This morning on Meet the Press sparks flew as Russert brought up Senator Clinton's vote yet again. Transcript is here.
Tim Russert contrasts what she said at the time with what Barack Obama said in 2002 (then an Illinois state senator):
"I know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors. ... I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that" "invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale" "without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars."
RUSSERT: Who had the better judgment at that time?
Senator Clinton briefly outlined why she voted as she did, that her vote was not one for preemptive war but for further UN weapons inspections, and that she had President Bush's personal assurances that all avenues would be taken to prevent war, war as an option only of last resort.
Then a curious thing takes place. Rather than debate Senator Obama's judgment with her own, there is a long, rather tortured argument over the consistency of Obama's statements on the Iraq War, voting patterns over funding, and even questions about his political motivations. It was all rather perplexing to watch, seemingly taken from the Karl Rove playbook of attacking your opponent's strength.
Obama shot back:
I have to point out that instead of telling the American people about her positive vision for America, Senator Clinton spent an hour talking about me and my record in a way that was flat out wrong. She suggested that I didn't clearly and unambiguously oppose the war in Iraq when it is absolutely clear and anyone who has followed this knows that I did. I stood up against the war when she was voting for it, at a time when she didn't read the intelligence reports or give diplomacy a chance. ...I have to say that she started this campaign saying that she wanted to make history and lately she has been spending a lot of time rewriting it. I know that in Washington it is acceptable to say or do anything it takes to get elected but I really don't think that is the kind of politics that is good for our party and I don't think it is good for our country and I think that the American people will reject it in this election.
Since New Hampshire this election seems to have entered a new, decidedly more personal phase. One which incidentally does not include John Edwards as he was barely mentioned, either by Mrs Clinton or by Russert.