GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa – After four days of trotting out family, friends and constituents to tout her domestic achievements, Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday pulled out a top-brass cast from her husband’s presidency to sell herself as the only candidate who can lead the country out of war.
At a high school auditorium in the eastern farm town of Grundy Center, retired four-star Gen. Wesley Clark and former Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo Dennis West Jr. cast the New York senator as the sole presidential candidate who could hit the ground running as leader of the armed forces. They noted November’s vote is only the fifth in the nation’s history in which an incoming president will inherit a war – and in this case, not one but two.
Clinton is “a leader who can command,” West told students and residents as the candidate, standing straight in a brown pantsuit and pink blouse, nodded and smiled. When Clinton visited Bosnia as first lady, West said, she eschewed Air Force One to fly into a combat zone in a transport plane “strapped into the back and rattling around just like any other grunt.”
Others singing Clinton’s praises included Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during her husband’s presidency. Holbrooke is Clinton’s campaign foreign affairs adviser and widely considered her favorite for secretary of state.
In speeches at Grundy Center and elsewhere Thursday as she dashed by motorcade through the Iowa snow, Clinton reiterated vows to launch an immediate pullout from Iraq, withdrawing one or two combat brigades per month within 60 days of taking office. She also pledged to start diplomatic negotiations throughout the region, including in Iran.
“The next president will have to restore America’s leadership and moral authority in the world. … The era of cowboy diplomacy is over,” Clinton told cheering farmers in rural Tipton.
Though she refrained from naming Barack Obama or John Edwards, with whom she is in a statistical three-way tie in the critical Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, Clinton argued that a less experienced candidate could fail to end quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“You know, it is tempting any time things seem quieter for a minute on the international front, to think that we don’t need a president who is up to speed on foreign affairs and military matters,” she said. “Well, that is the kind of logic that got us George Bush.”
Among other actions, the Clinton campaign has launched anti-Obama Web sites, ABC reported, and criticized his voting record as an Illinois state senator.
The Obama and Edwards campaigns criticized Clinton’s statements and faulted her for having voted earlier this month for a Senate resolution that declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terror organization – a move they said could have encouraged Bush to invade Iran.