Fact Checking The Fact Checker

Senator Obama’s got himself a new stump speech, one that is not exactly hands off of his remaining opponent, Hillary Clinton.  The Clinton’s, in their ever enduring quest to participate in a campaign race where their opponent isn’t even allowed to swing at them while they are granted full reign to launch whatever attacks they desire, have opted to “fact check” some of the specifics of Obama’s speech.

But the header on the website, “The straight scoop on election ’08 from the Hillary Clinton campaign” should serve in and of itself as a kind of warning label regarding any kind of fact checking.  Indeed, it’s a little paradoxical just putting the term “straight scoop” and “Hillary Clinton campaign” in the same sentence, but if that’s how they want to play it, let’s play.

The original speech text is right here:

“It’s time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John McCain is not by nominating someone who agreed with him on voting for the war in Iraq; who agreed with him in voting to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran; who agrees with him in embracing the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don’t like, and who actually differed with him by arguing for exceptions for torture before changing positions when the politics of the moment changed.”

 Now for the Clinton claims:

First: Sen. Obama begins by criticizing Hillary on Iraq. Sen. Obama does not mention that — with the exception of Hillary’s opposition to the promotion of Iraq war architect Gen. George Casey — Sen. Obama and Hillary have identical voting records on the Iraq war. Read more here.

This is what might best be defined as a dodge, and one that doesn’t answer the direct charge that Obama makes; the fact that Senator Hillary Clinton voted initially to give Bush the authorization to use military force in Iraq.  There are some other fun things such as how she was initially supportive of the invasion, though I will cede that AFTER she voted for the war, she started voting AGAINST it.  There are other little things to be wary of such as noted neocon Michael O’Hanlon working on her foreign policy staff, but really, Hillary Clinton is in no way a neocon.

Second: Sen. Obama then misrepresents Hillary’s position on Iran. In fact, Hillary was one of the earliest and staunchest opponents of Bush’s saber rattling on Iran, and spoke out on the issue back in February:

Hillary made a floor speech declaring that President Bush must get authorization from Congress before taking military action against Iran. [Clinton Release, 2/14/07]

Hillary co-sponsored the Webb bill prohibiting use of funds for military action in Iran without Congressional authorization. [Clinton Release, 10/01/07]

Sen. Obama missed the vote he is now using to attack Hillary. He issued a release 9 hours later and co-sponsored a similar bill in April. The bill was also supported by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a staunch anti-war Bush critic and prominent Obama supporter. Read more here and here.

This is a dodge mixed in with a distortion.  Let’s talk about the dodge first, since this is particularly clear in my mind and I wrote a bit about it, and my disgust with Hillary when it occured.  What Senator Obama is specifically talking about, as is Hillary Clinton, is the vote to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.  The implications for such a vote were potentially enormous given that under the doctrine of the Global War On Terror, and the prominence of the IRG, such an action would give the Bush administration at least a plausible basis to declare war on Iran, this after months and months of frightening rhetoric on the behalf of the Bush administration to drum up a march to war.

And it’s not as though Clinton wasn’t warned either.  In fact, Senator Jim Webb had gone on the Senate floor to warn of the implications of this bill, and voting for it would be playing into Cheney’s hands.

Now for the distortion, or, perhaps, a lie of omission.  No, Senator Obama was not there at the time of the vote, but as has already been recorded here at CFLF, there is more to the story.  Senator Obama had stayed in Washington to cast his no vote against the bill, he was waiting for it.  It wasn’t until after Senator Harry Reid assured Senator Obama that the vote would not take place that day that Senator Obama left to attend a campaign event.  The vote was then held in his absence.

Now a lesser man might imply that Senator Reid might have rigged the vote to screw Obama politically, but I’m not that lesser man, and will say that Obama was just the victim of an unfortunate series of consequences.

Third: Sen. Obama then misrepresents Hillary’s position on diplomacy. Hillary criticized Sen. Obama for pre-committing to a personal meeting in his first year with “with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.” She never said that a president should only meet with America’s friends. She also promised vigorous diplomatic efforts with all countries, friend and foe. Read more here.

This is perhaps the only actual argument that Clinton makes that is not an outright distortion of any kind, and the closest thing to truth that we find on the fact check page, however, there is some point of contention.  Senator Obama did not hesitate in the slightest to make clear his opinion on diplomacy, but I personally have yet to see Hillary put out a concise and clear statement on when she would and would not meet with foreign dictators.

In fact, I find it kind of funny that even on the page linked to to better clarify her stance, all she actually does is say Obama’s wrong, but then maintain that she would engage in rigorous diplomacy.  So basically, I think Senator Obama’s attack is valid until Hillary actually comes out and says she’ll meet with dictators under certain conditions and then enumerates what those conditions would be.

As for her approval of torture… Who knows?  Like so many issues, you just can’t pin down Hillary Clinton’s actual stance on torture.  But, you know, we progressives don’t care about that, do we?

Finally, the Clinton campaign accuses Obama for abandoning his politics of hope, an accusation they have leveled upon him from the very first moment Obama decided not to restrict his comments regarding Hillary to unadulterated adolation.  The problem, the accusation doesn’t play.  There is nothing wrong, I repeat, absolutely nothing wrong opposing a candidate based upon their stances and actions on the issues.  The quote that Hillary picks out specifically is interesting because the Clinton campaign has distorted Obama’s record far more severely as noted above, and also witnessed in her constant attack of his “present” votes in the Illinois Senate, votes, might I remind you after explaining this several times already, that were parliamentary maneuvers specifically undertaken to win battles in the name of progressive values.

Well, I feel fact checked, how about you?

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