Matthews: "It's very hard to tell" whether Sen. Clinton is with Democrats or Lieberman on Iraq


On two different occasions, Chris Matthews suggested that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's position on the war in Iraq was close to that of Sen. Joe Lieberman than to that of congressional Democrats. In fact, Clinton has come out in opposition to President Bush's troop escalation plan and has introduced a bill to stop the escalation and begin a "phased redeployment" from Iraq, unlike Lieberman, who has publicly stated that he not only supports the war but Bush's troop increase, as well.

On the February 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews said of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY): "It's very hard to tell whether she's with [Sen. Joseph I.] Lieberman [CT] or she's with the Democratic Party on the issue of the war" in Iraq. Similarly, the previous day on his NBC-syndicated television show, Matthews had asked his guests whether Clinton is "in the Lieberman position of being more hawkish." Yet a glance at the recent Senate voting records of Clinton and Lieberman shows that Clinton voted with nearly all Senate Democrats to advance a resolution condemning President Bush's troop escalation in Iraq while Lieberman voted with Republicans to block debate on the measure. While Clinton has recently introduced a bill to stop the escalation of the Iraq war and to begin a "phased redeployment" of troops from Iraq, Lieberman has publicly stated that not only does he support the war, he also supports Bush's troop increase.

On February 5, Lieberman voted with most Senate Republicans to stop the Senate from considering a resolution opposing Bush's Iraq escalation plan, while Clinton, along with all but three Democrats,* voted to proceed with the debate. On February 17, Senate Republicans again blocked the Democrats' attempt to go on record rejecting Bush's troop increase, and again, Lieberman sided with most Republicans -- five more Republicans joined Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Norm Coleman (R-MN) in voting with the Democrats -- while Clinton voted with all her Democratic colleagues who were present.**

In addition, just before the February 5 Senate vote, during the January 23 Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing of then-Lt. General David H. Petraeus to head the Multi-National Forces in Iraq, Clinton specifically stated that she disagreed with Lieberman's position on the Senate resolution rejecting the troop increase in Iraq. During the testimony, Lieberman told Petraeus: "A Senate-passed resolution of disapproval for this new strategy in Iraq would give the enemy some encouragement, some feeling that -- well, some clear expression that the American people were divided." Later in the hearing, Clinton said that she rejected the ideas "of our other friends on the panel who think that statements of disapproval are somehow going to undermine our effort when I think they will send the clearest message."

Further, Clinton's bill, the "Iraq Troop Reduction & Protection Act of 2007," introduced on February 16, stands in stark contrast to Lieberman's position on the Iraq war. According to Clinton's Senate website, the four main components of her bill include: "Stopping the president's escalation of the war," "Ending the blank check for the Iraqi government," "Starting phased redeployment and involving countries in the region in the future of Iraq," and "Protecting our troops sent into Iraq."

Lieberman, on the other hand, as the Associated Press reported, has recently praised Bush's troop increase plan, even echoing the Bush administration's rhetoric that "[w]e're fighting them in Iraq ... so we don't have to fight them here at home":

Sen. Joe Lieberman, who was assailed for his pro-war views during his fall re-election race, praised President Bush's plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq and urged his colleagues in Congress to proceed with respectful debate.

"Excessive partisan division and rancor at home only weakens our will to prevail in this war," Lieberman, I-Conn., said in a statement Wednesday.


"The president did not take the easy path, but he took the correct and courageous course," Lieberman said. "It is a dangerous illusion to believe that we can depart Iraq and the inevitable killing fields and terrorist violence will not follow us in retreat -- even to our own shores."

*Sens. Mary Landrieu (LA) and Tim Johnson (SD) did not vote; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) voted yes then changed his vote to vote with the Republicans as a procedural move so he could later move to reconsider the motion -- a right reserved only for those voting with the majority.

**Sen. Tim Johnson did not vote.

From the February 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: You know, I'm trying to figure what out you're running on as a platform, Governor, and how the Democrats -- I saw Hillary the other day -- Hillary Clinton took a shot at other Democrats by saying that there are some people that don't believe there's a terrorist threat out there. Who's she talking about? Is she talking about you? Is she talking about Obama? About Kucinich? Who's she saying in the Democratic Party doesn't believe that terrorism is a threat to our country?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM): Well, I don't know who she's talking about, but I want to tell you --

MATTHEWS: Well, don't you take umbrage at the fact that she's broad-brushing other Democrats, perhaps, to her left? I mean, it's easy to get to her left on the war in Iraq. She takes a somewhat -- well, it's a hard ambivalent position. It's very hard to tell whether she's with Lieberman or she's with the Democratic Party on the issue of the war. But who does she mean when she says that?

From the February 25 edition of NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show:

DAN RATHER (former CBS News anchor): And there's danger for Hillary because, you know, this argument, "Well, is she a hawk, is she a dove?" -- she has to be careful not to come across as a chickenhawk.

MATTHEWS: Well, what does that mean?

RATHER: Well, what that means is trying to have it both ways.

MATTHEWS: Well, that -- here's the question. This week, she attacked her Democratic opponents in saying, "There's some people running for president," Michele, "who don't really think terrorism is a problem." Who's she talking about?

MICHELE NORRIS (National Public Radio anchor): Oh, I think she's talking about almost every other person --


NORRIS: -- in the race right now. And probably Obama is, too, but --

MATTHEWS: But that puts her over in the Lieberman position of being more hawkish. Does she want to get over there?

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Chris Matthews
The Chris Matthews Show, Hardball
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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