

(2) Establish competency standards for elected leaders, just as is done for lower level govt employees.

The entire hearing "circus" in Congress has been a political show, with members of Congress playing clowns. The "circus" fell flat because the audience, the American Public, be they Democrat or Rublican, does NOT find their antics funny. The Democrats are NOT serious about defunding the war effort, with troops on the ground because the People would never forgive them. The Dems. with troops still there in 2008, if they win Congress and the Presidency would NOT cut and run and suffer their own Vietnam style pullout. The Republicans in Congress, by and large, are cowards. They may believe that the war is justified, as do I but they won't be as forceful and aggressive about their beliefs as most of the Dems have been, in public. This is a just war, that has to be fought. I truly believe that if we don't take this battle to the "Islamo facists" they will bring it here, to our shores. Get a clue, here or they, they want the West to suffer and die!

Posted by: Williw | September 12, 2007 01:33 PM

you've got 2 ears and 1 mouth, you should use them in that order...

I've got 10 fingers - does that mean I should touch them 5X more than I listen to them, and 10X more than I say something to them?

IN YOUR CASE, IT WOULDN'T MAKE MUCH DIFFERENCE.

Well as Osama obama always says'

When I am President of the US I will conquer the infidel and praieing god I will slit their throat and bring that country under Sharia...... allah willing........
Of course.....
When he's not practicing his tap dancing.
Man those boys sho can tap. Yawzuh! Chaaaaa!

I've never read so many ill-informed comments in my life. Those are Americans dying over there people. The American government has put these soliders in an unwinable war. The American government wants to keep these soliders there. And you all seemed to like that. What a bunch of idiots.

eSPO,

First things first: The hearings and report were mandated by Congress earlier this year (you remember, both houses of Congress with a Democrat majority at that time). The timing of the actual hearings and the report were also specified by the Democrat leadership. So, please try your best to not insinuate that the White House or Gen Petraeus had anything to do with the timing of the hearings or report.

Second, the real issue is not that we've spent what we've spent or anything else that you've raised. The real issue is that we are in fact gaining the edge over the enemy (due to many factors) and are now employing good tactics and operations against that enemy, with a growing number of Iraqis who desire to rid their country of any and all foreign forces (including ours, in time). That means we are now taking it to the enemy and we can and should be successful in our prosecution of the war (something that until recent history has been the hallmark of our American military - even though we always make mistakes in that prosecution. It is, after all, war). Coincidental with that issue is the fact that we Americans are extremely short sighted and fixed on virtually nothing but short term goals. That means we as a citizenry can't begin to see past our noses if it doesn't even SEEM to have a concrete benefit (read that to mean there is no personal benefit to each of us). Wars are not easy; they are mostly very nasty business, with no quick answers or solutions (and 2, 3 or 4 years is fairly short in terms of wars).

You also state that the progress has been slow; so you, do in fact, understand that progress has been made. Unless you have been in the military and understand tactics - or even better - unless you've been in that part of the world or in Iraq itself, then you have no basis to claim that our military has had nothing to do with that progress. All of these claims immediately send your credibility to the ash heap and diminish (if not eradicate) your postulations as unworthy.

Last fact: Sen Obama has no credibility for anything related to foreign policy (he's never been involved directly), he certainly has no credibility whatsoever about military operations and shouldn't lecture a man whose entire adult life has been spent in the field, and he should be ashamed of himself for even trying to posture himself as someone who does have any experience or credibility with either of them.

It is my opinion (and I'm entitled to it) that you fail to grasp with any sense of understanding the spectrum of the threat to our country or to our world if these terrorists are allowed to succeed in establishing themselves as ruling in Iraq - something that is their primary stated goal/mission. This also brings to the forefront that that failure to grasp this has to be vested in a lack of understanding of the way their minds work and how they approach such goals with their level of conviction. Simply put, they don't think or carry the same value systems we do. So, we have to not think about how we deal with them strictly with our own mindset, because it simply won't allow us to win.

Tim O'Brien: First, GEN Petraeus never said no to SEN Warner's question. He stated that he didn't know, a statement he latered changed to yes when asked the wquestion again by another SEN. He stated then that he had been completely surprised by SEN Warner's question. Also, I'm not sure of your claim that there is effectively a growing groundswell of active military questioning why they are in Iraq or what the mission/strategy is. Some soldiers will always be questioning such things, and that is natural. However, I speak with such soldiers/veterans every day and hear nothing of the sort. By the way, for both yours and eSPO's information, I am a retired Army officer who spent time working in operational planning. My immediate family (me, my father and two brothers have four combat tours and an expeditionary tour to our credit) That includes family members who have been deployed to Iraq and who never had any ounce of misunderstanding about the mission or strategy. Does that mean we/they agreed with everything? No, it doesn't; but we/they understood the larger mission and understood (and still understand) that higher level commanders often see much more than we/they and also have to deal with much more complex operations. Given that, soldiers understand that they have their own mission to complete and that it always helps a larger mission, sometimes not always evident to them (and many times the purpose for their mission and how it supports larger scale operations isn't fully briefed to unit personnel for OPSEC reasons - especially in this day and age of practically instant communications). So, please understand backgrounds/methods of operations, etc., before you want to go off and put things in the world as being irrefutable, indisputable and/or unquestionable.

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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 September 12, 2007 7:21 AM.

Sweet blog special: Obama reading. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet's Obamaville. In Iowa today, Obama delivers new Iraq plan. Speech excerpts. is the next entry in this blog.

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