January 27, 2008 — One of the unfortunate aspects of any primary race is that it forces candidates to move to the fringe to appeal to their party base. That is now happening with regard to Iraq in the Democratic presidential contest. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have show themselves distressingly eager to play to ill-informed antiwar sentiment—and more so as time goes along.
Last year, at least, they left themselves a good deal of wiggle room to continue a substantial American force presence in Iraq. In their Sept. 26 debate in New Hampshire, moderator Tim Russert asked if they would pledge to withdraw all American troops by the end of their first term in 2013. Clinton, Obama and John Edwards all refused.
Clinton: “It is my goal to have all troops out by the end of my first term. But it is very difficult to know what we’re going to be inheriting.”
Obama: “I think it’s hard to project four years from now, and I think it would be irresponsible. We don’t know what contingency will be out there. I believe that we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don’t want to make promises, not knowing what the situation’s going to be three or four years out.”
Their answers were privately cited by Democratic moderates as evidence that, once in office, neither Obama nor Clinton would rush for the exits. In recent weeks, however, they seem to be edging closer to the door, even as, ironically, American troops enjoy more success.