“Brilliant” potential C-in-C blows Rockefeller’s record on the war Update: Lame spin attempt flops

posted at 7:26 am on March 3, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama effusively praised the record of Jay Rockefeller after receiving a glowing introduction from the West Virginia Senator yesterday. Rockefeller called Obama “brilliant” and talked about what a great commander-in-chief Obama would make despite having no military experience nor any time on committees than handle military affairs during Obama’s three years in the Senate. Obama then complimented Rockefeller on his vote against the war — which proves that Obama isn’t as brilliant nor as ready as Rockefeller imagined:

Obama criticized Clinton expressly for failing to read the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s weapons capabilities, a report available at the time of her October 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq war. “She didn’t give diplomacy a chance. And to this day, she won’t even admit that her vote was a mistake – or even that it was a vote for war,” Obama said.

“When it came time to make the most important foreign policy decision of our generation the decision to invade Iraq Senator Clinton got it wrong,” Obama said.

He said that Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a fellow Democrat from neighboring West Virginia, had read the intelligence estimate as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and had voted against the war resolution.

Rockefeller, who is now chairman of that committee, endorsed Obama on Friday and campaigned with him on Saturday.

Rockefeller called Obama “brilliant” and “well grounded” and prepared to take the reins as commander in chief.

Forget being commander-in-chief — Obama couldn’t even be researcher in chief at the Senate web site. If we look at the 2002 vote on the authorization to use military force in Iraq, we see Jay Rockefeller’s name in the “yea” column, not among the nays. He cast the same exact vote as Hillary Clinton, which was to support the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein.

In fact, Rockefeller didn’t just passively vote “yea” in the Senate. He gave a speech on October 10, 2002, prior to the vote, exhorting his colleagues to support the AUMF and the invasion of Iraq. In that speech, he made it clear that his vote would be in support of war, if it came to that:

Saddam Hussein represents a grave threat to the United States, and I have concluded we must use force to deal with him if all other means fail. That is the core issue, and whether we vote on it now, or in January, or in six months time, that is the issue we all have to confront.

War, if it comes to that, will cost money I dearly wish we could use for other domestic priorities, to address the very real needs that West Virginia and other states face in this tough economy. But ultimately, defending America’s citizens from danger is a responsibility whose costs we must bear.

How does a “brilliant” candidate make such a huge error? The very point that Obama wants to make is that his judgment is somehow superior to Hillary Clinton’s — and John McCain’s — despite having almost no experience in national office and none at all in any kind of executive leadership position. Yet here he is, trying to use Rockefeller as an example of better judgment, and it turns out that Obama couldn’t be bothered to do a minute’s worth of research first.

Is that the kind of judgment and brilliance that America can trust in a crisis? When the phone rings at 3 am in the White House, do we want the person answering it to make decisions without actually knowing what the facts are first?

Hillary Clinton’s team pointed out the error to local reporters, but don’t expect her to be able to use this. It only underscores her support for Saddam’s removal, which in a rational arena would be a point in her favor. It’s another brick for John McCain to use in the general election, if he chooses to use it as yet another example of the callowness of his likely opponent.

UPDATE: Obama’s team tried to explain that Obama meant Bob Graham, not Jay Rockefeller. However, Ben Smith has the full quote:

Now I have to say, when it came to making the most important foreign policy decision of our generation – the decision to invade Iraq – Senator Clinton got it wrong. She didn’t read the National Intelligence Estimate. Jay Rockefeller read it, but she didn’t read it. I don’t know what all that experience got her because I have enough experience to know that if you have a National Intelligence Estimate and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee says, “You should read this, this is why I’m voting against the war,” you should read it. I don’t know how much experience you need for that.

Bob Graham, it should be noted, was the chair of the Intelligence Committee at the time.  However, it seems rather obvious that Obama meant to contrast Clinton’s and Rockefeller’s judgment, when in fact Rockefeller not only voted to authorize the war but said essentially, “You should read the NIE, and it’s why I’m voting for the war.”


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