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. JW, Columbus OH

    Here we see Hillary again, spluttering out anything to get her elected. Anyone who thinks anything will change if she is elected is naieve. Oh, and I noticed that Obama was the only candidate who didn't start slinging mud over another one of Hillary's flip-flops.

    August 22, 2007 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  2. Raymond, Chester, PA

    You know, I wonder what the smug Clinton campaign folks are going to say once the other candidates start dropping out of the race, and the poll results start to narrow as a result? The election is over a year away and just because Hillary is leading in Sept. 07 doesn't mean she will be in Nov. 08! The pundits are acting as if everyone else should pack their bags already!! There is a long road to travel in this race, and the primaries haven't even taken place yet. I've watched Howard Wolfson who certainly seems to be a bit arrogant so early on. It's only natural that support from one failed candidate will go to another. The arrogance needs to stop now 'cause while the Clinton campaign is trying to give the appearance of 'taking the high road' on most issues, I wonder if they'll feel the same come Nov. 08 when one of the other candidates will most likely be withing striking distance or beyond?

    Chester, PA


    August 22, 2007 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  3. Mary, Holland, MI

    I don't take what any of the Hillary bashers say to heart on this one at all. It doesn't matter what she says...people will find fault with her. There isn't any intellectual dialogue here at all–just candidate bashing. I'm tired of it already.

    August 22, 2007 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. sonny c. v.p.,la.

    Why do some people have trouble reading whole statements by candidates before they pop off? Hillary said the surge tactic was years too late, not that it was going to effect the outcome now.

    August 22, 2007 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  5. John, CA

    elect hillary and get the same old same old for another 4 years, not to mention the fact that only 2 families will have run this country into the ground for the past 19 years.

    August 22, 2007 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  6. Russe11,Pocono Pa

    Let's keep it simple, the surge was put in place to secure Baghdad and help the political progress. The progress in Anbar was happening well before the surge, this to me means the surge is not working

    August 22, 2007 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  7. Jonathan, Pittsburgh, PA

    Agree 100% with Ethan, Brooklyn, NY and Mary, Holland, MI – those that don't like Hillary really don't know why. They take her words out of context constantly. I thought I liked this form of communication "the ticker" but, I'm finding so much disinformation and just plain stupidity being spewed here that I'm done after only 2 days of reading the comments. Have fun with your immature, ridiculous theories on these candidates – some of you speak as if you know these people personally – get a life. Go Hillary, Biden & Barrack. You all deserve better than this – keep up the good work.

    August 22, 2007 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  8. Chip Celina OH

    RE: Tony, Mount Vernon, NY,

    Let's remember the TET Offensive people. Militarily it was a success, but the enemy just retrenched and kept up the fight because the communist support in Vietnam was still high."

    Tony, the Tet offensive was not an American operation. The enemy didn't 'retrench', they actually conducted the Tet Offensive.

    The Tet offensive was a military failure, but was a turning point in the war because our media began reporting negatively afterward, which caused great political unrest here at home.

    Have a good day,


    August 22, 2007 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  9. VanReuter NY NY

    "You know, I wonder what the smug Clinton campaign folks are going to say once the other candidates start dropping out of the race, and the poll results start to narrow as a result?"


    Good point, except, who do you think will be getting the support of the drop -outs?

    Biden and Dodd's supporters will go to Clinton. Richardson, who has a good shot at the #2 position on the ticket, will swing his supporters over to the Front-runner. The only place Senator Obama could hope to pick up support is from Edwards, and if Clinton is over 50% in the polls (and she will be) and Senator Obama is below 25% (and he will be) Senator Clinton will most likely receive his endorsement, and most of his supporters. I would venture to say that those Senator Clinton supporters will be even more, "smug", when she takes the nomination on the first ballot, and she will.


    August 22, 2007 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  10. David, Holland MI


    Jesus, this is getting awful. The title shows that you are clearly defending her even if she seems in the wrong. Her sudden flip-flop isn't the news, it's the fact that others are attacking her for it.

    Hillary is a big girl CNN, she shouldn't have to need your help.

    August 22, 2007 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Rob

    I am a moderate Democrat and OEF VET. I got to say after reading some of these comments… I seem to get frustrated. I agree the war may have run its course. I was one of few after returning from my deployment overseas that didn’t support the run up to the war in Iraq. I hate the fact that most republicans supported this war with their asses parked in their recliners at FORT Living room, but I am also disappointed in a lot of the LEFTY LEFTY points of view. I agree with the fact that the commencement of the war was immoral, and a support and continuation of this war unpunished will only encourage future morons like Giuliani or Thompson or even McCain to carry out future excursions in this manner, but… guys have to find a little more common ground. Simply pulling out. I mean really guys… I agree but in Phased approach… and only when we can arm the opposing element and accept the major bloodshed that will follow. I am willing to accept that, as long as I know that the opposing side ( the Sunni ) will win. I have stated before that I believe that this Al Qaeda using Iraq for future attacks is total BS… They are only taking advantage of the Vacuum in Iraq temporarily. They will be hung beaten and tortured by our Iraqi counterparts once their domestic issues are resolved. If we are there to arm the Sunni’s … admit that our form of Democracy brought to the Iraqi’s was Niece and that we should accept what is inevitable dig in for the always unexpected and unpredictable mess that our decisions will temporarily bring for a decade or two, then we all need to stop projecting simple view points. Most of you could even volunteer and try putting a uniform on to support what is best for your country and their cause or just stay educated about the issues and their ramifications. It isn’t enough to say we shouldn’t have gone in to Iraq… That is something we already know. Hoorah to our troops always wish them the best…. But they have been let down by GWB and the crew that followed him. Let’s just be responsible and resolute this time. TAKE RESPONSABILITY

    August 22, 2007 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  12. Bea, Hoboken, NJ

    Agree 100% with Ethan, Brooklyn, NY and Mary, Holland, MI – those that don't like Hillary really don't know why. They take her words out of context constantly. I thought I liked this form of communication "the ticker" but, I'm finding so much disinformation and just plain stupidity being spewed here that I'm done after only 2 days of reading the comments. Have fun with your immature, ridiculous theories on these candidates – some of you speak as if you know these people personally – get a life. Go Hillary, Biden & Barrack. You all deserve better than this – keep up the good work.

    Posted By Jonathan, Pittsburgh, PA : August 22, 2007 12:09 pm

    Hear, Hear!!!! I agree with you, it's not about having a conversation on the issues but rather as a forum to bash whichever candidate people don't like for whatever reasons.

    What's wrong with what she said if it happens to be the truth? How is that seen as pandering? So, a senator who has sat for several years in the Armed Services Committee should cover up or distort information so as to not upset her "base"???

    August 22, 2007 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  13. Jayson, Beale AFB, CA

    Why is it that everyone forgets that North Vietnam won in the end because of continued support from China and other countries? The didn't win purely because of their ideals being preferred or because the North Vietnamese military was superior. If the North Korean support had been cut off just like South Vietnamese support was cut off you would have had the exact same situation that exists in Korea today with a stalemate between the two.

    Hopefully the Iraqi people will put enough pressure on the government so that they stop acting like a bunch of thugs and criminals and start working for the Iraqi people. Unfortunately they have our government as a model so corruption is guaranteed to exist in some form.

    August 22, 2007 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. Mindy Chatsworth, Ca.

    If by alluding to the real war, Hillary Clinton means the war in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda and bin Laden are, then I am all for it. That is where we should be, fighting the real enemies in their hiding places and in their base of power.

    This mess in Iraq was created and engineered by the Bush administration and nothing anyone can say will ever change that. Perhaps Hillary was trying to pander to the VFW. It's what a lot of politicians seem to do all too often these days. Whether or not the surge works is irrelevant, because we cannot win this war. We have already strengthened Al Qaeda and Iran with our folly in Iraq. We need to find a way to get out of this mess without creating any more havoc. The current Iraqi government is not strong enough to survive. We can try to prop it up all we want, but there is no way it can possibly deal with the chaos and the sectarian violence.

    Democrats don't have to be afraid of anything working in Iraq, because nothing is working right now. If we could just get ourselves out of there, maybe the Iraqis could deal with this themselves. We invaded a sovereign nation that presented no national security threat to us and did not participate in any way in the attack on 9/11. They will despise us as long as we are there and with good reason.

    Hillary Clinton likes to walk a fine line at times and play the consummate politician. Bill was much better at it. It doesn't matter what she says, the simple truth is that we have to get out of Iraq, period. I don't think the other Democratic candidates need to jump all over her and make a mountain out of a molehill. It was one sentence, it's over. Now let's move on to the real issues at hand.

    I must say that Hillary's need to find the middle ground and appeal to the most constituents is one of her least attractive attributes. But it's not anything new, it's who she is. We still have to decide if she is the best candidate that the Democratic party can put forth to win back the White House in 2008.

    August 22, 2007 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  15. María Soledad Cervantes Ramírez, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico

    H. Clinton should not need a communications director to exert damage control, she should mean what she says and say what she means. Pity that she's the only woman running for the U.S. Presidency. As an event that will affect all Latin America and the Middle East, I would rather strongly prefer Elizabeth Edwards, who does not fear speaking clearly her mind, and failing that, then his husband. True, nobody's noticing that Clinton states that the U.S. is changing tactics, but clarifies: "We're just YEARS too late in changing [them]." In fact she's disqualifying Bush's sly and hypocrite new effort. The "new war" the U.S. should led should be waged instead against the U.S. neocon/corporate evil ways that are damaging the U.S. people themselves and peoples the world over.
    As one of the Latin Americans who will be affected by your next presidency, I don't see the U.S. is prepared either for a Woman president or a Black president. Either way I consider Sen. Clinton a person that will endure anything -such as her husband's shameful acts and the ensuing negative publicity- in her quest for ultimate power. If she's really trying to have it both ways, then she's shedding her "It takes a Village", humane veneer to reveal herself as a pitiless politician who will do anything for power. I don't think any U.S. president can be more dangerous to you than George W. Bush, but, is she really good for the interest of the USAmerican people?

    August 22, 2007 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  16. Cathy Turtletown Tn

    Talking out of both sides of her mouth again! Get all the votes you can no matter what you have to say. Make sure you play up to both sides.

    Same ole politics different face and gender.


    August 22, 2007 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  17. Catherine, Seattle, Washington

    Since when does an improvement in one district, measuring one thing only (but not others)add up to a successful Surge policy?

    Get a grip, Bush supporters. Celebrate this tiny positive, but try not to lose sight of the fact that you and your Boy-King are still 99% wrong.

    And try to keep that in mind, Hillary.

    August 22, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  18. Mark, Richmond Va

    I truely believe now that if Hillary is president she will be like the or at least closely like the female version of George W. Bush. And CNN has to be stupid to think they can shelter Clinton and attack Obama. If Obama said the same. CNN would be attacking him.

    August 22, 2007 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  19. Tom Dunn, Central Square, NY

    When General Patraeus delivers – via the White House – his report on the success of the surge in Iraq, and it predictably indicates some level of success, Democrats who have denied the possibility of any military improvement will be forced to argue against it and make themselves look like defeatists-by-design. Hillary Clinton's remarks to the VFW acknowledging some military progress without supporting the entire strategy will pre-empt criticism from the GOP that she is simply a defeatist Democrat who wants America to lose. This is the difference between practical politics and constantly appeasing the liberal base with every word. Get it?

    August 22, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  20. a soldier whose been there Texas

    The other day, my nine year old son wanted to know why we were at war...My husband looked at our son and then looked at me. My husband and I were in the Army during the Gulf War and we would be honored to serve and defend our Country again today. I knew that my husband would give him a good explanation. My husband thought for a few minutes and then told my son to go stand in our front living room window.

    He said "Son, stand there and tell me what you see?"

    "I see trees and cars and our neighbor's houses." he replied.

    "OK, now I want you to pretend that our house and our yard is the United States of America and you are President Bush."

    Our son giggled and said "OK."

    "Now son, I want you to look out the window and pretend that every house and yard on this block is a different country" my husband said.

    "OK Dad, I'm pretending."

    "Now I want you to stand there and look out the window and pretend you see Saddam come out of his house with his wife, he has her by the hair and is hitting her. You see her bleeding and crying. He hits her in the face, he throws her on the ground, then he starts to kick her to death. Their children run out and are afraid to stop him, they are screaming and crying, they are watching this but do nothing because they are kids and they are afraid of their father. You see all of this, son....what do you do?"

    "What do you do son?"
    "I'd call the police, Dad."

    "OK. Pretend that the police are the United Nations. They take your call. They listen to what you know and saw but they refuse to help. What do you do then son?"

    "Dad.......... but the police are supposed to help!" My son starts to whine.

    "They don't want to son, because they say that it is not their place or your place to get involved and that you should stay out of it," my husband says.

    "But Dad...he killed her!!" my son exclaims.

    "I know he did...but the police tell you to stay out of it. Now I want you to look out that window and pretend you see our neighbor who you're pretending is Saddam turn around and do the same thing to his children."
    "Daddy...he kills them?"
    "Yes son, he does. What do you do?"
    "Well, if the police don't want to help, I will go and ask my next door neighbor to help me stop him." our son says.

    "Son, our next door neighbor sees what is happening and refuses to get involved as well. He refuses to open the door and help you stop him," my husband says.

    "But Dad, I NEED help!!! I can't stop him by myself!!"

    "WHAT DO YOU DO SON?" Our son starts to cry.

    "OK, no one wants to help you, the man across the street saw you ask for help and saw that no one would help you stop him. He stands taller and puffs out his chest. Guess what he does next son?"

    "What Daddy?"

    "He walks across the street to the old ladies house and breaks down her door and drags her out, steals all her stuff and sets her house on fire and then...he kills her. He turns around and sees you standing in the window and laughs at you. WHAT DO YOU DO?"


    "WHAT DO YOU DO?" Our son is crying and he looks down and he whispers,
    "I'd close the blinds, Daddy."
    My husband looks at our son with tears in his eyes and asks him. "Why?"
    "Because Daddy .... the police are supposed to help people who needs them ... and they won't help .... You always say that neighbors are supposed to HELP neighbors, but they won't help either...they won't help me stop him...I'm afraid....I can't do it by myself Daddy ..... I can't look out my window and just watch him do all these terrible things nothing ... so .... I'm just going to close the blinds .... so I can't see what he's doing ........ and I'm going to pretend that it is not happening."
    I start to cry. My husband looks at our nine year old son standing in the window, looking pitiful and ashamed at his answers to my husband's questions and he says...


    "Yes, Daddy."

    "Open the blinds because that man.... he's at your front door... "WHAT DO YOU DO?"
    My son looks at his father, anger and defiance in his eyes. He balls up his tiny fists and looks his father square in the eyes, without hesitation he says: "I DEFEND MY FAMILY DAD!! I'M NOT GONNA LET HIM HURT MOMMY OR MY SISTER, DAD!!! I'M GONNA FIGHT HIM, DAD, I'M GONNA FIGHT HIM!!!!!"
    I see a tear roll down my husband's cheek and he grabs our son to his chest and hugs him tight, and says... "It's too late to fight him, he's too strong and he's already at YOUR front door should have stopped him BEFORE he killed his wife, and his children and the old lady across the way.
    You have to do what's right, even if you have to do it alone, before its too late." my husband whispers. THAT scenario I just gave you is WHY we are at war with Iraq . When good men stand by and let evil happen son, THAT is the greatest atrocities in the world won't affect him. "YOU MUST NEVER BE AFRAID TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT! EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO DO IT ALONE!" BE PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN! BE PROUD OF OUR TROOPS!! SUPPORT THEM!!! SUPPORT AMERICA SO THAT IN THE FUTURE OUR CHILDREN WILL NEVER HAVE TO CLOSE THEIR BLINDS..."

    Steven R Chandler, CMSgt
    332 ELRS/Vehicle Management
    Flight Balad Air Base , Iraq

    August 22, 2007 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  21. Simi, Valley, California

    Thank you for your service. No thank you for brainwashing a child. Nice parenting skills there.

    August 22, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. William, Chicago Il

    Steven: Well said, well put.

    When I say this, I am not slamming you or our men at arms. Far from it. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women in our armed forces. However, while that may have been our original purpose for coming in, I think that the story needs a bit of an addition.

    "The children crying in the street were releived when the brave neighbors finally came to their aid. They were finally safe from their violent father.

    However, the eldest son and favorite child of the father soon turned on his siblings. He wanted the whole estate and didn't think he should have to share with his siblings. Even though the neighbors said they should all share, the eldest would never concede to it. Even though all of the children had an equal claim to the house, the eldest wanted it all to himself. They tried to make all of the siblings live under the same house, but the eldest would frequently play nasty tricks on his siblings while they tried to set the affairs of the household. He had some of his hooligan friends come and try to scare his siblings. He would even play nasty tricks on the neighbors who had took away his father. However, the younger siblings had the majority and tried to fight their older brother for control. Thus the torn family continued to fight, dragging the neighborhood into their squabble.

    Some of the neighbors got hurt. While they were watching the drama unfolding at the neighbors, they forgot about their own kids. Their kids stopped going to school and were getting sick. Their houses were starting to need repairs. They needed to do all of this, but couldn't because they were still trying to help the squabbling siblings."

    I think our hearts were in the right place at the begining of the war, but now we've come to a point where something needs to change on their end before anything can be done. Also, due to the massive budget the war requres we have neglected our national problems such as a lack-luster school system and a need for a revamped healthcare system. I'm not against the war, but it sure has become a thorn in our sides. We should really be concentrating on our own country's problams and trying to fix them rather than worrying about our neighbors at this point.

    August 22, 2007 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  23. Jeff, Schaumburg, IL

    Maybe all the excess media attention, in trying to steer our election, will backfire if she keeps talking. I haven't met a Clinton supporter yet, and I work with at least 40 people who are pulling for Obama.

    Also, regarding Sgt. Chandler's story, simply repeating illogical lines of thought does not make something true, and I am saddened that the propganda apparatus in the military is apparently even more pervasive than the US media.

    August 22, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  24. John Swanson Chicago

    If you were so gung-ho about protecting human rights and your neighbors safety, then why go after Iraq? Why not go out and stop the GENOCIDE IN DARFUR? That seems a little more dire. Iraq is just convienent and it's too bad our government has even brainwashed the poor people that belive they are fighting for something. DARFUR is a much more significant tragedy, not to mention I think Sudan also possesses Uranium. Let weigh the options. People genuinely suffering and unable to free themselves from oppressive control and extermination, or Sadam doing a little cleansing in a region of people causeing trouble, in a part of the world where the afterlife is more cherished than actual life. You cannot help people that do not seek help, but ignoring people looking for help, like your story described, and completely ignoring them is cowardice defined. CHeck yourself, the story you wrote although heartwarming and totally genuine and not sounding generic at all, is actually a perfect description of the Darfur Region of Sudan, not Iraq. Again, please, do not vote in the next election, as it is obvious you are not fit to express any opinions. Your military service, although appreciated, does not qualify you to analyze international terror. Take a seat.

    August 22, 2007 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    "Thank you for your service. No thank you for brainwashing a child. Nice parenting skills there."

    Hmm last time I checked people were free to raise their children as they chose. Calling it brainwashing because they are trying to instill their values in him? Yeah, youre really fit to comment on that.

    And as for brainwashing, what hes telling his child is no worse than the brainwashing that is going on in America's colleges these days. For the record im not repeating talking points on that one, Im currently a Senior, and Ive experienced four years of a liberal arts school, and trust me, professors love nothing more than spouting their 60's mentality rhetoric.

    August 22, 2007 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
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