In the Arena

Obama v. Hillary on Iraq Deconstructed

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An instant guide to the contretemps:

In the beginning, Obama opposed the war (and was correct). Hillary favored it (and wasn’t).

In the Republican Senate, Hillary and Obama had the exact same positions–both favored funding the troops, both favored the Levin-Reed inexact withdrawal plan and opposed the Kerry firm withdrawal date.

In the interregnum, Obama proposed a withdrawal plan based on the Iraq Study Group, with March 2008 as a tentative deadline, which could be extended if the Iraqi government met benchmarks. Clinton also supported the ISG findings, but without a specific end date.

In the Democratic Senate, both supported funding for the troops–without a timetable–if necessary, but both voted for the initial bill with a timetable, knowing that it would be vetoed.

In the aftermath of the veto, Obama said he favored a “clean”–no timetable–bill with a shorter funding period. Hillary kept her counsel but favored a clean bill.

This week, both Obama and Hillary abandoned their principles to cast symbolic votes for the Feingold-Reid Bill, which had a timetable and no chance of passage. This was done for purely political–presidential primary–reasons. (As most Swampland readers know, I’m in favor of a withdrawal without a final date since the means of our extrication will depend on circumstances on the ground too fluid to predict right now. Once again, to paraphrase Jim Webb: We have to be more careful getting out than we were getting in.)

Next week, both Obama and Hillary will support funding the troops without a deadline and with benchmarks–which is the best that can be hoped for right now.

To be continued in September, when the funding runs out again…