by Jill Zuckman
When Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) cancelled a campaign trip to Rock Hill, S.C., his web site said it was “due to crucial votes in the Senate concerning the ongoing war in Iraq.”
So, why did Obama miss a key vote denouncing MoveOn.org’s recent advertisement about Gen. David Petraeus? The ad stirred outrage nationally for suggesting Petraeus was a lackey for the White House and disloyal to the country. “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” it asked.
Obama voted for the Democratic alternative offered by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) reaffirming strong support for all men and women in the military and condemning attacks on the “honor, integrity and patriotism” of any individual who is serving or has served in the Armed Forces.
But he skipped the vote that came next. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) offered a “sense of the Senate” resolution that Petraeus “deserves the full support of the Senate” and said the Senate “strongly condemns personal attacks” on his honor and integrity.
Cornyn’s resolution was a direct swipe at the anti-war group, MoveOn.org, a powerful factor in the Democratic presidential primary. Senators Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) - both of whom are running for president - voted against the Cornyn amendment. (Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who is also running for president, missed all three votes today.)
Obama didn’t vote at all on the Cornyn amendment to the Defense authorization bill.
That left lawmakers scratching their heads. “I thought it was curious,’’ said Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the Minority Whip.
Cornyn noted that it would not have taken Obama much more time to have voted on his amendment after voting for Boxer’s. “I don’t know why he had to leave,’’ Cornyn said.
Republican presidential candidates have made hay on the campaign trail as they demand that their Democratic counterparts denounce the Petraeus ad.
Obama managed to cast a vote on the other two amendments of the day, including an ‘aye’ for Sen. Russ Feingold’s amendment to start withdrawing troops within 90 days. But his campaign was insistent that he skipped his Rock Hill, S.C. event to do his work in the Senate.
“On a personal level, the Senator wanted us to relay his sincere regret for having to postpone this town hall event in such an important part of the Palmetto State, but, knowing how crucial today's vote on the war in Iraq is to the future of the country, he knew South Carolinians would understand,’’ Obama’s web site said.
“The campaign will be rescheduling the Senator's planned town hall in Rock Hill as soon as possible,” the message continued. “However, until then, South Carolinians should rest assured knowing that, while Barack may not be able to join us tomorrow in SC, he's doing so only to play his role in ending the war he's opposed since before it began.”
Aides to Obama had no immediate response to queries about why the senator took a pass on the Cornyn vote, but the senator made his objections clear.
"The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements,'' Obama said. "This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq.''