Monday, March 3, 2008

Obama gets facts way wrong on Iraq War vote

From Chicago Tribune's The Swamp on March 3, 3008 by Frank James:

"When you trash talk your opponent in politics, it's always a good idea to have the facts on your side.

Unfortunately, for Sen. Barack Obama yesterday, he clearly didn't have the facts properly lined up when he talked smack against Sen. Hillary Clinton over her vote to authorize the Iraq War in 2002.
Obama was trying to raise doubts about Clinton's foreign-policy experience by reminding voters that she didn't read the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq before the crucial 2000 vote, suggesting that if she had read it, she might have also voted against the war vote, just like Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who Obama identified as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time.

The problem is that Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat, who just endorsed Obama, voted for the war authorization. So Obama got that wrong.

Obama was also incorrect in identifying Rockefeller as the intelligence committee chair at the time. The committee was chaired in Oct. 2002 by Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who voted against the war authorization.

If this were football and Steven Thomma, a reporter with McClatchy, were a referee, he would've thrown a yellow flag. Today, he wrote:

Throw the flag against: Sen. Barack Obama.

Call: False start.

What happened: Obama ripped Sen. Hillary Clinton on Sunday for failing to read the National Intelligence Estimate before voting in 2002 to authorize the Iraq war. He said she should've followed the lead of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., contending that he, as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, did read the report and voted against the war.

"Jay Rockefeller read it, but she didn't read it," Obama told a rally in Westerville, Ohio. "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."

At the same time, an Obama campaign strategist was on ABC lauding Obama's endorsement from Rockefeller, referring to him as "the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who opposed the war in Iraq, who read the intelligence before the war."

Why that's out of bounds:

First, former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., was the chairman of the intelligence committee at the time of the 2002 war vote, not Rockefeller. It was Graham who read the top secret report and voted against the war.

Second, Rockefeller voted FOR the war resolution.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Sunday evening that, "Barack Obama was clearly referring to Senator Graham, not Senator Rockefeller today."

But that's not what Obama or Axelrod said.

Penalty: Five yards for sloppy fact checking.

I think this is more like 15 yards and loss of a down. The Iraq War vote is only the central premise of Obama's argument for why he should be president. Given that, it seems like he would have absolute command of the facts surrounding the vote. That he doesn't seems curious. "