November 20th, 2007
04:55 PM ET
11 years ago

Clinton hits Obama on foreign relations experience

Clinton and Obama exchanged words Tuesday over their qualifications in terms of foreign relations.

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – Just one day after Democratic hopeful Barack Obama said he felt his strongest foreign relations experience came from spending four years overseas as a child, rival Hillary Clinton fired back—and then John Edwards took aim at her. And for good measure, Sen. Joe Biden chipped in with his own two cents on the matter.

"Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next President will face," Clinton said. "I think we need a President with more experience than that."

On Monday, Obama told an Iowa audience, "Probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact that I spent four years living overseas when I was a child in Asia—Southeast Asia."

According to the campaign, Obama was six years old when he moved to Indonesia in 1967, and stayed until he was 10.

Obama said his time there and the fact that his father is from Kenya gives him the knowledge "of how ordinary people in these other countries live."

In her comments, Clinton also said she traveled the globe both as first lady and as a senator and that she knows many world leaders "personally."

But as of Tuesday afternoon, fellow Democratic contender John Edwards is also in the mix. His campaign took issue with Clinton's response.

Edwards’ spokesman Chris Kofinis released a "definition" of the term "mudslinging," calling it "the use of insults and accusations, esp. unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent."

"As in: Hillary Clinton said about Barack Obama, ‘Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face,’" Kofinis said.

He added, "Now we know what Senator Clinton meant when she talked about 'throwing mud' in the last debate. Like so many other things, when it comes to mud, Hillary Clinton says one thing and throws another."

Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also joined the fray Tuesday afternoon when asked what he thought of Obama's comments.

"I think he's right," Biden said smiling. "That is his strongest [foreign policy] credential."

Related: Obama cites childhood in helping shape world view

- CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Iowa • John Edwards
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Biggdawg, Chicago, Illinois

    Biden's hilarious. Edwards is a joke.

    November 20, 2007 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  2. laurinda ny

    Note to Hillary: travelling to a foreign country with your husband, is not considered "foreign policy credentials."

    November 20, 2007 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  3. Lee, Red Bluff, CA

    Will someone please tell John Edwards to just shut up and go away. No one invited him to the Clinton/Obama discussion on foreign policy experience. He has become a desparate, desparate candidate and it is not pretty.

    I have to say that I agree with Clinton on this one. Although Biden's response is absolutely the best.

    November 20, 2007 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  4. Len, sparks Nv

    Clinton will regret she said this. Because her "foreign experience" did not give her any wisdom about Iraq. Obama's innate intelligence about the catastrophic outcome in Iraq may be born in his childhood experience of living in a country that is different than ours. Perhaps we should require any President, before they take office, to live among the people of foreign nations. Perhaps it will help to stop another dumb war.

    November 20, 2007 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  5. Tim, El Cerrito Ca

    If anyone understands mudslinging that would be Edwards. He seems to have become a pro at it. I actually used to like this guy. I hate to say it but I'll be glad when the election is over so I (hopefully) don't have to hear from this guy on a regular basis.

    November 20, 2007 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  6. Andrew

    Come on Obama! Although I like your honesty, this is something you should not said. It just put other to the attach mode. You could do better than that.

    November 20, 2007 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  7. Rodney Dallas TX

    Are you kidding me? Living in Asia when you are 6 does not qualify you in foreign relations. I visited Paris last year, does that mean I'm an expert on French policy now? Hillary has had dinner with actual foreign politicians. I believe her experience is alot further than his. Even if you don't like Hillary, you cannot possibly defend Obama's answer.

    November 20, 2007 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  8. Tired of Corruption

    The candidates claiming all the "experience" and strong credentials are the ones that voted with Bush to send our soldiers to die in Iraq. Their so-called experience is worthless since their judgement is so poor.

    Clinton compounded her bad judgement by again voting with Bush to allow him to expand the war into Iran, if he chooses.

    Clinton knowing leaders "personally" hasn't helped her judgement one iota.

    Judgement counts. Experience gets you nowhere without it. How can any voter put someone into office who assisted Bush in killing our soldiers in a senseless war.

    November 20, 2007 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  9. Myron Honolulu Hawaii

    Wonderful foreign policy preperation for Mr. Obama at his Islamic School. Most likely with the middle name Hussein he fit in quite well with the other Islamic children. Just what America needs is a president named Hussein.

    November 20, 2007 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |

    Clinton's lead starts to shrink in Iowa and NH, and we begin to see how truly wicked she can be...this is awesome seeing her so desperate!

    November 20, 2007 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  11. Ken, San Diego, CA

    To quote Joe Biden, "let's all get real here..."

    Living abroad would be wonderful experience, if it was experienced for an extended period of time and at an age where one could really see, empathize, and interact with the population. As a 10 year old boy, although you will have memories of that experience, I doubt Barack ever mingled aimlessly, on his own, around town.

    Clearly, traveling the world, interacting with people, and working with world leaders is a far greater level of experience - no offense to Barack Obama whom I like.

    Hillary sent the message to Barack in a sarcastic fashion, which I don't like. But again, let's be real, both Edwards and Obama have been conducting some character assassination (questioning Hillary's character and integrity). Hillary's statement did not question Barack's character or integrity.

    November 20, 2007 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  12. J. McKinney SW MO

    Oh, good grief! He was there in another country from the age of 6 till age 10?? And he calls this experience to deal with foreign countries?? We need Hillary, and we need her bad. She actually DOES have experience in foreigh countries.

    November 20, 2007 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  13. Mark, Minneapolis, MN

    I'm a Clinton supporter but on this one I have to agree with Obama. There is NOTHING like living abroad, at any age, to broaden one's perspective on other cultures, and also to understand one's OWN country. He should be very proud of this and should continue to tout it as a qualification. And it's a sign of provincialism to attack him over it.

    Also – what candidates have foreign language abilities? Does Obama speak Bahasa? Dodd speaks Spanish, as does Richardson of course.

    Can Clinton speak any foreign languages?

    November 20, 2007 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  14. Jen, Gainesville, FL

    Official tours give face time with other country leaders, but are not a good way to know the people. Obama has the right judgment for the new century because he has seen how the world is connected and meanwhile different. His family ties serves a good example of being connected and different.

    We need leaders like Obama who could bridge the differences and get things done. What Hillary has are "attacks" and "fights." If Hillary is the nominee, she may win the general election, but she can not get things done.

    November 20, 2007 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  15. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    It takes a lot of gall for either of these characters to attack the other because neither of them has much experience to speak of. Moreover, neither of them is electable by a population which is not yet ready to embrace a black man or white woman of such slim credentials as President.

    November 20, 2007 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  16. Charlotte, NC

    I'm starting to like Edwards. If nothing else, he's pretty funny.

    November 20, 2007 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  17. Tim, Colorado Springs

    Exactly what experience is Hillary claiming to have? Since when does watching your husband perform a job count as experience? Hillary personally has never lead so much as a dog catchers office.

    November 20, 2007 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  18. Mike

    It doesn't made any sense that someone can gain a foreign relation experience at 10 years. I think Dr. Sanjay Gupta can explain more detail what people can lear when they are 10

    November 21, 2007 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  19. alan St Louis MO

    Clinton got her degree on Foreign policy from?????

    Let look at het senate record.

    She voted what King Bush wanted for Foreign policy. Yes to Iraq war, Yes to blindly support Iraq war, Yes to ok Bush next Iran war.

    Clinton got her degree from UNIVERISTY OF BUSH and DARTH VADER

    Who stole Obama IDEA early in the campaign????

    Obama NAIVE for his willingness to start diplomacy with problem countries. like IRAN. DO you remember that Hill. Calling Obama NAIVE for his policy.

    The funniest part was a few months latter. Clinton said I will open diplomacy talks with Iran. LOL you launched a smear campaign attack on Obama for saying that.

    Your voting record plus being a Flip flopper, and can not take a solid stand on any issue, you are no different then the incompetence that is in the Whitehouse.


    Biden Obama Edwards for 2009

    November 21, 2007 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  20. Frank, Los Angeles

    HRC was the Treasury Secretary, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Interior, National Security Advisor, etc., in the Clinton administration... right? I mean where else could she have gotten all of this "applied" experience she's touting in the areas of the economy, environment, national security, etc. (I concede education because HRC has been a child and educational advocate for years)? Funny, if memory serves, the one area officially appointed to and controlled by HRC during the Clinton presidency was the healthcare issue and that was a disastorous failure. Is anyone else aware of some recess appointment or shadow position in the administration HRC held and if so, then she should disclose that information and be given proper credit or criticism for her performance during that tenure. Until then, will someone please explain why we're supposed to believe that 8 years of being a "First Lady" somehow allowed HRC to vicariously hold every major cabinet position in the Clinton administration? Give HRC due credit and respect for her years in the Senate and judge her accordingly on her votes and stated positions, but it insults the intelligence of anyone who can hear to suggest that she is somehow battle-tested and more experienced than others just because she lived in the White House and advised her spouse... like most spouses do everyday, everywhere.

    November 21, 2007 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  21. Dee, Cape Town (South Africa)

    Sharply criticizing George Bush’s rush to start a war in Iraq, Nelson Mandela in January 2003 said Bush is as “a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, (who) is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust.”


    Strangely, Bill and Hillary Clinton are close friends of Mandela. Yet by voting in favour of Bush’s resolution to pursue an irresponsible military strategy against Iraq, Mrs Clinton disregarded her one-in-a-million access to the wisdom of the greatest statesman of our generation.

    Yet, she now claims that her personal acquaintance with world leaders is one of her positives.

    Without many such acquaintances at that time, Barack Obama opposed this war even though it was unpopular to do so. This misguided war, and the bully tactics used by America for many decades on other countries, has left deep scars in foreign relations worldwide.

    There can be no foreign relations experience that is more authentic than living overseas for a few years (especially in one’s elementary school years). Nothing real can be learned by meeting heads of state, and by going on scripted and rehearsed health clinic tours. Barack Obama has experienced the daily joys, sadness, beliefs, aspirations, and fears that ordinary Asians live with. Seeing the frail faces of some of his Kenyan relatives has surely marked his heart with tear-jerking yet clear-minded compassion for people in distant shores.

    Could that perhaps not have been part of the initial reasoning behind deploying him to serve in the US Senate’s Foreign Relations committee, by the way?

    His is just the kind of global leadership that the world needs right now, and in Obama, you have a one-in-a-generation candidate to usher it in.

    November 21, 2007 05:22 am at 5:22 am |
  22. RG, Kudelstaart, Netherlands

    Living in a foreign country at the age of 10, is no guarantee that someone will be prepared to face big international challenges. But it does provide insight and understanding in regard to different cultures and values, and the value of such an experience should not be underestimated. What direct qualifications, if any, does Hillary Clinton possess in this area ?

    November 21, 2007 05:32 am at 5:32 am |
  23. Kwa Asante, Koln, Germany

    I'm not an Americanand not voting in the elections. I'm an African with a German spouse residing in Germany. I visit my home country (Ghana) with my family (including my three daughters, aged 11, 5, 3). The mere fact of visiting and staying in Ghana has shaped their thinking to respect other cultures and people no matter how different they maybe. But of most important to appreciate the food on the table in a worls were millions go hungry. Against this background, Senator Obama has a very important point and message that his childhood in Indonesia & Kenya has shaped his view of foreign policy.

    I have lived and worked in Afghanistan and the experience gained in my view shapes my understanding of the society much better than the high level official missions that undertakes "diplomatic tourism" as equivalent to foreign policy experience.

    Senator Barack Obama in my view has the judgement and knowledge to make wise foreign policy decisions because he understands the context in which our world is shaped.

    God bless the Obama campaign and that of the other contenders from both political parties and the independent candidates.

    November 21, 2007 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  24. Mike in Maryland

    Again Hillary questioning someones expeience yet again I ask myself where is her experience.Maybe one would ask themselves to listen to Hillary when she says "Let my record speak for itself." Well quite frankly I have come to the real conclusion that she is right.Lets look at her record......
    Eight years in the White House being the self annointed solution to Health Care.
    result failure
    Six years in the Senate,total pieces of legislation proposed by her.
    Final Grade-F a complete failure

    November 21, 2007 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  25. mark wilkes barre pa

    gov Richardson is the only candidate for the dems with REAL foriegn relations experience. Is hillary trying to make you believe she was in the room when her husband was talking with world leaders about sensitive private meetings ? what does traveling the world have to do with leading a country ? A international salesmen could make those claims and have more connections than hillary

    November 21, 2007 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
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