WASHINGTON -- White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) canceled his campaign schedule on Thursday in order to be in the Senate for votes. But he was one of only three senators -- of either party -- to take a walk and not vote yes or no on a GOP measure to condemn an ad Moveon.org ran in the New York Times against Gen. David Petraeus.
Obama said he did not vote because: "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.... By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics. I registered my views on the ad itself the day it appeared."
While the GOP-authored measure was engineered to drive a wedge between Democrats -- making a choice between a politically influential left-wing anti-war group and backing a decorated general -- Democratic presidential rivals Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Chris Dodd did take a position; they voted no.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), passed 72-25. Also not voting: White House contender Sen. Joe Biden and Sen. Maria Cantwell.
However, Obama did vote on a Democratic measure by Barbara Boxer intended to provide political cover for Democrats. Boxer's amendment reaffirmed support for all U.S. military personnel and condemned attacks on the patriotism of any soldier. The Boxer amendment failed. Cornyn's measure said it was a "sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate" and strongly condemned "personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces."
Obama has a history going back to his days as a state senator of not voting or voting "present" when it comes to measures he considers designed specifically to produce a vote record that can be attacked.
In Springfield in 1997, Obama voted present on late-term abortion bills. In 1999, he voted present on a bill increasing penalties for firing a gun near a school and on legislation dealing with the privacy of sex-abuse victims. In 2001, he voted present on a series of abortion-related bills.
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said Thursday Obama's present votes in Springfield were "part of a legislative strategy he crafted with advocates that helped senators in marginal districts vote their conscience on choice and to reduce gun violence."