In Barack Obama’s latest email pitch for donations, his campaign manager, David Plouffe, writes:
Senator Clinton and Senator McCain are reading from the same political playbook as they attack Barack on foreign policy.
They have both criticized Barack’s commitment to act against top al Qaeda terrorists if others can’t or won’t act.
And they have both dismissed his call for renewed diplomacy as naïve while mistakenly standing behind George Bush’s policy of non-engagement that just isn’t working….
Barack is facing a two-front battle against Senator Clinton and Senator McCain.
Plouffe is trying to hit Clinton (and McCain) from both the left and the right (or the dovish and hawkish sides) simultaneously. But he stepped over the line regarding the former.
On the first point, Plouffe is referring to the criticism Obama drew when he suggested he would, as president, strike unilaterally against al Qaeda in Pakistan if he possessed solid intelligence and if the Pakistani government did not act. With this claim, he was obviously trying to show that he could be damn tough–even cowboy tough–when it comes to the fight against Islamic terrorists. Critics blasted him for recklessness, but it turns out that the Bush administration has mounted these sorts of attacks to take out al Qaeda leaders.
On the second point–that Clinton has “mistakenly” stood behind Bush’s “policy of non-engagement”–Plouffe is stretching the facts. Clinton did jump on Obama when Obama vowed at the CNN/YouTube debate that he would meet with the thug-leaders of Iran, North Korea, and Cuba in his first year as president. But as Clinton has repeatedly said, refusing to promise meetings with these leaders in the first year of a presidency is hardly equivalent to a policy of non-engagement. She has repeatedly slammed Bush’s unilateralism and called for a vigorous revival of American diplomacy and multilateralism.
Plouffe wants to lump Clinton and McCain together to show that Obama is the candidate of change taking on two candidates of Washington conventionalism. Obama does have a case in this regard. (Both Clinton and McCain share responsibility for the Iraq war.) But this argument does not extend to Clinton endorsing Bush go-it-alone-ism. Given that the Obama campaign often complains (justifiably) about the Clinton camp’s truth-twisting oppo research, Plouffe ought to be more careful.