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. Jack from WV

    Being a retired Veteran and understanding a bit about interrogations using proven techniques is a must to gain the information required. There are several techniques used by the military and others. In a perfect world torture would not happen, however we don’t live in a perfect world and our adversaries use whatever techniques they have at their disposal to get their information short of death and sometime even death. It isn’t pretty but the end results out weigh no information.
    Obama is showing his immaturity by saying he will outlaw torture techniques if he is elected President. First of all our adversaries use whatever they want to, there’s no Geneva Convention in the terrorists hand book to follow. So if we have a high level terrorist close to Osama Bin Ladin who was captured of coarse he will not talk. I would expect our government agencies to use whatever is required to get the information ie: Osama Bin Ladin.
    I don’t agree with Hillary on anything but on this subject she is right on and Obama is looking at this in a perfect world which we don’t live in, he should know this better than most! Freshman Senator shows his limits once again.

    March 9, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  2. Joseph

    Regarding Clinton wavering (and general untrustworthiness):

    You can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but the rest of the time you can let them make fools of themselves.

    Don't be fooled by the Clinton lies.

    Senator Obama is a man of the rarest integrity, and while he is not as seasoned as Clinton in slinging the mud, which this political sport requires on occasion, at least he got it right here:
    "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

    March 9, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  3. SHERYLANNE

    Not surprised Obama got tired of the Iraq vote, so he moves on.

    He doesn't have a voting record (the ones he does have is the same as Clinton) so he can voice "I didn't vote for/against a policy".

    Try something new Obama, like informing all of us how you plan on changing things; give concrete directions. Oh, wait a minute, he won't because then he will be accused of flip-flopping and anyway, he doesn't have any plans.

    Obamalites are leading us down a dangerous path. Thank G** that a lot of Clinton backers will switch to McCain should Obama become the Democratic nominee. He does not have a chance to become more than he is; a motivating speaker.

    March 9, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  4. Thomas

    Whats this discussion about ? Barack do have more votes (600.000), Barak do have more States and Barack do have more pledged Delegates.

    Its time for Hillary to drop out the race, and beeing the running mate.

    March 9, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  5. Ellie

    What is Hillary Clinton's definition of torture?? is it: t o r t u r e ???
    or is it: e r u t r o t???? She certainly has learned the real meaning from the Clinton machine!!! Talk from both sides of your mouth!! Flip-flop on your answers!! Project ugliness onto your opponent!! Gather the "general's army" together at the round table to make yourself look "like your ready on day one when the phone rings at 3:00 in the morning" when in fact the call goes to the Pentegon and you only served as First Lady in the White House!! (now that is REAL experience)!! Get BillyBoy, the Bull Dog out there to make his "mark" on the American voters and promote a "dream team"!! That will surely garner some votes. After all – Americans will get THREE PRESIDENTS FOR THE VOTE OF ONE!!

    What is Hillary Clinton's definition of winning this election? GET THE NOMINATION!! GET THE NOMINATION!! GET IT ANY WAY YOU CAN!! AND BE SURE TO TEAR YOUR DEMOCRATIC PARTY APART WHILE YOU ARE DOING IT!! AND WHEN YOU HAVE ACCOMPLISHED THIS HISTORY-MAKING ENDEAVOR - HAVE AN INTERVIEW WITH THE MEDIA AND CRY CROCODILE TEARS!! SIMPLY EXPLAIN TO THEM: IT WASN'T ME - IT WASN'T ME - IT WAS A LEFT-WING CONSPIRACY!! YOU BETCHA!! THEY WILL BELIEVE YOU TOO!!

    March 9, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  6. After further review,Texas

    American citizens can also be tortured in a domestic setting,they just dont tell you that now.

    March 9, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  7. nellie

    MCNEIL. I THINK YOU NEED TO READ THE ORIGINL ARTICLE FROM IRELAND ITSELF. THE IRSH ARE AMUSED AT HILARY BEEFING HER RESUME. READ UK TELEGRAM FOR THURSDAY/WEDNESDAY LAST WEEK ON HILARY IRELAND CLAIMS.

    March 9, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  8. Ronald Peete

    I have one simple question, WHY IS HILLARY CLINTON NOT REQUIRED TO DISCLOSE THAT SHE AND BILL CLINTON ARE BEING SUED IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR CAMPAIGN FINANCE FRAUD?? THEIR TRIAL STARTS IN OCTOBER OF THIS YEAR AND THE DISCOVERY PHASE IS GOING ON THIS MONTH!! I FEEL THAT THIS MUST BE DISCLOSED TO THE VOTERS SO THAT EVERYTHING IS OUT IN THE OPEN!!!

    March 9, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  9. charles baiden

    If torture will bring the anticipated result it must be considered as an option.Using a strong hand on evil people is a step in the right direction.

    March 9, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  10. Michael Mills

    Hillarys' K-Street corporate friends and supporter Ruppert Murdock polled Democratic primary voters before she made her "decision" on torture. That's why she changed her mind. Amen Ron!

    March 9, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  11. Karen B.

    I am pleased that Obama takes the moral high. Torture is wrong. If we don't come out against it, we have NO room to talk when OUR troops are tortured.

    I do wish he would defend himself against more of Hillary's smears, but it is clear he is trying to keep the contest positive. The old saying stands true, wrestle with pigs and you'll only get muddy, and the pigs will love it!

    Hillary, stop the negativity. You are only hurting the party and cheapening us as a nation in the eyes of the world.

    March 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  12. McIntyre

    You know what torture is..having to listen to Hillary bleat and squawk day after day.. she makes my head spin. I say put her in a room of suspected terrorits and they will sing like birds!!!! I can't imagine having to listen to that voice for four years.. GO Obama !!

    March 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  13. MNDem

    What Hillary is doing the Democratic Party should be considered torture.

    March 9, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  14. YeahRight

    CNN – PLEASE POST 1 OUT OF 100 OF MY COMMENTS...

    I would urge people to read the entire ticker ONE MORE TIME. Senator Obama said Mrs. Clinton FLIP-FLOPPED. And the response from her is that she is against it (NOW?). Did she address the FLIP-FLOPPING part?
    Someone should teach you people (that says Clinton is awesome) HOW TO READ.

    March 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  15. Ann Delaney

    Why was Hillary Clinton wavering regarding torture – it sounds like her public comments didn't match what she was writing to the President? Was this more back room dealing that Clinton likes to indulge in? Was she watching the polls that day?

    Also, why did MSNBC pull the story that a Canadian newspaper ran stating that Bill Clinton had contacted Canadian government regarding NAFTA not Barack Obama? I saved the first read article. Why is the media not addressing the dirt on the Clintons? Such as a law suit against Bill Clinton for business fraud that will be heard by the Supreme Court of California. What was Hillary's involvement with Ron Paul?

    March 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  16. You've got to kidding!

    Did anyone else notice that OhioVoter justified the position of a Presidential candidate on this issue based on a fictional TV show (“I've seen ‘24.’ As Jack Bauer has shown, sometimes a little torture goes a long way…”)? There are so many interesting books and articles regarding the military efficacy of torture, as well as the moral dilemma posed by its use. Yet, OhioVoter absurdly references the experiences of an imaginary TV character to make his point. What a moron!

    March 9, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  17. allxdreamer

    It is amazing to me everywhere you look you see Obama's face. He may be ahead in the delegates, but Hillary is ahead in the superdelegates. And although Obama won Wyoming of just 4,000, Hillary got 3,400 so not many ppl vote at these caucus. I have heard a lot of ppl say they have switched from Obama to Clinton which is good. I think ppl have seen Obama's real side. The side where he said he was against NaFTA and then sent his advisor to Canada and said not really. Then there was the senior advisor who told the scotish paper Hillary is a monster, and that Obama would not really start to withdraw the troops as he has promised the American ppl. So ppl all around this Country are starting to stop and say, if Obama can't LEAD his own campaign HOW CAN OBAMA LEAD OUR NATION that is already in trouble economically and in war. So I am glad to hear so many are now switching from obama to Hillary. Our country is in a great need an experienced leader, and Hillary has the experience and the backbone needed to stand up for the American ppl and make changes that will bring this Nation back up on TOP again. Vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton, for President!!

    March 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  18. Kevin

    OhioVoter, are you insane? You're making your judgment calls based on the tv-drama, "24." ?!?!?

    Wow, what a sad sad country we're living in if the vast majority can no longer comprehend real world scenarios, where all of our "knowledge" comes not from peer-reviewed journals, but from Hollywood. No wonder Ohio went to Clinton and the "un-educated." Smarten up, America.

    March 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  19. bad idea

    If people really going to listen to Obama talks but not the walk,my guess is you are such a naive.Theres an article about Obama on the internet,people said he risk his career by standing against the war and rally in Chicago and told the anti war rallies that it is still not to late to stop the wwar.By then US already invaded IRAQ.So where is this promises?
    2ndly he's talking about immigration and how bad is Mccain for legalizing the illegal in Immigration.But he did co-sponsor "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act' introduced by John Mccain.And he did added three admendments for the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act; which then failed the Senate of house representative.he really doesnt teach what he reach about illegal immigration.
    3rdly in August 2007 he said this "it was a terrible mistake to fail to act" against a 2005 meeting of al-Qaeda leaders that U.S. intelligence had confirmed to be taking place in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. He said that as president he would not miss a similar opportunity, even without the support of the Pakistani government.[114]
    For an anti war person who preach that Iraq war is wrong.What does he meant by above captions.Isnt invading a country of your ally and thus recreated misunderstand between the US and Parkistan.Isnt this creating war?
    4thly,he's talking about diplomacy between iran,syria and middle eastern countries but he did vote for Iran santion enabling Act.And he did says this as well.At a meeting with Palestinian students two weeks before Hamas won the legislative election, Obama warned that "the U.S. will never recognize winning Hamas candidates unless the group renounces its fundamental mission to eliminate Israel.didn't he said that when he deal with Iran and hamas he will be diplomacy.So is he being lip flop again

    March 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  20. DC

    Obama doens't know his foot from a hole in the ground!!!

    March 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  21. ivor

    ibelieve obama just do not know what he wants. go GO HILLARY

    March 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  22. DC

    You are 110 % correct Lois in CA.

    March 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  23. William

    Democrats want mail in vote for Florida and Michigan Primary. From where the soft money come from. The corporate lobbyist. Why Obama does not object to this. He is our agent of change we beleive. He is rady to take soft money from big corps in return for favors. Same old politics. Birds of the same feather flock togather.

    March 9, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  24. Chris

    When I read these comments it makes me very sad to be an American...

    It sounds to me like all of you have forgotten 911 and the burning of the towers... it sounds like almost all of you do not support our troops and the dangers they encounter daily... I can not believe that Obama is winning votes because Clinton voted for the war... She is only a Senator from New York or "ground zero"... I guess I should have expected Obama supporters to try and take the high road and let people walk all over them... never stand up for what they believe in... and turn the ringer off at 3am...

    I guess I wish I lived in the same dream world all of you live in... I know in the real world there are people out there that hate you for no reason... there are people out there that do not care if they kill thousands of innocent mothers, fathers, or children... right now two girls going to college were killed in random acts of violence...

    I know reading all of these blogs is "torture"!!!

    March 9, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  25. mary

    This pretains to the College students who participated in state caucauses. Won't these same students have to vote in the precient/state that is their permanent address? I can't picture a college student giving up their permanent residence just to vote in the state where they attend college. So caucauses don't seem to show the actual votes per state.

    March 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6