Clinton Would Keep Some Troops In Iraq

hillary clinton
U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks during a news conference with other Democratic female senators on Capitol Hill June 21, 2006 in Washington, DC.
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Sen. Hillary Clinton sheds new light on what she'd do about Iraq if she were elected president in a New York Times interview Thursday.

The Democratic frontrunner has advocated "bringing the troops home," but she tells the newspaper she'd keep a reduced U.S. military force in Iraq to fight al Qaeda, discourage Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and perhaps assist the Iraqi military.

"I think we have remaining vital national security interests in Iraq" she said, which require the continued presence of American troops.

Clinton wouldn't give precise figures on the size of the U.S. force she envisions remaining in Iraq, but she said it would not be involved in urban warfare in Baghdad or in trying to quell sectarian violence.

"It would be far fewer troops," she said. "We would not be doing patrols. We would not be kicking in doors. We would not be trying to insert ourselves in the middle between the various Shiite and Sunni factions. I do not think that is a smart or achievable mission for American forces."

She also criticized President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq, but said, "We're doing it, and it's unlikely we can stop it."

Clinton said she would vote for the Democratic resolution on Iraq now being debated in the Senate, which calls for the pullout of U.S. combat forces from Iraq by the end of March 2008. She noted that the resolution also calls for "a limited number" of troops to remain in Iraq after that date.

Has McCain Lost His Maverick Touch?

John McCain's invitation to match wits with him on his Web site on picking the NCAA tourney winners may be a first for a presidential candidate, but the Washington Post still wonders if the Arizona senator is losing the maverick spirit that invigorated his 2000 campaign.

After nearly riding his "Straight Talk Express" to the White House seven years ago, the Post says McCain "has become the very picture of the highly managed presidential candidate he once scorned."

And that, the paper says, is losing him support.

McCain backers say he remains a maverick who has publicly challenged President Bush over U.S. torture policy, judges and campaign finance reform. But the Post points out that McCain has loaded his campaign staff with former Bush aides and has been one of the staunchest supporters of the president's Iraq policy.

The GOP campaign landscape is also far different this time than in 2000, with both Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney taking up the mantle of Washington outsider.

"Among Republican voters, Rudy has become the John McCain of 2008," said Rep. Peter T. King of New York, a former McCain supporter who's backing Giuliani now. "Being the guy who's tough, independent, an iconoclast – he is a newer version of John McCain."

Following The Obama Trail… To Indonesia

News organizations continue to roll up the frequent flier miles exploring Sen. Barack Obama's peripatetic childhood. The Los Angeles Times sent a reporter all the way to Indonesia to report on the four years Obama spent there as a boy and the impact living in a Muslim country had on him – and could have on his presidential aspirations.

The Times says that Obama "crisscrossed the religious divide" in Indonesia. "At the local primary school, he prayed in thanks to a Catholic saint. In the neighborhood mosque, he bowed to Allah."

Obama's campaign has emphasized his strong Christian beliefs and says he "has never been a practicing Muslim." A false report earlier this year that he attended a radical madrasa in Jakarta caused a brief stir before it was shot down.

Still, the Times says that while an understanding of the Muslim world might seem an advantage for a White House hopeful, any "connection with Islam is untrod territory for presidential politics."

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