- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The 2008 Democratic presidential hopefuls are scrambling to convince voters they are the most qualified to end the Iraq war — a goal they all share — by focusing on the minute differences among their policies.

For former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who voted for the war, it’s a constant hammering of Democrats in Congress to reject President Bush’s troop-funding requests. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut takes a similar stance, but the five-term senator regularly accuses Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama of lacking leadership on the issue.

Mr. Obama yesterday tried to draw a distinction between himself and his rivals with 18 rallies across the country commemorating the five-year anniversary of his first antiwar speech, saying it proves he has the good judgment required of a president. The Illinois Democrat’s top rivals all voted to authorize the war.

“The first thing we have to do is end this war. And the right person to end it is someone who had the judgment to oppose it from the beginning,” Mr. Obama said at DePaul University in Chicago.

He said it is unfair to only blame Mr. Bush for the war because it “is not about a catalog of many mistakes, it is about one big mistake.”

“The American people weren’t just failed by a president, they were failed by much of Washington,” he said, calling out the “media,” “foreign-policy elite” and a Congress “that voted to give the president the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day.”

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer dismissed the speech as “more of the same.”

“We believe voters are focused on the future and on ending the war in Iraq,” he said. “Increasingly, Americans think Senator Clinton is the candidate with the strength and experience to do so.”

Mr. Obama, who will give a series of foreign-policy speeches in Iowa starting today, also said as president he would “lead a global effort to secure all loose nuclear materials.”

“We will not pursue unilateral disarmament. As long as nuclear weapons exist, we’ll retain a strong nuclear deterrent,” he said. “But we’ll keep our commitment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on the long road towards eliminating nuclear weapons.”

The policy drew criticism from Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz, who said Mr. Obama fails to understand the threat facing the U.S.

Yesterday’s rallies marking the anniversary of Mr. Obama’s antiwar speech were held in big cities and Midwestern college towns. His critics say it was easy for him to make the speech at the 2002 antiwar rally because it was held in a liberal area and at the time he was vying for the Democratic Party nod for a Senate seat.

In response to the Obama rallies, Mr. Dodd’s campaign sent out a press release noting Mr. Obama’s quote three years ago in a New York Times piece that he didn’t know how he would have voted had he been a senator at the time of the Iraq vote.

“But, I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports,” Mr. Obama said in the Times in July 2004. “What would I have done? I don’t know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made.”