U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton used City Hall yesterday as the backdrop to renew her call to change tactics and withdraw troops from Iraq, saying money spent on the war could be better used to help the national mortgage crisis and this week's shutdown of part of Interstate 95 here.
Clinton, D-N.Y., was joined by former CIA agent Valerie Plame and former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Plame's undercover identity was leaked to reporters by Bush administration staffers after her husband criticized the war in Iraq.
Clinton's speech, coming a day before the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, was designed to deal with repeated attacks by her rival for the Democratic nomination for president, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., on her 2002 vote to authorize the president to go to war.
"I will tell you right up front that it is totally unfair and misleading to try to characterize George Bush's war as Hillary Clinton's responsibility," Wilson told a crowd of reporters.
Clinton repeated her plan to withdraw troops from Iraq within 60 days of becoming president, saying she would work to stabilize the region with diplomacy instead of military force, with an expanded role for the United Nations.
"The fact is there is no military solution to Iraq's civil war," Clinton said. "A well-planned withdrawal is the one and only path to a political solution."
Clinton added that she thinks additional U.S. troops sent to Iraq last year helped quell the violence there but that Iraqi leaders had taken "very meager" steps to take control of their country. She predicted that those leaders would not step up unless they are certain U.S. troops are leaving.
Obama wasn't a member of the Senate when the vote to authorize the war was cast but made speeches in 2002 opposing it while running for that office.
"In the end, the test is not speeches a president delivers," Clinton said, "It's whether the president delivers on the speech."
Ending the Iraq war would curtail about $10 billion to $12 billion in U.S. spending each month, Clinton said. She clearly has ideas where that money could be used.
She pointed to Monday's discovery of a severely cracked bridge support column that forced the closure of two miles of I-95 as a "failure to deal with our infrastructure" akin to the failures of levees in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of a Minneapolis bridge last August.
Clinton also fielded several questions about the recent intervention by the Federal Reserve to help J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. buy Bear Stearns, an investment bank flailing in the wake of the country's sub-prime mortgage crisis.
Clinton said she had been calling for a moratorium on the foreclosures of homes owned by people no longer able to pay the rising interest rates on their adjustable mortgages, for freezing those rates and for a pool of money to be set aside in any economic stimulus plan to help cities like Philadelphia deal with homeowners in trouble.