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. Alex van den Bergh

    Obama: "...unlike Senator Clinton I have never made an exception for torture and I never will."

    True? Yes, it is. Until recently the new Hampshire debate, Hillary (like her husband) condoned the use of torture in "ticking bomb" scenarios. Google it; it's indisputable. She flip-flopped round about the New Hampshire debate..

    Obama, on the other hand, has been consistent in his condemnation of torture in any circumstance.

    Make of that what you will, but those are the facts.

    March 9, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  2. Hans-Erik Iken

    “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.

    This implies she WOULD condone the use of torture unlike senator Obama who would outlaw it.

    Seems to me the Obama campaign made the correct observation and it only seems to confirm that senator Clinton is willing to sacrifice principle when it suits her.

    March 9, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  3. johnkennedy anyanwu

    I think tortune is quite an inhumane thing to do , i like sen. barack obama stand on it and this shows his extent of leadership and the ideas he has, i keep saying that hillary and macane are birds of the same feather , same tradition in washington .

    March 9, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  4. Wendy

    Once again this is an example of Obama distorting the truth and not taking any action of his own. Where are the letters that he has written? Why hasn't he held any meetings to address the problems in Afghanistan? Actions speak louder than words!! We need to see some action from Obama other than words so that we will have an idea of what kind of President we will get if we elect him President.

    March 9, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  5. Ron

    So the truth is before she decided to run: There might be times when it is OK. Now that she is running: It is not OK...This is typical Hillary. Most of her decisions are based on trying to get some kind of political advantage. WHY..can't more people see this???? To elect her President is saying the way politics in America has been the last 12 years has been OK....It has been a CANCER people and we need to get rid of it ASAP.

    March 9, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  6. gerald paddock

    hi to whom this may concern again i see no barack obama on your main page where john macain and hillary have a spot but not borack kind of racial isnt it .other hand maybe you just like them and dont give a -- about the process . here is an idea figure all the delegates the way it has gone so far and guess who wins barack abama so i guess this news just likes to mess with the people and not tell it like it should be told .thanks jerry

    March 9, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  7. JSH

    "it is never acceptable"

    The ticking time bomb scenerio. Millions of people's lives at stake. Waterboard one man. Anyone who would let a million people die rather than waterboard the person who could prevent that is guilty of criminal homicide and unfit to be President. Anyone who speaks in absolutes like never is naive. I hate Hillary and her corrupt scummy husband, but she has far more of a clue than this kid running for president.

    Learn more about Obama and his message o'BS.

    Obama and Me
    Dallas Observer ^ | 3/9/8 | Todd SpivaK

    March 9, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  8. Tyler! Clinton 2008

    Makes sense. When Hillary attacks Obama CNN does a TV special and there are millions of comments against her. Barack does that and one comment and no news about it.


    Hopefully this comment will show up, and CNN won't delete it. xD

    March 9, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  9. Jay

    Poor Obama, Nothing? This is all you can try and pull? Sad.

    March 9, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  10. NC

    Here comes the Hillary supporters again complaing about Obama being honest about Hillary. Now you guys are saying it's okay for her to "change her mind"......

    Torture has no place in a free world.

    March 9, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  11. Kim, Los Angeles, CA

    For the good of the party and our country, Hillary should be President and Obama should be Vice President. Hillary is more experienced and knowledgeable about the issues, especially foreign affairs, the economy, and health care. With his recent lies on Nafta/Canada and
    his advisers telling the British Press that he is "only taking a hard line on withdrawl through the election", it is quite obvious Obama lacks the leadership and judgment skills to be Commander in Chief.
    Plus, McCain will demolish him on those issues in the Fall. Obama is not even in command of the troops on his campaign. It really is the best of both worlds, Hillary is President for 8 years; and then Obama, who will be ready by then, will be president for 8 years. We will have
    16 years of Democrat leadership in the White House.

    March 9, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  12. Grif

    So after all that, I wasted my time, and yours.... Still you just watch the Contracts Disappear if Obama is Elected.. Ive seen it happen at least four times, in my lifetime............

    None so Blind, as thos that don't want to see.......................

    March 9, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  13. Joy

    Another example of Clinton claiming the view of what's to her advantage at the moment. As far as her letter to Bush–have to agree she's conniving enough to know that Bush will veto, and she gets Brownies for sending a letter–a "letter" just words. I'm disgusted with her whole campaign.

    March 9, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  14. Tony in NM

    The Clintons want Barack Obama for vice president -or so we're told- even though Hillary says Barack is not ready yet to be commander in chief -even though being vice president is a heartbeat away from being commander in chief -even though he's not ready.

    um. I get it. Hillary's rhetoric is self-serving, fear mongering garbage.

    March 9, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  15. Mrs. America

    I think Obama once again shows he's too naive to be president by completely ruling torture out.

    Personally, I abhor torture, but If the threat is pointing right at me (or my daughter and grandchildren, etc.), and torture can prevent it, then I'm for torture.

    Obama might change his mind if his wife and daughters were targets. He needs to think deeper.

    I'm not anti-Obama. I think he's great for 2016.

    March 9, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  16. An Agnostic Democrat

    Big surprise! Hillary holding her finger in the wind to take the temperature of the moment, THEN makes a decision. Kinda like NAFTA, the war and anything else you can name. If this woman could take a firm stand on anything, it would be the first political miracle of her "35 years of (pseudo) experience." I wonder how many consultants she had to help her decide to have tea and cookies overseas and claim it as foreign policy and national security experience? Hmm ...

    March 9, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  17. changing times

    Here we go again with Hillary. Isn't she claiming her 35 years of experience as part of her husbands campaign. Isn't she taking credit for his decisions that were good for the country. She cherry picks what makes her look good from the clinton administration and rejects all the bad stuff. What a hypocrite.

    If she takes credit for the good then take credit also for the bad. You can't have it both ways Hill!!!!

    Bill authorized torture and so did she. period!!

    March 9, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  18. Anne

    Senator say you were against the war – yet you have voted identical to Sentor Clinton to fund the could have voted no according to your so called conviction. So which is it???

    And is this the best you have? Please. I am not sure she did a flip flop just like I am sure you had your staff go to Canada. I am not sure she has done alot of what you have accused her of, but I am sure you are in support of nuclear weapons.

    I am not sure what your supporters see other than just your words, which of course they do not have a brain to question. I am sure I will vote for Clinton.

    March 9, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  19. Shannon

    Another issue that wll be brought in the general if Hilary is nominated. Even McCain has consistently opposed torture. He never once supported torture and it didn't matter if there was any information to be gained from it. I'll never vote for McCain, but I will stay home.

    March 9, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  20. Vote Obama

    Hillary Stands for same old,same old!!!

    Vote for A NEW VISION! Vote Obama!!!!!!

    March 9, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  21. Larry

    Obama has been on the right side of all the issues and Hillary has been on the side of what ever the polls say. Let's have a genuine leader in the White house and not some one who will say whatever they beleive the olls suggest they should say.

    I have been a democrat all my life but I will never vote for Hillary because I truly beleive she will do and say anything to get elected. Too many lies from Hillary. Enough is enough.

    March 9, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  22. Mad in Texas

    Don't be foolish people. Obama is a great deceiver. He claims to not have supported the Irag War. He may have in his mind. But, he certainly did not voice any complaints or vote against it. He could not even vote since he was not a U.S. Senator at the time. I am tired of Igornance. If the CIA hands are tied on doing a little pressure on prisoners then we are helpless in gaining information of terriost activity. If they know that we will do nothing then they have no incintive to talk. If you think thay're going to play paddy-cake with our people then you are fools. I spent 28 years in the U.S. Army and two Wars in finding out what our enemies will do. I will never vote for someone who is out to destroy our country. VOTE HILLARY 08

    March 9, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  23. PCS / North Carolina

    Andy wrote March 9th, 2008 4:53 pm ET

    "While Obama is criticizing his opponent, Hillary takes action to oppose President Bush's veto."
    Fact: If Hillary voted against torture in the first place, then she doesn't need to take action to oppose the veto anyway!

    "Yeah sure, he consistently opposed torture as he opposed the Iraq war for which he actually has continuously supported funding"
    Fact: He opposed the war because it is the wrong decision. When our troops are in harms way in the front, WE HAVE TO SUPPORT THEM BY FUNDING ADEQUATELY. I do not see anything wrong here, Hillary is simply flip-flopping on every issue. Judgment is more important than artificial experience.

    March 9, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  24. Another Iowa Voter

    Hillary is such a liar. She has constatnly through her campaign complained about her opponent while doing the same thing she just complained about.

    NAFTA-GATE is one expample, this is another.

    March 9, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  25. joe



    March 9, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
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