Friday, October 31st, 2014

Dodd exaggerates influence on Iraq

SUMMARY: Sen. Chris Dodd takes credit for the decisions by Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to support an amendment calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq next March. But there's little evidence Dodd influenced them.

In a television ad that aired in Iowa and New Hampshire and is available on his website, the Connecticut Democrat says he persuaded Clinton and Barack Obama to support a March 2008 deadline for a troop withdrawal from Iraq.

"Chris Dodd has been challenging the other candidates to support the Feingold-Reid-Dodd Amendment to end our involvement in Iraq's civil war," the ad says. "It worked. Now Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have changed their positions to follow Chris Dodd."

Dodd is correct that his fellow candidates backed an amendment he co-sponsored. And it's likely they felt some pressure from liberal Democrats -- including Dodd -- who strongly favor withdrawal. But Dodd exaggerates his role. He is just one of nine co-sponsors of the amendment widely called the Feingold-Reid amendment, usually without Dodd's name attached. And there's no evidence that Dodd had any influence on Obama and Clinton.

For proof, the Dodd campaign offers a timeline. On May 14, Dodd issued a news release challenging the other candidates to support the measure. The next day, he began airing a TV ad in Iowa and New Hampshire that repeated his challenge and called the amendment "the only responsible measure in Congress that would take away the president's blank check." That same day, Clinton and Obama announced they were backing the measure.

Spokesmen for Obama and Clinton say the senators were not influenced by Dodd and that their positions on the amendment were consistent with their prior statements on the war.

"The senator has been speaking out for a long time about the need to redeploy the troops," said Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee. The New York senator introduced S. 670, a bill calling for a withdrawal, on Feb. 16, 2007 -- three months before Dodd's ad.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton says the Illinois senator "was against the war when it was unpopular to be against the war."

Obama opposed the war before the United States invaded Iraq. On September 26, 2002, he was quoted in the Chicago Defender saying Bush had not made a sufficient case for the war and that the was "a cover-up for a failing economy."

Obama introduced his own troop withdrawal bill on Jan. 30, 2007, more than three months before Dodd's ad.

Many factors come into play when a politician is weighing how to vote on a controversial measure. It's usually impossible to single out any particular factor. In this case, Dodd was one of many Democrats taking a firm stand on withdrawal, but it's a stretch to say Obama and Clinton changed their positions because of him.