United States presidential election, 2008: Democrats debate al-Qaeda

Democratic presidential candidates grappled with national security issues in the latest debate, in Iowa.

Senator Hillary Clinton was asked about the difference between her statement that she would “take nuclear weapons off the table” with regard to Iran, and her criticism of Senator Barack Obama’s comments last month that nuclear weapons should not be used against al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She faulted Obama for discussing a hypothetical situation.

Obama responded: “It is not hypothetical that al-Qaeda has established base camps in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He criticized the “gamesmanship” that turned his comments into a campaign issue.

John Edwards said he would “not talk about hypotheticals in nuclear weapons.” He then said he would “lead an international effort over time to eliminate nuclear weapons from the planet.”

Bill Richardson said he would never use nuclear weapons first, but he would not take the option off the table. He also called for the creation of a treaty on “fissionable material, loose nuclear weapons.”


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