March 9th, 2008
03:04 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama, Clinton campaign spar over torture

(CNN) - Hillary Clinton’s campaign responded Sunday to charges from rival Barack Obama that the New York senator “flip-flopped” on the issue of torture during her presidential campaign, saying she held strong positions against its use by government officials.

When President Bush vetoed a bill Saturday that would have prohibited the CIA from using harsh interrogation techniques, Obama used the occasion to criticize his Democratic presidential opponent.

"We need a Commander in Chief who has never wavered on whether or not it is acceptable for America to torture, because it is never acceptable,” said Obama. “While I have consistently opposed torture, in the course of this primary campaign Hillary Clinton has flip-flopped from her past position of tolerating torture. …

“When I am president, the American people and the world will be able to trust that I will outlaw torture, because unlike Senator Clinton I have never made an exception for torture and I never will."

Obama was making a reference to Clinton’s decision late last year to rule out any use of these techniques in interrogations, after a meting with a group of retired generals who opposed their use. Earlier, Clinton had said they might be an option if authorities suspected their use might help prevent an imminent attack – a position that was also held by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

The Clinton campaign responded with a statement that said her “strong position opposing torture” had led to her endorsement by Gen. Antonio Taguba, who wrote the official report on the military’s Abu Ghraib scandal.

The release also included an excerpt of a recent letter Senator Clinton sent to President Bush in which she said strong opposition to torture was essential.

“I believe, as do the military leaders I have consulted, that any sign of wavering on this issue by the Commander-in-Chief ‘will drop down the chain of command like a stone, and the rare exception will fast become the rule,’” she wrote.

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. Lee

    Can we say Obama has gone negative YET????? This sounds very NEGATIVE to me – Im just sayin'.... he was not just responding to something he thought was aimed at him – yep I believe


    March 9, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  2. Brandon from WI

    Politcal Expediancy.
    According to Clinton it's not just for breakfast anymore. When she needed to be tough, Hillary was ambivilant on "enhanced interrorgation techniques" aka torture. Now she needs to be liberal she's always been strongly against it.
    We need to have a women be in the White House. However, the wrong women may actually hurt the future for other women. If Hillary gets into office and behaves like a tyrant, in the future when other women run (and they will) people will point to them and say you don't want another Hillary.

    March 9, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  3. Eliah

    I say both candidates pledge to outlaw torture with no exceptions.

    March 9, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  4. julie

    Obama has never consistently done anything! Cnn and Obama are starting to get really old. Enough already! And the CHANGE is to FOX! where we can get more than one side of any story.

    March 9, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Obama once again shows his opportunistic and hollow speech. And his supporters still don't see it. Well like my granmother used to say: " There is no worst blind than the one that does not want to see"

    March 9, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  6. Clinton/Obama2008

    Thes attacks are entirely unnecessary!!

    Let's focus on how the American people will be able to prosper and be safe again!

    How often will this ever become an issue that touches the average person?

    Seriously, it seems that all Mr. Obama wants to do is pick a fight.

    At some point he is going to have work with Hillary and he needs her supporters if he wins the nominations.

    This is childish and unbecoming of a Democrat. I becomeing les and less impressed with Barack everyday. the more he goes on the negative attack the more Hillary will come back ten fold in defense. To what end is this helpful.

    This is destroy the Democrats chance of regaining the White HOue and to extending the majority in Congress. I mean come on already. GROW UP PEOPLE!

    March 9, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. Rich Levins

    Has any one noticed that the Democratic Party looks like a Train Wreck waiting to happen?

    While both the Clinton and Obama camps have become so entrenched in the battle to win the Democratic nomination, few seem to be able to see the forest from the trees. The bigger picture is that after a heated battle for the Democratic nomination that seems likely to end up in an all out fight at the Democratic Convention, many supporters of the losing Democratic candidate may Not vote for the winning Democratic nominee, with many already indicating that if their candidate loses they will feel abandoned by their party.

    In the end, more than anything else, it may come down to the willingness and ability of the losing Democratic candidate to restore party unity that will decide the 2008 Presidential election.

    March 9, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  8. no-no

    The democrats really want to lose this thing come November. Obama likes to point at only Clinton being nasty toward him but it really is going both ways. I think I am going to vote Republican come november anyway bc I am sick of seeing the two of them bicker. I cant believe the democrats are even thinking of nominating Obama as candidate. He is SOOOOOOOOO inexperienced and I would never want him in charge of my safety. I would probably vote for Clinton if she won bc I think she could at least restore the economy.

    March 9, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  9. k.s. allin

    Bill clinton supported rendition during his tenure. since hellery was part of clinton's reign, then was she for rendition? hellery seems to agree and say she was part of her husbands reign when it is good for her, but when it comes to nafta and rendition, she had no part-isn't that interesting?

    March 9, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  10. spirit of america

    Obama's going to outlaw torture?? It is already outlawed and has been so for decades. See Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Why not just enforce the international law and bring those who use torture to justice?

    March 9, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  11. Dee

    Obama claims the high ground on judgment, but sought out involvement with a man who was known to be under federal investigation (Tony Reszco.) How good is his judgment after all?

    March 9, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. Jack



    March 9, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  13. Obama 08

    So, she did flip flop...just admit it!!

    March 9, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  14. Herman

    Thank you, Senator Barack Obama for standing up against torture yet making another right choice in your decision to stand firm on the tough issues.

    That leads me to believe that when the phone rings at 3:00 AM or at any other time during the day that you will most certainly always make the right choice in handling any crises that America faces.

    You sir are what America needs at this point in time in this country great history to stand up and say America is BACK…

    March 9, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  15. Lois in CA

    Yo, Obama, you're not the president. Considering that you've been a senator, what, 3 years?, you weren't there to vote either way about the war. You can shoot your mouth off about your opposition, but you didn't vote one way or the other where it counted in the US Senate.

    March 9, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  16. Mary True

    I don't understand why Hillary Clinton is even mentioned in the debate re: torture. She is against it!!!!! Can we take a moment here and reflect on her capabilities and strengths as opposed to the" press speak". She is a very hard worker, she crosses the aisle with ease. He does not have the finesse or the stature that she brings to the table. Her work ethic in the senate is legend and enormous. Poll anyone she has actually worked with and you will find the truth. She is so very capable and "with it" how can the press ignore this, how can the general electorate ignore this. I am afraid to write this, however I think Obama is getting votes from the African American and college educated because he is black. We need a strong woman elected to the office of President. American people will then see great things happening. Mary True

    March 9, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  17. Cosmic Comedy Queen - Hillary is the Change!

    Saturday Night Live was as real as can be. So you are going to not stick up for yourself because you are so a such a white glove guy. Polleeeze! I do not feel safe as an American citizen with even the mere thought of your unrealistic delusional thinking.

    Hillary is the only man for the job.

    March 9, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  18. Male 4 Hill- Yes I am a HILLRAISER

    Gosh, Senator Obama is desperate to get some digs in. I feel sorry for him, he is too weak to attack. He says he will be more aggressive, but this is petty. Senator Obama, if you are gonna throw punches, throw them where they hurt.

    Hillary 2008

    March 9, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  19. Lisa in Cincy

    Hillary will say whatever is told to her or whatever will get her endorsements. Read carefully the reply by her camp.

    Does she make any decisions on her own – that she could stand on?

    March 9, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  20. Corey, Maryland

    Right now I'm starting to think both of them believe in torture because this race is going on for much to long and it pains me to have to watch the same stuff over and over. If Hillary really wants to show that she doesn't believe in torture then she will get out of the race now, and save her the humiliation and it will save me from getting a few more headaches!!

    Obama Richardson 08!!!

    March 9, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  21. Vote Obama

    That is correct Obama has not wavered on many fronts.... Obama hasn't embellished his foreign affairs experience.... Obama hasn't mismanaged his campaign.... Obama hasn't had in-fighting multi times in his campaign.... Obama hasn't used fearmongering in order to get votes!!!

    Americe need I say more!!!!! Now who do you think will have the BEST judgement if that 3am were to ever become a reality- Obama of course!!!

    Vote Obama!!!! Vote for change for for hope!!! Vote for a differently run government NOT the same old, same old!!!

    March 9, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  22. Juan

    Isnt Mcain also against waterboarding and torture?

    Yet again another area where Obama can claim advantage over the GOP nominee where it seems Mrs. Clinton can't.

    Go Obama

    March 9, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  23. shobha

    Senator Obama will soon start to grate on people's nerves if he doesn't stop this rhetoric on his so called sound judgement on Iraq. Not serving in armed forces and not actively doing his senatorial duties, he has no right weighing in on these issues much less criticize others. Where was he when the vote on Iran took place?

    March 9, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  24. DoveSong

    She is such a hypocrite. Anyone can see that she changed her position to get those endorsemnts. That is why she will NEVER be president.

    March 9, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  25. Barbara

    We are voting on what the candidates are saying they will do or try to do if they are elected President. If Obama is not going to "rely upon some plan that he crafted as a presidential candidate or U.S. senetor" than what is he telling us? We can not rely on anything he says? He also said at one point that he was a blank screen and we could put on it anything we wanted but he was going to dissapoint all of us? He reminds me of the commercial that asks"Whats in your Wallet"! Makes me wonder what his REAL plan and Agenda comes down too.

    March 9, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
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