December 22nd, 2007
11:10 AM ET
14 years ago

Richardson: Clinton has 'flip-flopped' on Iraq

Richardson: Clinton is trying to "duck and weave."

AMES, Iowa (CNN) ­– Bill Richardson is now the latest Democratic presidential candidate to accuse Hillary Clinton of drastically changing her position on Iraq this week. “She’s flip-flopped so many times, I don’t know what her position is. It changes almost every day,” Richardson told CNN Friday.

Richardson, who is running a distant fifth among Democrats in Iowa in most polls - with the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses less than two weeks away - has stepped up his attacks on the rest of the presidential field in recent days.

Clinton has long maintained that even after most U.S. troops have been pulled out of Iraq, some troops would have to remain there - and that they could be there for several years.

But at a town hall event in Elkader, Iowa on Wednesday, Clinton told a crowd she had consulted with military advisors on Iraq and that “I think we can bring nearly everybody home, certainly within a year if we keep at it and do it very steadily.”

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has characterized those comments as a policy shift. On Friday, Richardson agreed, saying that Clinton was trying to "outflank" him. "I’ve got an ad that says ‘are you going to get all the troops out by 2013?’” And so she’s trying to duck and weave.”

“I do know she wants to keep troops beyond one year,” said Richardson, “and I want her to explain her position.”

The Clinton camp disagrees with that assessment, and has responded to the criticism by saying the New York senator has always maintained a need for “small residual force” to remain in Iraq after most U.S. troops have left, and called for a slow but steady pace of withdrawal.

- CNN's Alexander Marquardt and Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Bill Richardson • Hillary Clinton • Iowa
soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Liberal Chic

    I am very disappointed in Richardson. He's a good man and a good candidate. But he will not win the nomination, no how, no way. So why is he trying to screw up the Clinton campaign.

    December 22, 2007 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  2. Moe, NY

    Sorry Mr. Richardson...really do not know who you are, or what you are about. Hillary will be the next President of the United States of America and I hope John Edwards is there with her, he definitely has an appeal to the people in this country that are hurting due to the present administration's lack of concern for American citizens. The current administration panders to their cronies, Corporate America, and anyone/anybody else who is fortunate enough to have everything handed to them...certainly does not include the working class. If all you people sitting in an office thinking you are not working class Americans....think again...manufacturing jobs have left this country...sorry that leaves YOU as working class for thought! Bring on the minimum wage increase is a long time coming, and much needed by most, especially middle class citizens (or what is left of us?).

    December 22, 2007 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  3. Stephen Cassidy, San Leandro, CA

    Richardson has taken it on the chin for advocating for a complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq within one year. He has been accused of pandering to the voters by the editors and other candidates and their supporters, even though his reasoning on why we must withdraw can't be refuted.

    At the Presidential debates Clinton, Obama and Edwards refused to pledge to bring our troops home by 2013. That's the safe message, the one that fits conventional wisdom. But the voter in Iowa is smarter. The voter wants a commitment from the candidates. Clinton's response was designed to create the impression "nearly" everyone was coming home in a year, and protect her from losing support of anti-war voters.

    When Clinton appears on the national talk shows and at the Presidential debates it's all about leaving Iraq "safely" and "responsibly" implying that Richardson's call for a complete withdrawal within a year is irresponsible and continuing the U.S. military presence in Iraq to fight terrorism, train the Iraqi army and provide security for the government.

    Yet, when face to face with the Iowa voter, Clinton flips. It's nearly everyone out in 12 months. She deserves to be criticized for her inconsistency.

    And she deserves to be criticized for her deception on Iraq. Anyone that thinks Clinton will remove most, if not "nearly" all, U.S. troops within a year of taking office isn't paying attention. Clinton relies upon the architects of the Iraq morass and those that have deemed the surge successful to advise her of the course of action to take in Iraq. We can expect her advisers plan for Iraq will be a hawkish plan.

    Are we ever going to leave Iraq under Clinton? I highly doubt it. Go back to the question of why did we invade? Did we really care about Saddam's supposed WMD or was it the fact Iraq has some of the world's largest proven oil reserves? We are building an embassy the size of Vatican City in Iraq and our military bases are designed for a permanent occupation.

    December 22, 2007 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  4. RT, CA

    Why Clinton will prevail
    John Sasso
    By John Sasso
    December 22, 2007
    SOME RAINDROPS have started to fall on Senator Hillary Clinton's parade to the Democratic presidential nomination. In the early primary races of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, rival Barack Obama has pulled even or ahead and the longstanding Clinton badge of elective inevitability has come under question.

    more stories like thisDespite the Barack Obama zeal, I believe Clinton will prevail. And if she is the nominee, I believe she is the most electable and least vulnerable Democratic candidate to face the Republicans.

    I was more uncertain a year ago when she announced her candidacy. Then she had recognizable strengths but at the same time possessed familiar handicaps both political and personal. She was routinely portrayed as contrived, a woman whose high intelligence had an impersonal edge and whose real identity was difficult to locate.

    That was then. Today Clinton has forged herself into a formidable political leader. She has undergone a remarkable journey. In the face of unending autopsies on her personal and political past, unrelieved targeting at both Democratic and Republican debates, the punishing demands imposed on a woman candidate, she is still standing unflinchingly in place.

    This is the mark of thoroughbred candidates. They take the fire. They survive the wounds. And while voters relish the spectacle of office-seekers squirming under adversity, something else happens at the same moment. If candidates demonstrate they can bear that kind of public barrage with conviction and ready composure - and Clinton has done that - they cross a crucial threshold in the public mind. They are viewed as able to compete and win a national election and able thereafter to govern in perilous times.

    Why the most electable Democrat? Because after a year of being tightly measured, Clinton has won a public acceptance that she has the intellect and inner confidence to do the job. She has reached beyond her political inheritance and shaped a political presence all her own. Hillary belittlers still abound, to be sure. She is still caricatured as calculating. But the senator has taken on some different markings. Gone is the defensive bite, on hand is a new openness to concede mistakes, often with glints of humor.

    If she does capture the nomination, she will see her standing soar overnight. Nomination is a transforming passage. What was viewed by some as calculation becomes smartness, impersonalness becomes thoughtful deliberation.

    Once nominated her campaign will undergo another transformation. Her candidacy will take on an historic aura as it confronts an historic question - can a woman, this woman, be elected president? Americans will be caught up in crossing one of the country's great divides. Voters of both parties, not just proud women, will be favorably disposed to make that crossing. Americans like the good feeling of removing barriers.

    This gender phenomenon showed up in the Geraldine Ferraro campaign, which I managed. At every stop, huge crowds turned out, eager to be part of history in the making. By campaign's end, two things seemed clearer to me: there is inherent goodwill for a woman seeking power but a far sterner demand she be up to the challenge. That higher bar asked too much of Ferraro. Clinton has already cleared the bar.

    Why the least vulnerable Democrat? The day the Democratic nominee becomes obvious the Republican attack machine will spring to action. Always, the opponent is a target to be eviscerated. If Obama is the Democratic nominee, a man less intimately understood and less defined, Republicans will rush to manufacture their own brutal definition. Can Obama withstand that kind of barrage? Does he have the personal makeup to be as relentless as his opponents? Do past political positions leave him vulnerable? Because the risks are sky-high, these questions need to be reasonably raised and answered beforehand.

    Clinton is well past negative redefinition. Unlike John Kerry's 2004 campaign in which veterans opposed to Kerry's candidacy challenged his war record, it will be difficult to ram a Swift Boat into her candidacy. If there is a convict in her political past, as with Willie Horton during the Dukakis 1988 campaign, he will already have been exhumed. Besides, the Clintons are veteran enough to mount a withering counterfire of their own.

    The most vulnerable Democrat, Clinton is not. The most electable, she is. America's political landscape, this time around, looks fertile for the right Democratic candidate. But one day, surely, the country will elect a woman president. I sense that moment – and that woman – has arrived.

    December 22, 2007 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  5. Mark R. Fort Lauderdale FL

    Mr. Richardson, what do you plan to do after these primaries? Shouldn't we avoid burning bridges at this point?

    December 22, 2007 02:01 am at 2:01 am |

    Gov. Richardson reminds us, weakly, that he is still in the race! Didn't he team up with Gravel?

    December 22, 2007 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  7. Mrs. America

    I don't know if people realize how many countries the U.S. has military in, doing training and such, not to mention working at embassies, etc. To say that every single troop will come out of Iraq is unrealistic. Sen. Clinton is right, and she should stick with bringing "nearly everybody" home because that's the most that's ever going to happen. With his tremendous qualifications, Richardson should know that.

    December 22, 2007 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  8. Heather, Nashville, TN

    flip flop, fuzzy numbers, swift boating, can you please come up with some new slurs to throw at people because these are getting pretty old. Perhaps you should concentrate on nothing but the facts and see how that works for you. That's what Senator Clinton does, is she the only one who stand on her own two feet?

    December 22, 2007 04:49 am at 4:49 am |
  9. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    There are many annoying parts of this presidential campaign but on the top of the list is the media's kissing up to the "stars" while very capable candidates languish on the outer edges of the debate – moderators seldom giving them time of day.

    If you look at Richardson's depth of experience, his steady style, he would make a fine president.

    However, voters who are used to American Idol and Brittney, added to those whose only issue is electing someone who "has a personal relationship with Jesus" are willing to overlook true qualifications for a flash in the pan ...

    The media has much to answer for: being complaisant as we rushed to war and now beating the drums for so-called front-runners rather than being truly fair and balanced.

    December 22, 2007 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  10. Jim Monroe NH

    Wake up Bill, your taking the easy road, we support you, back away from the good ole boys clinton bashing /attacks, we the voters are not listening any longer!Senator Clinton for President, because we know that she has the experience and the judgment that comes from having been in the arena for her entire adult life–and from close personal participation with her in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. And we have trust in her to end the war in Iraq in the most responsible way, consistent with our national security interests.

    December 22, 2007 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  11. FO, watertown, ny

    Richard flip-flopps on his earlier position calling all dem candidates not to mud-slinging.

    There goes his chance to be Hillary's VP running mate, as he appears to have been aiming at.

    December 22, 2007 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  12. Greg Caucutt, Rochester, MN

    I like Bill Richardson and would like to see him do well. Unfortunately, he is a distant 4th in Iowa (not distant 5th as this item alleges.)

    December 22, 2007 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  13. Daniel 6, harlem NYC

    Actually he is a distant 5th. Joe Biden has moved into the 4th spot. Richardson is attacking because he is slipping in the polls. He is weak, I have said it over and over again. We need strentgh, and he doesn't have it.

    December 22, 2007 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  14. Bill, Medford, OR

    Why, when a politician changes his/her position, is it inevitably called "flip-flopping"? Situations change over time. Good politicians will consult with many experts in the field, reassess and realign his/her views. . . by far better than stubbornly and blindly hanging onto a prior position. And that is exactly what we need instead of the "My way or the highway" mindset of the current administration. Hillary is continually criticized by Obama and Edwards (and now Richardson) for her flexibility. And, by the way, whatever happened to the "clean" campaign Obama pledged to run? Seems as if everytime he opens his mouth, he grasps any topic he can to slam Hillary. Most of his criticisms of her are distortions, lies, and half-truths. I know he said he doesn't believe in polls, but we've all noticed, as his numbers drop and Hillary's rise, he is becoming more and more desperate. Just state your case, Man, and stop wasting so much time belittling your competitors. Get your own message out while you can.

    December 22, 2007 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  15. Jose Card

    Thanks! CNN! Finally, Governor Richardson got some coverage on CNN.

    The man has the most foreign experience among all Dems, but he doesn't like to brag about it. He also has the executive experience that Hillary lacks. He is not an insider in D.C. He will bring real CHANGE to the White House, while Hillary is a D.C. insider who is good at irritating many people and is unable to lead anybody, not even Bill. Bill just wants to get two more terms at any costs.

    December 22, 2007 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  16. Robyn, San Diego

    It's naive to think that the messy war Bush created when he provided falsified information to Congress can be ended with a single signature, and all troops extracted immediately. Any expert will tell you that a residual force must provide a transition to complete withdrawal. Candidates who are promising otherwise are lying. I give Clinton credit on this issue for acknowledging the reality of the complex situation in Iraq, and not promoting false hope. Among the Dems, she's been most honest about Iraq.

    December 22, 2007 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  17. Brad, from the great state of Texas

    Richardson is right, for once; however his chances of winning the nomination are so slim, I'd say he's done for. Might as well throw in the towel like Tancredo.

    December 22, 2007 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  18. SE, San Francisco, CA

    There you go again Hillary.

    In the last week, she's become: 1) the candidate of "change" (trying to outflank Obama, 2) the antiwar candidate (trying to lie and outflank everyone, and 3) a kinder gentler Hillary (trying to outflank every rational American).

    Will Iowans see through the noise?

    December 22, 2007 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  19. carol,tx

    It looks like campaigning has been tough on him. He want vice presidency though..

    December 22, 2007 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  20. Independent in CA - back to reading the manual

    Oh no Richardson, I was leaning your way but now you've started doing what you admonished everyone else not to do. Guess the old adage is true, if you can't beat them – join 'em. Welcome to the wonderful world of politics NOT 🙁

    December 22, 2007 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  21. Nando,Florida

    Well I Guess Bill has gotten the word from the insiders, That Hillary would be going with a more insider freindly VP. running mate, to bad BIll you have been PUNKED by the Clinton Machine.
    But there is always a position in Immigration!!!!

    OBAMA 08,12

    December 22, 2007 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. Jen Cedar Falls IA

    Richardson is at least not a nation divider as Clinton is. Hillary is the most loathed candidate on either side of the aisle. Be careful who you vote for, majority of Independents and unhappy Repubs would NEVER vote for her, as they might another Dem candidate. Not only does Hillarious have tons of baggage (her impeached husbanf for 1), but if you know anything at all about Politics in this country right now, she is a VERY hateful and divisive woman. She would NOT be able to unite this country, Imagine us becoming even MORE divided than we are now! I don't care WHO else you vote for, get another family in the White House as the Clinton's (& GWB) have divided this country enough! We deserve better, now is the time! Richardson isn't so hateful, nor are many other candidates. Don't fall for Hillary's 'softer side', it's an act, that's why they had to put this out there, no one's ever seen it before because it's not REAL! She is a PHONY!

    December 22, 2007 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  23. Nando,Florida

    I am very disappointed in Richardson. He's a good man and a good candidate. But he will not win the nomination, no how, no way. So why is he trying to screw up the Clinton campaign.

    Posted By Liberal Chic : December 22, 2007 1:29 am

    To LIberal Guy,

    No her and Bill are doing just fine buy themselves. Clintons are just OLD NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 22, 2007 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. Karen, Tennessee

    Some people need to find out what Bill Richardson is all about before you start comparing Senator Clinton's experience with his experience. The man has already been a Senator, UN Ambassador, Cabinet member (for the Clinton administration, by the way) and govenor of a border state. The military has successfully done the job in Iraq they were sent to do. Determine if there were weapons of mass destruction (there were none) and removed Saddam Hussein from power (he's gone). Every day we are there makes us weaker and more despised by many in the world. Let's give the Iraqi people and their government and the diplomats an opportunity to rebuild their nation.

    December 22, 2007 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  25. Independent in IA

    Richardson doesn't have a clue what's going on. All he is is a big mouth that doesn't know when to shut up and go eat his enchiladas and refried beans.

    December 22, 2007 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
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