Obama and L-K, Part III

"People think that Lieberman-Kyl did just one thing," an Obama foreign policy adviser told me, "
"and that's to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization."

"But that's just one of the six clauses." Obama, this adviser said, worries about clause b1 -- where the structure -- read size and deployment nature -- of troops in Iraq would be structured with the threat of Iran in mind. "Couple that with the two people who drafted the amendment, both of whom are strongly supportive of the surge, both of whom who have raised significant concerns about Iranian influence in the region."

I asked the adviser how Obama's belief square with his acknowledgment in 2006 that it was in the national interest to keep an "active" through "reduced" force in the "Middle East" in response to the encroaching Iranian threat.

Obama, this adviser said, believes that the intent of clauses b1 and b2 are counterarguments to those who want to scale down forces in Iraq. Leiberman and Kyl oppose a drawdown because of the Iranian threat, this adviser said. "Barack has said from time immemorial that he opposes the Iraq War because he was afraid it was going to strengthen Iran's position in the region."

But here's the tricky part: Obama does not so much object to the language of the resolution, which he acknowledges can be interpreted in different ways, as he does to the context within which it was passed.

"Barack’s point is that this is the kind of justification that that administration could use" to launch an attack against Iran.

In other words: Obama argues that Clinton trusts the Bush Administration to not interpret this as giving them the authority to strike Iran.

A reader writes:

The November 2006 on Iran you use to pin Obama down, is his opinion, his judgment, and suggest how HE might act. The congressional resolution, however, is an apparatus for President Bush to act. It gives him the ball. that's why Obama's main point is that you can't give the administration any leeway, any argument to justify military action against Iran because they have shown such terrible judgment before. On the other hand, one might say you can give Senator Obama leeway because he has shown good judgment and understands we shouldn't rush to war. Indeed, Obama, Bush and Clinton all believed that Saddam had WMDs, but the difference was Obama didn't see this as an imminent threat to us because of the inspectors and because Saddam had no connection to al qaeda. That's a big difference. I suspect that at the time they all would agree with the idea that iraq was a problem but they disagreed on what that meant. See what I mean?

In short, I think it is important to recognize that presidents after meeting with their advisors will get similar advice and often will view a situation under similar concepts. What matters in the end is judgment, who after viewing the evidence and the options will make the right choice and who won't. Notably, this is very similar to Obama's argument that the differences between he, Clinton and Edwards over their policy proposals really doesn't matter, they're largely the same, what matters is who can get the plan implemented, who can get it passed.

And an Obama aide e-mails:

I continue to be amused at the Durbin references to the Kyl-Lieberman amendment - it seems that when it comes to war with Iran, Jim Webb is the one she looks too right? Is it disconcerting that he siad this about the resolution she supported: "Those who regret their vote five years ago to authorize military action in Iraq should think hard before supporting this approach. Because, in my view, it has the same potential to do harm where many are seeking to do good."blockquote>

Still -- Obama seems to have a solid argument here. But if the amendment was so dangerous... why is he opposing it in a television commercial and a speech... did not on the floor of the Senate?