Candidates and Responsibilities

On March 6, President Barack Obama criticized the Republican presidential candidates for their recent statements about Iran’s nuclear program:

Now, what’s said on the campaign trail — those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not Commander-in-Chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy. This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it. And when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem. [emphasis added]

But let’s remember Senator Barack Obama’s own campaign against John McCain (and, in effect, against the Bush administration).

Here’s Senator Obama in 2002:

I don’t oppose all wars. I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war.

When President Bush announced the surge in 2006, Senator Obama said the following on the floor of the Senate:

I cannot in good conscience support this escalation. It is a policy which has already been tried and a policy which has failed.

Then in 2007, Senator Obama made one of the more controversial statements of his campaign, vowing to violate Pakistani sovereignty if that country did not cooperate in counterterrorism efforts:

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges, but let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

In the same speech, he slammed the Bush administration for its handling of Iraq:

By refusing to end the war in Iraq, President Bush is giving the terrorists what they really want and what the Congress voted to give them in 2002: a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

Criticizing President Bush’s decisions in Iraq, of course, was one of the hallmarks of the Obama campaign. In 2008, in a major policy address, Senator Obama also promised that he would surge troops into Afghanistan:

George Bush and John McCain don’t have a strategy for success in Iraq – they have a strategy for staying in Iraq…

And that’s why, as President, I will make the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win. I will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan…

Interesting, indeed.

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