Cluster bombs. Barack Obama supported legislation restricting Pentagon spending on cluster bombs, Hillary Clinton opposed it:
One little-mentioned split occurred on a proposal to restrict Pentagon spending on cluster bombs, which explode and scatter thousands of tiny weapons over a vast area. Those small bombs are prone to going off years after a battle, sometimes killing and maiming Middle Eastern children who mistakenly trigger them. Israel came under fire from the UN and international human rights groups for its use of cluster bombs during its 2006 war with Hizbullah forces in Lebanon. In the autumn of that year, with memories of the conflict still fresh, several Democrats sought to limit US defence spending to cluster bombs that would not be used in civilian areas.Another interesting issue:
Obama voted in favour of limiting use of the bombs, while Clinton and 69 other senators opposed the spending limits, defeating the proposal.
Whether the former first lady cast her vote to avoid a perceived rebuke of Israel or because of the Pentagon's resistance remains unknown: Clinton did not speak during the senate debate and did not issue a statement afterwards, according to her website.
The article also addresses an anti-gun control measure Obama came down on the side of, one which prevented police from confiscating people's firearms during emergency situations. My fellow progressives can assess this particular legislation as they wish (I'm sure most of them will see at as a negative), but I tend to cringe at the thought of authorities using an emergency situation as a pretext for rounding up people's weapons, so I can't say I disagree with the Republicans (or Obama) on this one.
Another disagreement between the two Democratic frontrunners came during Congress's first failed attempt at addressing immigration, also in 2006. Clinton and Obama allied in favour of a path to citizenship for the 12 million people residing illegally in the US, but they differed on the more arcane question of admitting refugees to America who had fought against authoritarian governments overseas.
The proposal, written by judiciary committee chairman Patrick Leahy, would relax the Bush administration's so-called "material support bar". The bar was intended to prevent anyone supportive of armed terrorist groups from entering the US. But it inadvertently ended up blocking entry for democratic activists from Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.
Even some who aided revolutionary groups after being kidnapped or raped were later stopped from immigrating to the US under the bar.
"We can prevent the entry of those who would do America harm without closing our borders to genuine refugees who urgently need our help," Leahy said at the time, urging colleagues to back his proposal.
Senators opposed to the new refugee policy voiced unease about changing the legal definition of a terrorist group, arguing that the state department could handle the problem through immigration waivers.
Obama supported Leahy's unsuccessful plan to lift the support bar. Clinton opposed it. Just last week, Leahy endorsed Obama for president.
But I digress.
Sen. Clinton, prior to her Kyl-Liebermann Amendment, and prior to the National Intelligence Estimate which state unequivocally that Iran had abandoned its nuclear program four years prior, Sen. Clinton was one of Washington's biggest anti-Iran hawks. She somehow managed to avoid catching egg on her face for being one of the biggest cheerleaders for yet another unnecessary war with a Middle Eastern country, but I'm not going to let this be forgotten:
No doubt. But this didn't mean that they're pursuing nukes, and it didn't mean that we needed to engage in rhetoric which might provoke them. This type of rhetoric is irresponsible when so little is known, and it's clear that Sen. Clinton learned exactly nothing from President Bush's earlier Iraq deceptions. It's unclear whether she even cares to, but I do question whether the lives of innocent people in the Middle East are more or less important to Sen. Clinton than her own political ambitions. I suspect I know the answer to that one, but I'm not a mind-reader, and perhaps Sen. Clinton is simply a dupe who will keep falling for the same neo-con tricks over and over again. Either way, it doesn't lend itself to an enthusiastic endorsement from this author.
Calling Iran a danger to the U.S. and one of Israel's greatest threats, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said "no option can be taken off the table" when dealing with that nation.
"U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons," the Democrat told a crowd of Israel supporters. "In dealing with this threat ... no option can be taken off the table."
Clinton spoke at a Manhattan dinner held by the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the U.S., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Some 1,700 supporters applauded as she cited her efforts on behalf of the Jewish state and spoke scathingly of Iran's decision to hold a conference last month that questioned whether the Holocaust took place.
"To deny the Holocaust places Iran's leadership in company with the most despicable bigots and historical revisionists," Clinton said, criticizing what she called the Iranian administration's "pro-terrorist, anti-American, anti-Israeli rhetoric."
I'd be hard pressed to endorse a Republican candidate ahead of Sen. Clinton in the general election should she carry the nomination. Despite my many differences with her, I'm a lot closer to her on most issues than I am to any of the Republican candidates, including Sen. McCain. However, if we're going to engage in identity politics the way the New York chapter of NOW is, then I have to confess a certain yearning to support the war veteran, despite my many disagreements with him on almost every issue.
After World War II, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was elected President. This marked the first of several WWII veterans elected to the White House. Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and George Bush all served in World War II. Nixon, Carter, and Reagan served in the military in some capacity, but not in WWII. Even Gerald Ford, who was never actually elected to the White House, served as a Naval officer in WWII.
Then Bill Clinton was elected President, and that all ended. Since then, veterans who served in Vietnam have gone up for the Presidency and been summarily turned away: John McCain in 2000 (lost in primaries to George W. Bush), Al Gore in 2000 (lost in general election to Bush), and John Kerry in 2004 (lost, again, to Bush in general election). No Vietnam veterans in the White House; just two draft dodgers. Clinton, who opposed the Vietnam War and thus had no desire to serve in it, got a reservist deferment by joining, then quitting, an advanced ROTC unit. Bush, who supported the Vietnam War but also had no desire to serve in it, used connections to move ahead of 500 applicants to join the Texas Air National Guard. Back then, the National Guard was a way to avoid the draft without being called a draft dodger. I'll do it anyway: George W. Bush was a draft dodger, and he's beaten three men who served in Vietnam for the Presidency. This says a lot about how our nation honors its veterans anymore: they don't. They just "support our troops".
As someone who served in Iraq as a support troop inside the wire (just like the vast majority of troops who deploy to Iraq, for the record), I make no claim to any acts of great gallantry or heroism. I went when I was called, did the best job I could even while coming under fire once in a while, and went home when it was time. Yet it was still a major readjustment to my perspectives, and I will forever hold a kinship with my fellow veterans of any war, regardless of their political affiliations. I want to see a Vietnam veteran in the White House (especially one who endured as much as John McCain), because I feel it would do a lot to heal the wounds of that period in our history, yet I fear that it may never happen now. I largely blame the Republicans for that -- they've honored big business at the expense of honoring the "troops" they pay so much lip service toward, and they smeared the war record of John Kerry in 2004. John McCain is the last hope for a Vietnam veteran President, but it may be too little (McCain has taken a major tumble among Democrats and independents for his sycophancy toward Bush), too late (he's 71 years old and looks to be seriously slowing down).
That's the sympathy I feel toward the McCain candidacy: it's not about the man, but his service and his generation of veterans, all of whom I wish to honor. And yet I see in another candidate a way forward, another path to healing the wounds of past generations through forgiveness and reconciliation. A nomination of Hillary Clinton will inevitably re-open the wounds of those years gone by. We've been picking at the scabs of those wounds ever since Carter pardoned Vietnam-era draft dodgers, our government's first attempt at healing from that time. A Clinton candidacy leads the way backward to the 90s, when Bill Clinton's draft evasion was still fresh on everybody's lips, and the resentment toward the fortunate sons like Bush and Clinton who had the connections to avoid being drafted while others less fortunate went to their deaths still burned deep inside. It burns inside of me now, as I watch Young Republicans cheer lead Bush's war while refusing to serve in it. It burns... but a path to the future, away from the wounds of the past, offers a much more enticing promise. I hope the Democrats take it and don't fall into the trap of the "good old days".