August 22nd, 2007
09:04 AM ET
15 years ago

Rivals criticize Clinton for Iraq praise

Clinton addressed the VFW convention Monday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - White House hopeful Hillary Clinton is taking heat Tuesday from some of her Democratic rivals over recent comments suggesting the president's surge policy in Iraq is "working."

The remarks came during an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention Monday, in which the New York Democrat said the president's Iraq policy was leading to success in "some areas."

"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it's working," she said. "We're just years too late in changing our tactics."

"We can't ever let that happen again," Clinton added. "We can't be fighting the last war. We have to keep preparing to fight the new war."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson quickly jumped at the chance to highlight Clinton's seeming praise of the president.

“The fact is the surge is not working," he said in a statement. "I do not give President Bush the same credit on Iraq that Hillary does."

Meanwhile, David Bonior, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' campaign manager, called Clinton's comments "another instance of a Washington politician trying to have it both ways."

Though Bonior did agree with Clinton that there was "progress" in Al Anbar, he said "by cherry-picking one instance to validate a failed Bush strategy, it risks undermining the effort in the Congress to end this war."

Howard Wolfson, Clinton's communication's director, charged that Bonior was distorting Clinton’s position.

"Senator Edwards was right on Sunday when he said that all the Democrats would end the war and that the differences between them were small," he said. "He is wrong today to distort Senator Clinton's opposition to the surge in a sad attempt to raise his flagging poll numbers."

"The fact is that while Democrats, including Senator Edwards and Senator Obama, acknowledge progress in Al Anbar, Senator Clinton opposed the surge from the start and believes there is no military solution to the war in Iraq," Wolfson added.

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Bill Richardson • Hillary Clinton • John Edwards
soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. VanReuter NY NY

    "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it's working," she said. "We're just years too late in changing our tactics."

    Well, yeah.

    let the hair-splitting begin...


    August 21, 2007 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  2. Adam, Plano, TX

    another unprovoked mention of Obama. Hillary is definately in the wrong here, i agree with both Richardson and Edwards.

    August 21, 2007 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  3. James, Atlanta GA

    Democrats, please keep repeating this mantra: "No matter what the facts are, the surge is not working. No matter what Democrats who have actually gone to Iraq to see what progress has been made say, the surge is not working. No matter that Doctors Without Borders say that casualties have dramatically gone down across many of the areas where the surge has been inacted, the surge is not working. The surge is not working. The surge is not working. We have lost. Americans are losers. We are all losers. Bush is a lier, and all those who differ from the opinion of immediately pulling troops out of Iraq are idiots." Please keep that mantra going. I just want to remember what kind of optimistic future I should be looking forward to starting in 09.

    August 21, 2007 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  4. Kim, Sacramento, CA

    I want to see how Hillary tries to double talk her way out of this one. Seems to me like she has stepped in it and stepped in it good this time. She is just proving that she would be a continuation of the old guard in the White House – only difference is there would be a D behind her name versus an R.

    Let's vote for a Democrat that will really lead us in the direction for change, someone who will really get our troops out of Iraq. The one person running for President that has opposed this war since day one and has stayed consistent on it – Barack Obama.

    August 21, 2007 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  5. Independent Voter, TN

    People of both parties that have been to Iraq recently admit that progress is being made. Heck, the media have been reporting as much for a month now. To deny the facts is nothing more than to try to appeal to the liberal base and tell them what they want to hear.

    I personally think that while the war has been screwed up by Bush and Rumsfeld for the past 4 years, if we continue to make the progress that has been acknowledged by reasoned observers in both parties, we actually have a chance to leave the Iraqis with a representative government when we withdraw.

    Hopefully, that's what we all want.

    August 21, 2007 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  6. David, Gilbert Arizona

    It is a very sad thing when a democratic candidate makes noises that the Iraqi war is going well and all the other democratic candidates jump. The worst thing that can happen for the democrats is for the Iraqi war to go well. Their doom and gloom in Iraq campaign would crumble like wet cardboard.

    Woe be it to the democrat who acknowledges gains made in Iraq.

    August 21, 2007 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  7. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    Thank you Hillary! By your suggestion there has been ANY successes you have exposed the other candidates as non-objective doom-and-gloom nay-sayers,

    Bill Richardson "The fact is the surge is not working"

    Edwards Campaign, "by cherry-picking one instance to validate a failed Bush strategy, it risks undermining the effort in the Congress to end this war."

    Why does the HINT of success in Iraq scare the bejesus out of many democrats??

    August 21, 2007 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  8. JC, San Fran, CA

    Howard Wolfson is such a tool, just total dickery coming out of that guy's mouth. Can he not say anything substantive about his candidate without referring to poll numbers? Probably not, considering that's all Clinton stands for: what the polls are saying. And what a joke, him trying to insinuate than Edwards and Obama did not oppose support the surge from the start, which they did. However, Clinton was the LAST to come on board for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. You can have it both ways. Howard Wolfson is so dishonest and unlikeable, I hope he continues to speak for Senator Clinton, so as to help the other candidates.

    August 21, 2007 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  9. Ryan, Provo, UT

    I don't like Hillary but I'm actually glad she has the courage to call it like it is in this instance despite the political consequences.

    I thought the surge was a terrible idea and I still don't think its going to work, but if by chance it does, if the reports all come back positive, should we be disappointed? What would that say about our motivations? If Bush's policy happens to make Iraq safer we should be pleased and acknowledge the success rather than rejecting it just because we despise the person it came from. Senator Edwards and Governor Richardson seem to be putting partisanship and political points before results in this instance, and its disappointing.

    August 21, 2007 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  10. Tom, Ft Hood, Texas

    "We have to keep preparing to fight the new war." Mrs. Clinton, you clearly have no idea what you are talking about. How about fighting the current war? I don't know what the "new war" is, will you please elaborate? I am a soldier and hope you do not become the next commander-in-chief.

    August 21, 2007 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  11. Rob

    WHAT A FAKE! Clinton is taking this country for a ride and everyone who follows her needs to wake up! First she votes for the war, then is against it, then says a troop surge won't work, then won't own up to her mistakes, then attacks Obama for telling the truth, then goes on about how Karl Rove is against her, now she in line with the Republicans and Bush on the troop surge. PEOPLE WAKE UP! The only reason people want to vote for her is because they hope Bill Clinton can become president again through her and because she is a white woman! She is a new novelty for [.......] in America who will never support a black man but will gladly take our votes! At least [......]are honest about their hatred of black people. If Clinton gets the nomination I hope all black people stay home and let the chips fall where they will. America deserves its mess because of it arrogant, ignorant, racist, contradictory, selfish ways. I love my country but lately I'm feeling tested!

    August 21, 2007 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  12. Christian, Tampa FL

    While I agree that evidence shows some progress in al-Anbar, it's obviously a moot point unless serious political and, most difficultly, social progress is made in Iraq. That is obviously not happening, and nothing the U.S. military can do will force it to happen. I hope Hillary doesn't backtrack on her promises (if she becomes president) to get us out of Iraq so that we can rebuild our military and pay attention to our own country's problems for a change.

    August 21, 2007 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Had Obama said this all hell would break out in the media! Clinton and crew would be attacking him non-stop! Obama is the right choice for president in 08!

    August 21, 2007 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  14. Anonymous, California

    Typical Hillary Clinton...says one thing in front a specific group, then the next day when speaking to VFW, she changes her tune.

    That's why the Democrats had better wake up and pick someone else.

    Otherwise Clinton will provide very little change from what Bush offers and that she will keep us in Iraq permanently to serve the interests of the oil industry whom is bankrolling her campaign.

    August 21, 2007 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  15. Mark Wiznitzer, Burlington VT

    Who appointed Wolfson to also speak for Edwards and Obama? The Clinton machine is not well-greased, just greasy.

    The fact is that Hillary was speaking to the Vets and thought she might win some votes from those who still believe in Bush's failed policies. But she also jumped all over Obama for saying essentially the same things she said about nukes a year ago and , more recently, about talking to adversaries and acting on "actionable intelligence". So, I guess what goes round comes round, Hill. At least they aren't calling you "irresponsible" and "naive" for saying what you believe.

    August 21, 2007 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  16. Patrick Peavy Plano, TX

    John Edwards is trying to manipulate the strong anti-war base of the Democratic Party against Hillary the same way Bush and his lackies used evangelical christians with the gay marriage issue to get voters out against Kerry. It is obvious Senator Clinton was acknowledging that there has been one aspect where improvements have been made. Surely her critics over this realize that in any situation you can find some sort of positive, no matter how miniscule. Just another expample as to why she is the perfect candidate for president. I find it funny that people criticize her for being so "divisive" yet turn around and criticize her ability to have some sort of common ground even with her enemies. After all isn't that a key part of diplomacy?

    When are people going to realize that Hillary is the key to a renaissance for the Democratic Party? I feel she would be my generation's Ronald Reagan. Except for the fact that she would be concerned with more than just straight, white, christian America unlike he was.

    August 21, 2007 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  17. David, Salinas, CA

    Okay, I took Senator Obama to task earlier today for his morally correct and politically less-than-strategic position on Cuba, so now I guess I’ll pick on Senator Clinton, even though I support both of them.

    Part of the problem that smart, nuanced people have in running for office is that sometimes they give smart nuanced answers. (John McCain costs himself with such behavior on a regular basis).

    Now, I don’t know if we’re making progress in Al Anbar, or not. I don’t have the facts at my disposal and I’m no military strategist. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

    (Even if we are it doesn’t justify an occupation in the middle of a civil war. Americans are still dying in other provinces. Osama bin Laden is still laughing free in Afgahnistan or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia somewhere. We still can't spare another trillion.)

    But I know enough about political strategy to know Hillary shouldn’t have said it. She shouldn’t have said we we’re safer than we were before 9/11 either, even if it’s true. Those are the two real slips that Senator Clinton has made in a nearly flawless campaign. They're not mistakes that Bill Clinton, or Ronald Reagan or even George W. Bush would have made. (Clinton and Reagan were too politically sophisticated, and Bush may not be the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree but he knows how to stay on message, even if the message is completely insane).

    Overall, I don’t think it’s going to cost Clinton much in the primaries since the only people who care are all in the Obama or Kucinich camps anyway. But come November, if Hillary is the nominee, she’s going to need that liberal base. I think she’ll get it, since the alternative will be Giuliani or Romney or Thompson and many more years of costly, senseless, bloody war.

    Well I feel better now, so I’ll get back to supporting Democrats and exposing Republicans. I know better strategically than to write a negative post like this. I should stay on message. But sometimes a little honest nuance is so appealing that I just can’t resist.

    August 21, 2007 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  18. Danielle Clarke Phila pa USA vietnam vet USMC

    I think your mistaken Hillary!!!

    Unless measurable means the same thing as ""Iraq policy was leading to success in "some areas."""

    Personally i think you were brown nosing the veterans last night.

    But it didn't work thanks to Iraq war veteran and congressman from Pa Patrick Murphy who threw his support to your opponent Barack Obama!

    Senator Levin Calls On Iraqi Parliament To Boot Maliki
    By Eric Kleefeld | bio

    As we reported earlier today, Senators John Warner and Carl Levin just returned from Iraq, issuing a statement today saying that while the surge is producing "measurable results" the two Senators are "not optimistic" about the likelihood of political reconciliation in Iraq.

    This afternoon Levin held a conference call with reporters, and he went even further, making news by calling on the Iraqi parliament to boot Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

    Levin — lest anyone mistake him for a "war critic supporting the surge" — also said that the only way to spur the Iraqis to action is by drawing down troop levels. More from his interview after the jump.

    Levin was very harsh towards the Maliki government, calling it "non-functional" and saying it has failed to use the time he's been given by the surge to forge important important political agreements.

    "Even those who support the surge would be the first to acknowledge that the purpose of the surge was to give those leaders that opportunity," Levin said. "They have not grasped that opportunity, they have frittered it away."

    Although Levin said he would not presume to dictate to the Iraqis how to run their own government, he did take the extraordinary step of saying what he hopes the Iraqis will do about the problem: "So I hope that the Iraqi Assembly, when it reconvenes in a few weeks, will vote the Maliki government out of office, and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and a more unifying prime minister and government."

    "As one U.S. soldier who is in his 3rd deployment to Iraq told us, that the Iraqi soldiers will let U.S. soldiers do the job that they’re supposed to be doing, forever, and that we need to let them do it on their own," Levin said from Tel Aviv, in the middle of a trip to the Middle East.

    Levin argued that one of the surge's stated goals — to buy time for more training of Iraqi forces — was a success, and this in turn it's time to move on to the next stage of forcing the political leaders to take responsibility and draw down U.S. troops.

    "It is clear to me that the capability that the Iraqi military now has and will have by the end of this year will allow us to begin reducing U.S. forces significantly below our pre-surge level," Levin said. "We should begin that reduction within four months. The increased Iraqi capability will also sallow us to move most of our forces out of Iraq by the middle of next years, and transition the forces that need to remain to perform missions away from the civil war."

    August 21, 2007 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  19. Andrew Glenn, New York

    If Mother Hillary said it, it must be true. She can say no wrong, do no wrong.

    August 21, 2007 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  20. Jayson, Beale AFB, CA

    The fact that not everything George Bush does is wrong really must be killing then.....

    August 21, 2007 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  21. Jimmy, Cherokee, Okla.

    I was just waiting on the Clinton Bashers. ah you know Edwards, Obama people. They are sure to jump like a pack of wolfes. Hey did you notice Clinton never claimed victory for the ABC Debate. Because she is the grown up of the bunch. Senseable and Forthbearing. Edwards and Obama keep trying to confuss the Ameriocan people to get them to believe in their rethoric. I still can not get over Obama continues use of Clintons war vote. When Obama's Senate vote is exactly like Clintons except for where he misssed one vote. and Voted with Bush on one of his war Generals. sending Bush a message of support where Senator Clonton voted against. You watch. She will stand by what she says. It would be noice if the campaign of hope and change would do the same.

    August 21, 2007 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  22. Chris, Tucson, AZ

    Heaven forbid she state the truth, that the surge is working...even if it's the truth. The dems only care about attack Bush, attack Rove and especially attack Cheney. It's getting quite old. Richardson has got to be the biggest pretender/poser I have ever seen in a presidential race.

    August 21, 2007 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  23. A. Thomas, New York, NY

    Hillary just gives credit, although small, where it is due. There is no point, like other canadates, keep talking 100% about the negatives and ignoring the reality or truth.

    She talks and looks presidential to me.

    August 21, 2007 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  24. Chuckles007, Sacramento, Ca.

    So let me get this straight. Hillary is saying she opposed the surge but by golly it's working so she likes it. Now she's saying she voted for the war but is against it now. Which is it? Kerry got into trouble for saying he voted for the war before he voted against it. Sounds to me that Hillary is saying that she's for the war AND against the war. Which is it Hillary? Enough of her already! Why is she polling so high? Oh that's right, it's the Clinton News Network/Gupta Poll...OBAMA '08!

    August 21, 2007 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  25. Danny G. Boca Raton, FL

    Sen. Clinton is very savy. That I imagine drives her opponents mad. but the fact is that we as a nation are not stagnant in our ideals, that is what makes us not only more intelligent, but allows us to adapt, if there are places where the surge is working, we should praise our men and women for the good job, this does not tell the world, our president was right, NO, but it tells the world perhaps that we are finally getting it! good for Hillary to acknowledge the positive, perhaps this should allow us to move out of that place sooner rather than later, the ultimate test is diplomatic, what is this administration willing to do for the good of ALL iraqui's and in the end for the good of ALL americans. I will not shed a tear when Mr. Bush drives away from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

    let's unite as Americans, let's find the common ground, support your candidate for their ideals not their slogans. I for one I'm willing to give Hillary a chance, she is not afraid to talk frank to the American people.

    August 21, 2007 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
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