At their first presidential debate Friday, September 26, in Oxford, Mississippi, Sen. John McCain said Sen. Barack Obama "is the chairperson of a committee that oversights NATO that's in Afghanistan. To this day, he's never had a hearing."
Get the facts!
Obama is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on European Affairs, part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The subcommittee does have oversight of NATO, and therefore NATO actions in Afghanistan. Under his leadership, the subcommittee has not held hearings on Afghanistan.
Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That committee has held hearings on Afghanistan.
In July, before Obama selected him as running mate, Biden issued a statement defending Obama against complaints by some Republicans that Obama had not held hearings on Afghanistan. "The reason Senator Obama didn't chair a NATO and Afghanistan subcommittee hearing is because I did, as chairman of the committee," Biden said in the statement.
Biden noted that the full committee has held three hearings over the last two years directly dealing with NATO and Afghanistan. Obama's campaign noted that Obama attended one of those hearings.
In the debate Friday night, Obama said, "the issues of Afghanistan, the issues of Iraq, critical issues like that, don't go through my subcommittee because they're done as a committee as a whole." The subcommittee could hold its own hearings, but Obama was noting that Biden has held full committee hearings on Afghanistan and other "critical issues."
Obama first discussed this issue publicly at a debate in February, when his rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, complained that as subcommittee chairman, Obama had "held not one substantive hearing to do oversight, to figure out what we can do to actually have a stronger presence with NATO in Afghanistan."
Obama responded at the time, "I became chairman of this committee at the beginning of this campaign, at the beginning of 2007. So it is true that we haven't had oversight hearings on Afghanistan."
While Obama, in that quote, and McCain, at Friday's debate, both called Obama chairman of a "committee," Obama is actually chairman of a subcommittee.
True, but incomplete. As a subcommittee chairman, Obama has not held a hearing. His subcommittee is part of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, chaired by Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, which has held hearings on Afghanistan.