Political reporters and analysts are unapologetically trying to determine the political ramifications of the Bhutto assassinations, yours truly included. And while many of the presidential campaigns have incorporated the day's events into their campaign argument explicitly, Barack Obama's big cheeses aren't holding back, and neither is a surrogate of Hillary Clinton's.
Maybe I'm parsing this too much. Judge for yourself.
Says David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist:
Bhutto’s death will “call into issue the judgment: who’s made the right judgments ... Obviously, one of the reasons that Pakistan is in the distress that it’s in is because al-Qaeda is resurgent, has become more powerful within that country and that’s a consequence of us taking the eye off the ball and making the wrong judgment in going into Iraq. That’s a serious difference between these candidates and I’m sure that people will take that into consideration."
He continues, according to the account on Time.com:
“She was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit, was one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda, who may have been players in this event today, so that’s a judgment she’ll have to defend.
In other words: Clinton's judgment helped create the conditions that led to Bhutto's assassination. (The failure of American foreign policy helped create the conditions that led to Bhutto's assassination. The judgment of the American people -- who, like Clinton, supported the war in 2002 -- helped create the conditions that led to the assassination of Bhutto.)
An Obama aide says I'm "absurd" for drawing this conclusion-- after all, I'm sitting at a desk in Washington and wasn't present for the Q and A with reporters. "He didn't draw a straight-line relationship," another aide said.
The second aide passes along more of what Axelrod said, so read it for yourself:
Well, it puts on the table foreign policy judgment, and that's a discussion we welcome. Barack Obama had the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq, and he warned at the time it would divert us from Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, and now we see the effect of that. Al Qaeda's resurgent, they're a powerful force now in Pakistan, they may have been involved we've been here, so I don't know whether the news has been updated, but there's a suspicion they may have been involved in this. I think his judgment was good. Sen. Clinton made a different judgment, so let's have that discussion
The Clinton campaign bites back by not biting: Writes Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson:
"This is a time to be focused on the tragedy of the situation, its implications for the U.S. and the world, and to be concerned for the people of Pakistan and the country’s stability. No one should be politicizing this situation with baseless allegations."
One Clinton surrogate went a little off message, too... Sen. Evan Bayh, per MSNBC:
He added that in a general election, Republicans would likely raise the specter of international attacks in attempt to garner votes. “When there are unfortunate calamities like this, the Republicans [will say], ‘See. See what we told you? We have to have someone who’s strong to defend America at a time of concern.’ Well, Senator Clinton is strong,” he said. “And she’s experienced. And she’s tough enough to defend this country and do it in a way that’s true to our values, the civil liberties we cherish, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m supporting her.”
Speaking after the event, Bayh again emphasized the need for experience. “I think they know we live in a dangerous world, and tragedies like this just remind us that we need someone with the seasoning, the experience and the strength to be commander in chief during uncertain times,” he said. “The job of the next president is not to be entertainer in chief. The job of the next president is to move our country forward to make the substantive changes that will matter in our daily lives, and to protect us in an uncertain and dangerous world. And that’s why in a field of very good candidates, I believe Senator Clinton has the right combination of experience and strength to accomplish all of those things.”
NB: Here's a CNN report: