The Hillary Clinton camp says Clinton’s quick, detail-oriented response during a CNN debate last week shows she’s ready to lead in a crisis.
“It’s experience here,” said John Graham, one of the chief fund-raisers for the Clinton for President Campaign in New Jersey, which will welcome their candidate to two private events on Monday – one in Jersey City and one in Cresskill, in which they hope to raise around $200,000.
Graham said the face-off between Clinton and Obama on foreign policy hinges on a key distinction, which Clinton nailed and Obama did not. To the question of whether he or she would negotiate with sworn enemies of the United States “without preconditions,” Obama said he would, while Clinton said nay.
Here’s the question from the debate: “In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since. In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?”
Here’s the money part of Obama’s answer: “I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.”
And here’s the germane portion of Clinton’s answer: “Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don’t want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.”
Clinton later called Obama’s response “irresponsible and naive.”
“He didn’t pre-qualify it the way she did,” admitted Graham, who also said it’s naive to think Obama would negotiate without preconditions – but the fact that Clinton was attentive to that nugget in the question shows she’s better prepared to be president.
“Barack didn’t know how to say it yet,” said Graham.”Hillary, as smart as she is – she understood what needed to be said at that moment.
“Barack is very bright, but we don’t need on-the-job training right now,” Graham added. “We’ve just been through that with Bush. The world is not in the mood for that.”
Graham said he likes Obama and would love him for the number two spot on the ticket.
Of the opposition candidate’s on-stage comeback in New Hampshire on Thursday, in which Obama likened Clinton’s foreign policy approach to “Bush-Cheney-lite,” Graham said, “He’s under such pressure from the ultra-liberal end of the party, which thinks he’s not strong enough, and he’s not distinguishing himself enough, that he’s trying to position himself by saying, ‘I’m different from her.’”
Graham said Clinton demonstrated she has the spot-on instincts “not to be sitting down there in that school for 20 minutes the way Bush was on 9/11.”