March 9th, 2008
03:04 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama, Clinton campaign spar over torture

(CNN) – Hillary Clinton’s campaign responded Sunday to charges from rival Barack Obama that the New York senator “flip-flopped” on the issue of torture during her presidential campaign, saying she held strong positions against its use by government officials.

When President Bush vetoed a bill Saturday that would have prohibited the CIA from using harsh interrogation techniques, Obama used the occasion to criticize his Democratic presidential opponent.

"We need a Commander in Chief who has never wavered on whether or not it is acceptable for America to torture, because it is never acceptable,” said Obama. “While I have consistently opposed torture, in the course of this primary campaign Hillary Clinton has flip-flopped from her past position of tolerating torture. …

“When I am president, the American people and the world will be able to trust that I will outlaw torture, because unlike Senator Clinton I have never made an exception for torture and I never will."

Obama was making a reference to Clinton’s decision late last year to rule out any use of these techniques in interrogations, after a meting with a group of retired generals who opposed their use. Earlier, Clinton had said they might be an option if authorities suspected their use might help prevent an imminent attack – a position that was also held by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

The Clinton campaign responded with a statement that said her “strong position opposing torture” had led to her endorsement by Gen. Antonio Taguba, who wrote the official report on the military’s Abu Ghraib scandal.

The release also included an excerpt of a recent letter Senator Clinton sent to President Bush in which she said strong opposition to torture was essential.

“I believe, as do the military leaders I have consulted, that any sign of wavering on this issue by the Commander-in-Chief ‘will drop down the chain of command like a stone, and the rare exception will fast become the rule,’” she wrote.

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. Vig

    Flip-flopper Obama. AOL has a post today giving a synopsis of Obama's time in the senate. He flip-flops when the winds of change.

    Flip-flopper Obama. AOL has a post today givng a synoposis of Obama's time in the senate and it gives you some insight into what makes him tick. He flip-flops when the winds of change are not at his back. He politics are tailored to fit his ambitions – which are to be President. One senator described him as "folding like a cheap suit". Obama wants a free ride on the elevator. The article makes him come off looking as ambitious, lazy, and behaving in ways that would further his Presidential goals. Why am I not surprised?

    March 9, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  2. Susan

    Hillary Clinton was in favor of waterboarding as a method of torture. This technique dates back to the Middle Ages. Hillary flipped flopped again and now she says she opposes it. Obama outed her. That is smart politics. The president defines the agenda. Hillary's is defined my opinion polls and what plays well with the people. Note to Hillary: try telling the truth for one whole day.

    March 9, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  3. Angelene

    The one thing Obama had better realize quick, Is that Hillary Clinton knows how to cover her butt. She knew this would come up and therefor has just recently put this in writing. She is good at this Obama.

    She will waver, she will lie, she will cheat, she will attempt to destroy your very being just to become President.

    We know the Clintons of the past and it would do you good to study their past behaviors, surely in this race, it will let you know the steps they will take to cover their butts.

    Bill Clinton inherited a good budget when he came into office, it was his irresponsibility that has lead us into war. They knew about Osama, they were even given an opportunity to get Osama and did nothing, that is why we are in this situation today.

    BARACK OBAMA , President of the United States of America!

    March 9, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  4. Tom

    Wake up Obama Torture is allready illegal here. What country do you live in. YOU are going to make it illegal. Get all your facts right. When Hillary is proved right on something you cant let it go. Grow up. All you Oammmabites, stay away from the poisoned Koolaid in Joneville
    GO HILLARY

    March 9, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  5. gary

    I wouldnt trust Obama as far as I could throw him.Obama voters are sold on excuses and smooth talked promises. His experience on foreign policies is Zero. You voters will get change ,but not what your expecting. Hillary always makes her own decisions.She's not like Obama ,a follower and copy cat. America will soon find out where this country will go if he makes office.Super deligates are not going to go with Obama at the end. They know America needs HRC and her caliber of know how to bring this world around.Just like the90s when Bill had this country doing better than anyone. We had no wars ,jobs were many,and life sure wasnt like it is now. You young voters wouldnt know that.You only listen to garbage from Clinton haters.you better start really thinking about your country before we have none to worry about. Even the U.S. Military endorses HRC. Go Hillary

    March 9, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  6. robert

    if obama is looking to question clintons credibility, he should make a refernce to their 8 years of scandals.

    he has to say something like she brings a lifetime of scandals (she often says i bring a lifetime of experience)

    this was rather low impact stuff but may be effective to people who really care about these issue.

    March 9, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  7. Lynn

    !. other news sites are reporting that Clinton and her camp are also beneficiaries of Rezko money!!

    2. There is a split on Clinton's involvement in Northern Ireland. Nobel Peace Prize winner and negotiator for peace has described Clinton's claim of helping to bring peace to his country is a "wee bit silly" and her role as a "cheerleader" rather than a principal player.

    Funny how it is necessary to go onto other news websites to actually find out the news. CNN seems more intent on flaming conflict than responsibly reporting the news. I am an Obama supporter but think this goes for both candiddates.

    UPDATE YOUR DELEGATE COUNT!!! OR DON"Y REPORT IT AS ACCURATE!!

    March 9, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  8. Independent

    Hillary says anything to get elected. Any New Yorker will tell you the same.

    March 9, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  9. Daniel

    We all know that the Clintons will say and do anything to win an election. These are some of the stuff Obama is running to change.
    Obama all the way. Hillary can go bake some cookies.

    March 9, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  10. gary

    Do you think other countries treat us with kid gloves? Give me a break. They torture the hell out of Americans. Thats war. Get real America

    March 9, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  11. robert

    But is is important to speak wendy.

    March 9, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  12. Hal

    Whatever the polls say I agree seems to be the Clinton line. Everyone should just look at the judicial record if they are worried about "imminent" attack. The law should say that it is illegal every time then it falls to the courts to decide whether or not the circumstances justified the actions. Truly patriotic Americans understand that with freedom comes the inherent risk and accept that. They are also willing to face the consequensces of their actions and act even when faced with the threat of retribution. Torture is for cowards.

    March 9, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  13. PCS / North Carolina

    Ron wrote March 9th, 2008 6:33 pm ET

    'So the truth is before she decided to run: There might be times when it is OK. Now that she is running: It is not OK…This is typical Hillary. Most of her decisions are based on trying to get some kind of political advantage. WHY..can't more people see this???? "

    You are absolutly right

    March 9, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  14. That's Reality

    You can be sure, either candidate will change their mind on the issue of torture if their child's life is at stake

    March 9, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  15. G.Brown

    Her voice and speaking style is killing me. I must turn down my T.V.

    March 9, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  16. Jonny

    Hey look! HRC supporters are having it both ways!! Shocking!!

    Bunch of hypocrites...

    March 9, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  17. king from toronto

    obama is right.it's only when things get out.that's when she opposes.she was for it before. now she's running for president,all of a sudden she changes.we saw the same thing with the war!we was it with nafta.it's the clintons trend.deny" deny" deny,

    March 9, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  18. joe

    BY THE WAY OBAMA I LIVE HERE IN FLORIDA

    AND IF YOU DONT WANT TO HAVE OUR VOTES COUNT

    ONE WORD...KHARMA..

    WATCH OUT IN NOVEMBER...IT WILL COME BACK TO HAUNT YOU

    March 9, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  19. Black Man in Dixie

    Think about all the Americans tortured by other countries in our history and then make a decision.

    March 9, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  20. Brian

    You think with all the experience she has had torture would have been outlawed before Bush became president...... Oh yeah the kind of experience that lead to genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo.... That's the kind of experience to be proud of.

    March 9, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  21. change1

    WHY DOES THE MEDIA FOCUS SO MUCH ON HILARY? HAVE THEY FORGOTTEN TO REPORT THAT THE CANADIANS SAID HER CAMPAIGN WAS THE ONE WHO CONTACTED THEM? THAT REPORT WAS IN MSNBC'S FIRST READ. I GUESS THEY WERE TO EAGER TO ATTACK BARACK THAT THEY COULD NOT EVEN WAIT TO GATHER THEIR FACTS. POTS CALLING KETTLE BLACK?

    LEAVE OBAMA ALONE, NEVER IN THE HISTORY OF THIS NATION HAS ANYONE BEING SO POSITIVE AND RUN A RACE WITHOUT RACE ON HIS/HER SLEEVES......DON'T YOU SEE WHY THINGS ARE WORKING IN HIS FAVOR? AND FOR BILARY, DON'T EVEN TRY TO MENTION ANYTHING OF A JOINT TICKET...YOU GUYS ARE STILL ASLEEP, WAKE UP ITS 2008!!!!

    March 9, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  22. Theresa

    what about NOT going negative...

    March 9, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  23. Kate Foran

    The Clintons were in the White House already for 8 years with a number of scandals.
    They did and will do anything for their OWN survival and fame.

    The election is NOT a question of candidates’ gender.
    It is a question of their personalities, qualities, integrity and capabilities.

    First of all, the power-hungry nasty Hillary does not represent WOMEN.
    She insults all good, honest and intelligent women.

    We should NOT allow the Clintons to go back to the White House to play dirty tricks again. Remember we had enough of them.

    March 9, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  24. joseph

    Senator Obama is a man of the rarest integrity, which is why so many fanatical Clinton supporters can't seem to understand him. His exact perspective on the issue of torture is that a man of solid moral judgement will never allow the debate to begin with. This is what his statement says in clear detail: "We need a Commander in Chief who has never wavered on whether or not it is acceptable for America to torture, because it is never acceptable” PERIOD

    Regarding the Clintons' wavering: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but most of the time you can let them make fools of themselves..."

    Clinton is a chameleon.

    March 9, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  25. changing times

    Here it is folks:

    Clinton backs off support for torture

    "As a matter of policy it cannot be American policy, period," Clinton responded, seconding the clear positions of Senators Barack Obama (Ill.)and Joe Biden (Del.).

    But in a pair of interviews with the New York Daily News last October, Clinton outlined the same narrow exception that Russert described, and which had also been floated by former President Bill Clinton in an interview last year with National Public Radio.

    "If we're going to be preparing for the kind of improbable but possible eventuality, then it has to be done within the rule of law," Clinton said at the time, in a telephone interview with this reporter, expanding on comments to the Daily News Editorial Board that there should be "lawful authority" for torture in some cases.

    She said then that the "ticking time bomb" scenario would be a narrow exception to her opposition to torture.

    March 9, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6