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. BNS

    Both of these candidates believe in torture - torturing US!!

    March 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  2. Nate from Mpls

    Sometimes there is only one way to get information from someone. Are you going to let some guy who has extensive knowledge of a potential attack just sit in a cell while the US is trying to figure out what to do? If someone is part of a terrorist organization, they deserve whatever treatment they get. If terrorist groups can kill hundreds or thousands of people, what's just one person getting tortured? I don't care, the safety of millions of people could depend upon it.

    March 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  3. Arthur-Texas

    Obama is getting more desparate evey day.His campaign is falling apart so he is making charges that are way out in left field.
    If I were he,I would not bring up issues of national security or defense becuase he cannot he does not come close to matching Hillarys experience or knowledge.

    March 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  4. nmt

    Has a lot of experience, 35 yrs, which she can bring to the wtihe house..
    Has a speech

    Americans..Lets think about this....

    In the 2002 'speech'..Obama predicted that the war would lead America where it is now, Economically, socially, internationally.
    therefore opposed it.

    Hilary, in her experience, 2002, making it ...35-6 yrs.....which is still a lot of experience, used her experience and judgmenrt, knowledge and come to the decision to vote for the war???/

    just a speech?

    March 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  5. Aussie Greg

    How can America preach to the rest of the world on human rights when the President does not believe in them.

    Shame on America, the end does not justify the means, ever fullstop.
    The world needs you Obama, America needs you Obama.

    March 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  6. Mike

    Obama you need to focus on real issues... You lost my vote last week when you started acting like every other politician... I can not believe you question NY Senator Clinton about her vote to go to war... It is obvious that you have no military background... I guess it depends on what you consider torture...

    All I know is that its "torture" reading this story and all of these blogs!!!

    March 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  7. onenibble

    Of course Hillary is against torture. There are other ways to achieve the same results such as a long winded speech after a primary by Obama.

    March 9, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  8. allxdreamer

    M. S. Indiana: The only torture going on is Obama torturing Hillary by sending his senior advisor to other countries and calling poor Hillary a Monster! Then Obama blames Hillary for negative ads costing him votes. When the truth is the Obama campaign lost voters due to his own campaign; like when top advisor went to Canada and said Obama wasn't really against Nafta after they said he was.... and after Obama' Sr. advisor told the paper that she doubt if Obama would withdraw the troops like he had promised... and called Hillary a monster. The only negative going around is from the Obama campaign. Just like this supporter M.S. INdiana is taking about the Clintons torturing ppl. What the world is that? What levels the Obama campaign and supporters won't go to win is amazing. Obama is always talking about Hillary. Because he is scared to talk issues because everytime he does, like the Nafta and bringing the troops home, he is caught in a lie. So he is trying to brainwash the ppl into voting for him by trying to ruin Hillary's character. Talk issues Obama! Stop talking about what happened to you, or about Hillary and talk Issues. Hillary talks issues. There is a reason why Obama is not talking issues. Because the issues were discussed in Chicage before he ran for President by a few ppl. But he is not running for President of Chicago, or Africa, or wherever, he is running for President for all the ppl in the United states. So talk issues. The more Obama talks issues the more he gets caught in lies. Hillary is for all Americans. She is the answer to our economic trouble and ending the war in Iraq. Vote for Hillary!

    March 9, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  9. narcis

    Isn't Obama Pro Death penalty?Is he aware how many Innocent people are prosecuted in this process and according statistics most African American?
    What about his mission to United THe World If his party is falling apart in this process.
    And his refusal for the possibility to work together I don't read that as person how is capable to united people.

    March 9, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  10. Randle Bate

    Now we see that calling Hillary a monster was in fact a compliment.

    March 9, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  11. Nikole

    Why is it ok to change your mind about torture? You are either for it, or against it. And saying you are "for some of it" and then changing to against it when running for President is NOT acceptable.

    March 9, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  12. Judy

    Once again Hillary wants it both ways,. Can she ever take a stand and stick with it,, She mocks Obama being an inspirational leader because she can't inspire anyone. And when is Hillary going to release her tax returns and foundation documents and other archives from the White House. Is it "soon" yet? She is a secretive candidate, was a secretive First Lady and don't kid yourself supporters that she won't be a secretive president,. we have one of those now and she apparently agrees with him on torture.

    March 9, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  13. Charlotte

    I hate to tell you Obama-bots this, but the Superdelegates will most likely determine the outcome of this election. With that in mind, they must look at which candidate won what states. They have no choice but to look at the states that are most likely to vote for a democrat and the ones that most likely go to the Republicans in November. Since Obama has not won a large democratic state, they will have no choice but to consider this in their decision. There are RED and BLUE states and that's a fact. JFK lost the popular vote but won the election, because he carried the BIG BLUE states. Hope you guys are at least prepared for the possibility

    March 9, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  14. Dcruz

    Its ironic that we accuse the Clinton campaign of flip flopping but yet no one knows what the Obama campaign has been up to. He preaches transparency but yet no outline the the " change" he intends. He has not had a good voting record, he was against the war but yet he voted to fund it. Obama needs to do more work than talk. When Bill Clinton took office, the economy was at its peak in this country, then what happened? We made the wrong choice. Do we want to make that mistake again? Should we listen to one who talks a lot or the one who has more knowledge and experience in the senate seat. One last thing, the obama campaign accused Hilary Clinton of bad judgement, how about his judgement ? We dont know his judgement. I feel that he does not have the proper judgement to be Commander in chief. We the people of the United States of America must be wise and cautious with the choice that we make. Everyone should vote.

    March 9, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  15. Arthur-Texas

    Obama is getting more desparate evey day.His campaign is falling apart so he is making charges that are way out in left field.
    If I were he,I would not bring up issues of national security or defense becuase he cannot come close to matching Hillarys experience or knowledge.

    March 9, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  16. Mike

    Vote Obama???

    your comment is beyond words... everything you noted goes right back to the fact that Obama has little experience... I live in IL and it is sad that he is saying that his "present" vote is strategy... and he thinks that he has good judgement because he was not in the Senate during 911... to say he would vote against the war??? At that time I believe over 70% of the population wanted to go to war especially any Senator from New York...

    I sure would have loved to been in a room with you right after the towers fell... I am pretty sure at that moment Obama and his supporters were thinking that I knew it was going to happen sooner or later... Oh Well!!!

    March 9, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  17. narcis

    They are both pro death penalty so where are they talking about?

    March 9, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  18. allxdreamer

    I hear all the time that the democrats are making each other look bad but I think the republican party looks worse of all. There is not way John MCCain can beat Hillary. I look at John McCain and I don't know if the republican party can see it for just don't care, but John McCain is in bad shape. This man has started to look and act his age. The pressure is on and he doesn't look like he will be able to take this kind of pressure at his age and health. IT IS NOT WAY HILLARY WILL NOT BEAT JOHN MCCAIN. I wonder if McCain's mental status is taking the toll like his physical health has. I like John McCain, and five, ten years ago he would have been competition for any candidate. But now, he just needs to get somewhere and sit down. He is like when Bob Doyle tried to run at seventy yrs old and lost. No body wants someone who is seventy years old as president. Let's face it, at seventy years old, your mind is not as fresh and quick as it was when you are younger and we are talking the most important job in the USA, the COMMANDER AND CHIEF. With lots of love to John McCain, please withdraw. It comes a time in all of our lives when we know we need to retire. It looks like it is his time now. I know the truth hurts, and I am sorry. The republican party should have let Hucklebee have the nomination. HE would have been competition. We all liked Hucklebee and he had the ability and qualities to run. But John McCain is no competition for Hillary.

    March 9, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  19. Randle Bate

    Hillary Clinton gives monsters a bad name.

    March 9, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6