Barack Obama said Friday that even if Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton doesn't think he has the right foreign policy credentials to be president, many of her husband's former advisers do and are supporting him instead of her.
"In fact, you could argue that there are more foreign policy experts from the Clinton administration supporting me than Senator Clinton," Obama said. He added that "should raise some pretty interesting questions."
"Why is the national security adviser of Bill Clinton, the secretary of the Navy of Bill Clinton, the assistant secretary of state for Bill Clinton, why are all these people endorsing me?" he said. "And it's not just because I give a good speech. They apparently believe that my vision of foreign policy is better suited for the 21st century and is not caught up in the politics of fear that we've been seeing out of George Bush for the last seven years."
Asked for a counting of which officials were supporting Obama, spokesman Bill Burton provided a list of 47 nonmilitary advisers who served in the Clinton administration and have endorsed Obama — part of a broader list of 73 foreign policy experts the campaign announced Wednesday.
Burton compared that with a list of 32 former U.S. ambassadors and diplomats who served in the Clinton administration and signed a letter two weeks ago attesting to her foreign policy credentials.
Obama's statement, at a campaign stop with just 13 days until Iowa's presidential caucus, came in response to a questioner who asked him to compare his foreign policy vision to the former first lady. On Thursday, Clinton warned another Iowa audience not to support someone who isn't "up to speed on foreign affairs and military matters."
"That's the kind of logic that got us George Bush in the first place," she said. Advisers said the line was part of her closing argument against Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, with the three in a tight race in Iowa.
Obama began his response by saying he's been on the Foreign Relations Committee while serving in the Senate the past three years, "so even by the standards of Washington I have dealt more with foreign policy than, let's say, Bill Clinton had when he became president, or Ronald Reagan, who was a governor at the time. And these same arguments were made about them."
He said that unlike Clinton, he opposed the Iraq war from the start; he opposed an amendment to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization; and he thinks presidents should be willing to negotiate with leaders of rogue nations.
"My foreign policy record stands up very well against the people who say they've got all this experience in Washington," Obama said. "And part of the reason is because I'm not relying on the conventional wisdom. I'm relying on judgments made from a lifetime of experience and my service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and that's why I'm confident about my ability to provide leadership on the foreign policy front."