Twice this weekend, Sen. Hillary Clinton found herself on the recieving end of tough questions about the Middle East, courtesy of the indirect influence of -- not Barack Obama -- but John Edwards.
First, Randall Rolph, the Iowa Democrat who raised Howard Dean's temperature with intemperate questions in January of 2004, asked Clinton about her vote in favor of Lieberman-Kyl amendment, which decreed that Iran's Revolutionary Guards were a terrorist organization. Rolph told Clinton that, in his opinion, her vote was a step towards giving George W. Bush the authority to use military force against Iran.
On Sunday, per NBC's Athena Jones, Clinton was asked to explain Edwards's accusation that she did not "have any plan to bring the combat troops home."
Here's how the Washington Post covered the first exchange:
"Well, let me thank you for the question, but let me tell you that the premise of the question is wrong and I'll be happy to explain that to you," Clinton began.
She offered a detailed description of the resolution, which she said stressed robust diplomacy that could lead to imposing sanctions against Iran, and then pointedly said to Rolph that her view wasn't in "what you read to me, that somebody obviously sent to you."
"I take exception," Rolph interjected. "This is my own research."
"Well then, let me finish," Clinton responded.
Rolph, from nearby Nashua, fired back that no one had sent him the material.
"Well, then, I apologize. It's just that I've been asked the very same question in three other places," she said.
Clinton then explained that she had gone to the Senate floor in February to state that Bush does not have the authority to use military action against Iran and that she is working on legislation to put that into law. Rolph once again challenged her recent vote, suggesting that it amounted to giving Bush a free hand..
"I'm sorry, sir, it does not," she said, her voice showing her exasperation. "No, no, let me just say one other thing because I respect your research. There was an earlier version that I opposed. It was dramatically changed ... I would never have voted for the first version. The second version ripped out what was considered very bellicose and very threatening language."
And here's Jones on the second:
“Edwards said you do not have any plan to bring the combat troops home,” the man said. “What is your specific plan to bring combat troops home from Iraq if you're elected president?"
Clinton defended herself then sought to show there was common ground on the issue with her opponents.
“My plan is to bring them home and I have said that repeatedly,” Clinton said. “Now the plan has to be one that I put into action once I’m president. We do not know what we're going to inherit. That's the sad fact. We have no idea what's going to be happening in January 2009.”
Clinton said her position was pretty much the position of everybody running for the Democratic nomination.
“Nearly all of us running have said we'll protect our embassy and civilian employees. We'll protect as best we can against Al Qaeda in Iraq,” Clinton said. “You have to have some troops that would engage with Al Qaeda. I believe it will primarily be special operations forces they may actually engage in combat against Al Qaeda, but I've never heard any of my opponents say that they didn't think we had to continue to keep Al Qaeda on the run, so I don't really see that there's any difference.”