I’m not sure you remember this, heck, I wasn’t even aware of it until I noticed someone post it on Twitter, but once upon a time Hillary Clinton made a speech in Congress that basically denounces everything that Barack Obama is doing in Iran. Seriously. At the time, of course, Hillary was speaking to President George W. Bush, and she would probably never say anything like this (publicly) to President Obama. But I think we can take her speech, wholesale, and apply it to what is happening in Washington, D.C. today.
In confronting enemies and threats, we are fortunate to possess a great many assets, all of which we must wisely deploy, including our military, diplomatic, economic, and cultural assets. Our strongest asset remains the democracy that we are privileged to take part in as members of the Senate and as representatives of our constituents. Our democratic institutions, under our Constitution, balance one another and check against excesses and concentrations of power that help us wrestle with difficult challenges in an open and forthright way. This constitutional framework is not an obstacle to pursuing our national security, but the example that we should project to the world. Our democracy, with its tradition of accountable power and open debate, is America at its best. And that’s what we need, America at our best, as we deliberately and resolutely confront the threat posed by the Iranian regime.
Now, make no mistake, Iran poses a threat to our allies and our interests in the region and beyond, including the United States. The Iranian president has held a conference denying the Holocaust and has issued bellicose statement after bellicose statement calling for Israel and the United States to be wiped off the map. His statements are even more disturbing and urgent when viewed in the context of the regime’s request to acquire nuclear weapons. The regime also uses its influence and resources in the region to support terrorist elements that attack Israel. Hezbollah’s attack on Israel this summer, using Iranian weapons, clearly demonstrates Iran’s malevolent influence even beyond its borders. We also have evidence, although it is by no means conclusive, of attacks using Iranian-supplied or manufactured weaponry against our own American soldiers. As I have long said and will continue to say, U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. And in dealing with this threat, as I’ve also said for a long time, no option can be taken off the table.
But America must proceed deliberately and wisely, and we must proceed as a unified nation. The smartest and strongest policy will be one forged through the institutions of our democracy. That is the genius of our American system and our constitutional duty. We have witnessed these past six years– until the most recent election of a new Congress by the American people– the cost of congressional dereliction of its oversight duty, a vital role entrusted to Congress by our constituents, enshrined in, and even required by our Constitution. So we are here today because the price that has been paid in blood and treasure; through the rush to war in Iraq and the incompetence of its execution and managing the aftermath; in the excesses of military contracting abuses and the inadequate supply of body armor and armored vehicles on the ground have led to a loss of confidence among our allies and the American people in this Administration. Therefore, Mr. President, we cannot and we must not allow recent history to repeat itself…
The President owes an on-going consultation to this Congress and owes straight talk to the country. We have to get this right. The Congress should debate our current course, including the current silent-treatment policy toward our adversaries. I believe we can better understand how to deal with an adversary such as Iran if we have some direct contact with them. I think that can give us valuable information and better leverage to hold over the Iranian regime. And if we ever must, with Congressional agreement, take drastic action, we should make clear to the world that we have exhausted every other possibility…
Oversight will also lead to a consensus approach that brings together the best judgments and strategies of our nation and will examine the consequences of action, the reality of any perceived or alleged threat, and the consequences of taking action. I sometimes fear that the word “consequence” has been taken out of the vocabulary of this Administration. We have to look over the horizon. We have to make hard choices among difficult options.
So, Mr. President, there are no easy answers to the complex situations we confront in the world today, but if we do face threats, then Congressional consultation and authorization will bring the American people into the debate. Whatever steps, if any, may be required should be taken by our nation, not just by our President. We must act as Americans, not as members of one party or another. Our nation has been divided by a failed policy and the relentless pursuit of it. We are facing that again with the escalation policy that the President is pursuing today.
Mr. President, if we face up to our constitutional responsibilities as the Congress, if we conduct the oversight that is required, if we exercise our checks and balances, then we are likely to reach a better conclusion than we have thus far. We must be tough and smart, deliberative and wise, and we must look at all of our assets, not just the brave men and women who wear the uniform of our country to implement the best policy. We should start by employing our best values, the democratic values that give strength to our nation and our cause, and that serve as an example and beacon to people who wish to live in peace and freedom and prosperity around the world.
Man, Hillary really tore President Obama a “new one” in that speech, didn’t she? Even if she meant it for President Bush.
You can Read the full transcript of her speech here.