HRC's Challenge To Obama And McCain

Five years after the start of major combat ops, as John McCain and Dick Cheney visited Baghdad, as the financial markets melt down, as the media focuses on her opponent's tricky associations, Hillary Clinton sees a vaccuum and and is filling it with tales of her own bravery, a new set of principles about withdrawing from Iraq, and some words for her rivals, near-term and short-term. One-to-two-brigades per month. Clinton is still going to face the same problems Sam Power knows Obama will face, but the luxury Clinton has is that no Clinton adviser is going to acknowledge this... and an Obama adviser already has... and so Clinton has the political foot-hold here, even though reality is likely to confront them similarly. Here's the full speech.

Some key paragraphs after the jump.

The first two paragraphs are what I'd call a riposte au Sinbad:

“Good morning. I want to thank Secretary West for his years of service, not only as Secretary of the Army, but also to the Veteran’s Administration, to our men and women in uniform, to our country. I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn't go, so send the First Lady. That’s where we went.

“I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.

Some boilerplate:

Bringing our troops home safely will take a president who is ready to be Commander-in-Chief on day one, a president who knows our military and has earned their respect. Bringing lasting stability to the region will take a president with the strength and determination, the knowledge and confidence to bring our troops home; to rebuild our military readiness, to care for our veterans, and to redouble our efforts against al-Qaeda. If you give me the chance, I will be that president.

Assessment of the surge:

“I will start by facing the conditions on the ground in Iraq as they are, not as we hope or wish them to be. President Bush points to the reduction in violence in Iraq last year and claims the surge is working. Now, I applaud any decrease in violence. That is always good news. But the point of the surge was to give the Iraqis the time and space for political reconciliation. Yet today, the Iraqi government has failed to provide basic services for its citizens. They have yet to pass legislation ensuring the equitable distribution of oil revenues, yet even to pass a law setting the date of provincial elections. Corruption and dysfunction is rampant, and last week General Petraeus himself conceded that no one, in either the U.S. government or the Iraqi government, feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation.

To Sen. McCain:

"... Senator McCain will gladly accept the torch and stay the course, keeping troops in Iraq for up to 100 years if necessary."

“They both want to keep us tied to another country's civil war, a war we cannot win. That in a nutshell is the Bush/McCain Iraq policy. Don’t learn from your mistakes, repeat them. Well, here is the inescapable reality. We can have hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground for 100 years, but that will not change the fact that there is no military solution to the situation in Iraq.

“And don't just take it from me. At his confirmation hearing, Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that without national political reconciliation, no amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference. We simply cannot give the Iraqi government an endless blank check. Each passing month we stay in Iraq gives the Iraqi government more time to avoid the hard decisions on how to split the oil money and how to share political power. Senator McCain and president bush claim withdrawal is defeat. Well, let's be clear, withdrawal is not defeat. Defeat is keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years.

“For the past five years, I have served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I have been to Iraq and Afghanistan three times. I have met with our soldiers and military leaders. I have met with Iraqi, local, regional, and national elected and other influential officials. Here at home I’ve attended countless meetings and committee hearings where I have challenged high-ranking Pentagon officials and military leaders investigating the situation in Iraq, probing the facts presented, and demanding real answers to tough questions. And I am honored that more than 30 of America’s most esteemed former admirals and generals, including two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and five retired officers of the four-star rank have endorsed my candidacy.

“Now, my Democratic opponent talks a great deal about a speech he gave in 2002, and I commend him for making that speech. Speaking out for what you believe is a solemn, patriotic duty. He is asking us to judge him by his words, and words can be powerful, but only if the speaker translates them into action and solutions. Senator Obama holds up his original opposition to the war on the campaign trail, but he didn't start working aggressively to end the war until he started running for president. So when he had a chance to act on his speech, he chose silence instead. And out campaigning Senator Obama tells voters that as president he'd withdraw combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months, but one of his top foreign policy advisers told a different story. She told a British television reporter, and I quote, “he will, of course, not rely on some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a U.S. Senator.” Senator Obama has said often that words matter. I strongly agree. But giving speeches alone won't end the war and making campaign promises you might not keep certainly won't end it. In the end the true test is not the speeches a president delivers, it's whether the president delivers on the speeches.

“I have concrete, detailed plans to end this war, and I have not waivered in my commitment to follow through on them. One choice in this election is Senator McCain. He’s willing to keep this war going for 100 years. You can count on him to do that. Another choice is Senator Obama who has promised to bring combat troops out in 16 months, but according to his foreign policy adviser, you can't count on him to do that. In uncertain times, we cannot afford uncertain leadership.

“The most important part of my plan is the first step, to bring our troops home and send the strongest possible message to the Iraqis that they must take responsibly for their own future. No more talk of permanent occupation, no more policing a civil war, no more doing for the Iraqis what they need to be doing for themselves. As president, one of my first official actions will be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my Secretary of Defense and my National Security Council and direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to start bringing our troops home within the first 60 days of my taking office. A plan based on my consultation with the military to remove one to two brigades a month, a plan that reduces the risks of attack as they depart.