Clinton Conference Call: The Afghanistan Question

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I asked a version of one of virginiagentleman’s terrific suggestions. I’ll post audio of it and their response as soon as I can.

His question was this:

Isn’t it hypocritical of Sen. Clinton to criticize Sen. Obama for not holding hearings on Afghanistan when she sits on the armed forces subcommittee, which held two hearings on Afghanistan in February and she didn’t attend either one?

[I split this post up so as to save screen space.]

First of all, I now realize I should have given him credit or at least confessed that I was responding to a reader suggestion. I will in the future, sorry, virginiagentleman — I’m sure you’re classier than that.

I framed it as a question about whether Clinton should be held to the same standard as Obama, i.e., should she get flack as well for not going to the hearings on an issue that she says important? (I cringe at slinging “hypocrisy” around. We’re all sinners in that regard…)

They answered (paraphrasing at bit):

One of the reasons he gave [for being against the Iraq war in his 2002 speech] was that it would divert us from Afghanistan…[we’re asking:] you gave a great speech, what did you do to follow up on your great speech?

I followed up (about 15 minutes later… My tech/thinking-on-my-feet skills are not fully conference-call-compatible), with two questions. This is how I prepared them, though I ad-libbed a bit when they actually called on me:

1) Is it your position that Iraq is NOT diverting resources from Afghanistan?
2) If that is your position, aren’t you implying that she gets a pass on not attending those hearings simply because she didn’t give a great speech? Are we to assume that any time she doesn’t give a great speech on an issue she believes in that she shouldn’t be held accountable for not acting on those beliefs?

Their response:

Senator Clinton has many times argued that Iraq is diverting resources from Afghanistan…[but] she’s not the chair of a subcommittee… It is true that both she and sen obama have not attended all hearing that they possibly could have… [but] the situations are not analogous, both because of the speech and because she is not the chair of the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the use of NATO forces…

It’s true that Obama’s position gives him more authority to investigate the use of NATO forces in Afghanistan, but the larger issue here isn’t deployment of European forces, it’s how our decision to invade Iraq screwed up other areas (as well as Iraq). If they want to make the argument that her experience there helps her “pass the commander-in-chief test” (be ready to sick of that phrase), wouldn’t it be helpful if she used some of that vast experience to actually help solve the problems that her experience has supposedly helped her identify?

After all, the question of resources being diverted isn’t one of those “if only we had known” dodges that she and others use to justify their support of the war. It was clear from day one — actually, from fall 2002 — that we simply did not have the troops to capably fight two wars at once. Who knows why she didn’t want to ask questions at the armed services committee meetings last February — but we know for sure she didn’t ask the right ones when it could have made a difference.