November 20th, 2007
04:55 PM ET
15 years ago

Clinton hits Obama on foreign relations experience

Clinton and Obama exchanged words Tuesday over their qualifications in terms of foreign relations.

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – Just one day after Democratic hopeful Barack Obama said he felt his strongest foreign relations experience came from spending four years overseas as a child, rival Hillary Clinton fired back—and then John Edwards took aim at her. And for good measure, Sen. Joe Biden chipped in with his own two cents on the matter.

"Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next President will face," Clinton said. "I think we need a President with more experience than that."

On Monday, Obama told an Iowa audience, "Probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact that I spent four years living overseas when I was a child in Asia—Southeast Asia."

According to the campaign, Obama was six years old when he moved to Indonesia in 1967, and stayed until he was 10.

Obama said his time there and the fact that his father is from Kenya gives him the knowledge "of how ordinary people in these other countries live."

In her comments, Clinton also said she traveled the globe both as first lady and as a senator and that she knows many world leaders "personally."

But as of Tuesday afternoon, fellow Democratic contender John Edwards is also in the mix. His campaign took issue with Clinton's response.

Edwards’ spokesman Chris Kofinis released a "definition" of the term "mudslinging," calling it "the use of insults and accusations, esp. unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent."

"As in: Hillary Clinton said about Barack Obama, ‘Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face,’" Kofinis said.

He added, "Now we know what Senator Clinton meant when she talked about 'throwing mud' in the last debate. Like so many other things, when it comes to mud, Hillary Clinton says one thing and throws another."

Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also joined the fray Tuesday afternoon when asked what he thought of Obama's comments.

"I think he's right," Biden said smiling. "That is his strongest [foreign policy] credential."

Related: Obama cites childhood in helping shape world view

- CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Iowa • John Edwards
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. David Branch, Waco, Texas

    Of course starting illegal wars in Bosnia, Haiti and Serbia, bombing the Chinese, doing nothing to prevent the first Muslim nuclear weapons, not to mention India developing the same, failing to adequately address Islamic terrorism, failing to reverse the catastrophic decline into anarchy in much of Africa, failing to address the realignment of the old Soviet Union and of course failure to achieve a peaceful settlement in the Middle East. Yes, Hillary certainly has sound foreign policy experience!

    November 21, 2007 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  2. Chip Celina OH

    She should have just left this one alone. What is her foreign policy experience? Travelling around with Bubba and having tea makes her no more experienced than an editor for Fodor's, does it?

    Her best bet is to try and stay above the fray and not open her mouth, but she couldn't resist slinging mud while losing the context of his statement.

    I lived overseas in France and Germany between 1963 and 1968, then again in Turkey from 1989-1991. Living overseas does lend an air of understanding to other perspectives which is his point.

    As time goes on with Hillary, we'll find that what's in the bottom of the well eventually comes up in the bucket.

    Have a nice day!

    November 21, 2007 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  3. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    Obama needs to shut his yap about foreign policy. The votes that he critisizes others for were often the same ones that he couldnt be bothered to show up for the vote.
    This dude is an irresponsible buffoon. The quicker he's out of political life the better for everyone.

    November 21, 2007 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  4. Dan, Tx

    The point that Obama makes is that he lived in a third world country, and that gives him a different perspective than the other candidates. His point was not that this is his only experience.

    Clinton's only claim to be president is experience. But Biden, Richardson, and Dodd have more experience than her. Why don't they have the lead in the polls? It takes more than experience to be a strong leader. She leads because she has been in Washington a long time and has Bill Clinton. But if experience is so important, by her argument we should never have elected Bill Clinton over George Bush. George Bush was President, had many years of national service. I don't see in her a leader that can unite this country. That's why she won't get my vote.

    November 21, 2007 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  5. AT, San Francisco, CA

    Spendng 4 years in Indonesia at age 6 to 10 does not mean foreign experience to apply for a president job!

    Obama must be either naive or thinking we are stupid.

    Obama should read and learn from the state and national polls stating that Hillary beats him everytime in "most relevant experience", "best leadership quality" and "most electable" for president.

    November 21, 2007 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  6. Jack, Fort Myers, Fl

    Folks...which one can sit across from: Mushareff and other world leaders–and have the fortitude to tell them "if you do not comply we may use our armed forces"?. I personally think Obam doesn't have the guts to utilize ALL the instruments of foreign policy. Or realize..that the military IS an instrument of foreign policy. The Presidents #1 priority is as Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces, particularly right now when our forces are at war. He doesn't have the mettle. And we can not have a Commander-In-Chief who will hesitate! Of course, we also don't want to have one that leads us off falsely, lies to us, and exclaims VICORY prematurely–like he just won a soccer game. My instincts tell me: she'd never shed American blood unless there was no alternative, but she would do it in a heart beat if she felt it was in the national interest. Good, bad, or otherwise–the next President will be in that decision making chair day one. Obama is not ready for that role–not with the lives of my family, and my fellow military brothers and sisters.

    November 21, 2007 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  7. J. McKinney SW MO

    If Obama is going to claim he was gaining foreign political experience between the ages of 6 & 10, then he will also have to claim the Muslim education/religion part, won't he? Can't have it both ways, can we?

    November 21, 2007 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  8. Soldier Mom,CA

    Everytime Sen Clinton talks about foreign policy, all I could think of is her vote in Iraq war and did not further analyze the intel report. As a mother of an Army officer, this hits me hard knowing my daughter could go to another war.

    November 21, 2007 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  9. Alex, Cyberville IT

    Doesn't matter who is president as they all lack what is required. However, you can guarantee that the countries we are "terrified of" won't deal with a woman.

    November 21, 2007 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  10. BIDEN 08

    Edwards = nuts and is the one who started the negative talk. Also very happy becuase his plan is working. get the two of them at each other wait for them to take each other out and become the new front runner. They may just do this but i hope you go down with them!

    Clinton = right about obama but not about herself. That is not good enough either.

    Obama = lack of experience here but i find it funny that they are trying to focus on the issues when throwing mud in the last debate. Clinton is sticking to the issue and proving a point. Obama should learn the back and forth with Clinton just makes him look worse.

    BIDEN = funny, must experienced, right, and very honest but kind!

    November 21, 2007 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  11. dmw, roeland park, ks

    I know America has gone plum crazy!!! I can not believe some of the posts on here really are giving Obama credit as having foreign policy experience because he was in Asia from the ages of 6-10 years old! You have got to be kidding. All of you Obama lovers are not being realistic. You all really believe when a person is 6 – 10 years old that they are saying, wow, what a wonderful foreign policy experience; I can use this 36 years later when I run for President. We are indeed in an alternate Universe.

    Biden's response is priceless. Edwards is just continuing the Hillary basing because he thought that since he was Vice President that he would be a shoe in for President. Not true and he is pissed. Poor Edwards. He will be gone soon enough.

    November 21, 2007 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  12. Jake, San Diego CA

    Where are all the Hillary supporters that said Hillary is above attacking her rivals? I guess she isn't.

    Hillary sees her poll numbers dropping big time and is starting to get desperate.

    November 21, 2007 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  13. Colleen,San Fran

    Hillary did meet with forgein leaders ,no matter what you say she is smart on any policys...its more expierence than her rival barryodrugie,oh i will vote Obama because he has foreign policy expierence at 6 0r 10 years of age when he was a kid..oh so much to be president is he goofy or on something,why would you say that..he is nuts,his world is differnt than mine,gawd,his mind wonders to much i thinks all those drugs did something to him makes his mind not clear.and that could be so ,watch how he speaks hes on a subject then renders to a different situtation in his thoughts,its goes out in airry clauses,its very odd behavior,he doesnt debate,or speech all.

    November 21, 2007 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  14. AT, San Francisco, CA

    Well, Pbama's foreign relation experience learnt from age 6 to 10 was more of a muslim life.

    He lived with his muslim stepfather (after his bilogical muslim father abandoned him at age 2) in the muslim Indonesia, studying at least two yrs in a muslim school, and going to muslim church. That experience can hardly be on the job application to be the american president.

    November 22, 2007 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  15. Dahir, Kent WA

    I beleive Mr. Obama has an edge when it comes to understanding what is going on globally. I grew up in Somalia until I was 10 years old. I understood better than my fellow 5th graders of what was happening around the world. I'm glad i can relate to what Mr. Obama is refering to.

    November 22, 2007 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  16. Moe, NY

    OMG....this man is scarey...4 years overseas as a child...I believe that statement speaks for itself.

    November 22, 2007 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  17. Mac, Severn, Md

    Oh, my.

    I bet that Senator Obama would love to take back what he said!! In hindsight, I'm sure he is regreting it.

    Tired on the campaign trail and silly things come out of candidate's mouths (all of the candidates)!! And some of the things said are SO hard to live down.

    November 23, 2007 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. Christine NJ

    Sen. Barack Obama is trying to tell people that he is the smartest guy in this world, because, when He was in another country at the age of 6 to age 10, he totally understand foreign people's mind, and reflect that he has the experience to deal with foreign countries; it make people feel he is such immature thinking, never consider the results when make speech in the public. Now, His age is over 40, but still not pays attention what should say at his age. All American citizens should reconsider his ability whether his can be qualify to run for the US president.

    November 24, 2007 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  19. N. Ortega Corona, NY

    What senator Obama is saying is that his experience living abroad helps him better understand the reaction around the world to the policys ouRcountry makes. Maybe many of you are so closed minded that you think everybody thinks like you. An example of this is when our FEERLESS COMMANDER AND CHIEF said that we will be greeted by our Iraqi brothers as LIBERATORS and WITH OPEN ARMS but that was far from the truth. We were met with hostility and violence. Oh and by the way Hillary Clinton with her vast experience of wineing and dinning in different countries or as she calls it FOREIGN POLICY EXPERIENCE went ahead and voted for this war. She has been the biggest flipp-flopper out of all the candidates and if she is the democratic party's candidate the republicans will eat her up and spit her out with their smeer campaign.

    November 24, 2007 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  20. Tom Rial, Des Moines, Iowa

    None of the candidates, Democrat or Republican can match the experience, knowledge or wisdom of Joe Biden.

    Hillary, however, should be ashamed for taking a play from the GOP handbook. She has no credibility now. Furthermore, John Edwards never threw cheap shots. Clinton has no experience, and no empathy to the lives of others in the world. Although not foreign policy experience, Obama's experience will make any foreign policy decisions or votes mean much more on a human level.

    Still, we need an experienced and thoughtful President on matters of foreign policy and neither Clinton nor Obama fit the bill.

    Joe Biden should have been addressed more by Crish Welch. Wake up Democrats.

    November 26, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  21. Lucy, Atlanta, GA

    Does someone who has only visited other countries in the context of staged tours or talks with a country's elite really know the outside world better than someone who has lived as an alien outside the US AND has non-American family? An example: my boss recently visited a country I'd lived in. It was a staged tour and he met with elites who wanted to give certain impressions of their country. My boss' experience of the country was completely different from mine; I lived in a low-income neighborhood and had relationships with my neighbors. I knew what it was like to not enjoy civil liberties and, while I was a foreigner with more freedoms than others, I had friends who had to deal with human rights abuses on a daily basis. Did my boss see any of that–did this tour allow any of those real life issues to be understood? In this sense, I give Hillary's claims less credit and Barack's more.

    People who are saying "oh puh-leeze, I visited Paris, and that doesn't make me a foreign policy genius" don't get his point only because, like most Americans, haven't really lived outside the country in an integrated way (i.e. not the same thing as study-abroad!) Having grown up outside the country, I know that living somewhere before the formative age of 10 is HUGE in shaping your worldview, and everyone I know who has had to be a cultural outsider trying to fit in as a child gets this. You learn to respect people different from you and recognize that not everyone thinks like you and must be understood within their own context. To me, that's way more experience than our last few decades of presidents can hope to claim.

    November 29, 2007 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
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