Hillary seems to raise possibility of nuking terrorist 'safe havens'
Clinton promises 'heavy retaliation' for terrorist-harboring nations
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, finding herself in an unexpectedly close race with freshman Sen. Barack Obama, flexed her national security muscles in Saturday night's Democratic debate, raising the possibility of loosing nuclear weapons on countries that harbor terrorists who plot a nuclear attack on the US.
Clinton, answering a hypothetical question about the possibility of a nuclear weapon being detonated in the US, said she would immediately target terrorist "safe havens." The former First Lady warned "every state in the world must know we will retaliate," and she invoked deterrence aimed at the Soviet Union during the Cold War -- predicated on mutually assured destruction resulting from a US nuclear counter-strike -- as a successful strategy for averting a nuclear catastrophe.
ABC News anchor Charles Gibson, who was moderating Saturday night's Facebook-cosponsored debate, asked the candidates to imagine questions they would face the day after a nuclear weapon was detonated in a major US citiy. What will we wish we had done, and what will you as president do? Gibson asked the candidates.
Although she did not deliberately say she would launch nuclear weapons at countries where terrorists were believed to have found safe haven, her answer left it as a clear probability.
"If we can demonstrate that the people responsible for planning the nuclear attack on our country may not themselves be in a government or associated with a state, but have a haven within one, then every state in the world must know we will retaliate against those states," Clinton said. "There cannot be safe havens for stateless terrorists who are in these networks that are plotting to have the proliferation of nuclear weapons ... that could cause such havoc. So I think we have to be very, very clear: Deterrence worked during the Cold War in large measure because the United States made it clear to the Soviet Union that there would be massive retaliation. We have to make it clear to those states that would give safe have to stateless terrorists that would launch a nuclear attack against America, that they would also face very heavy retaliation."
Obama said he would retaliate against anyone who struck American soil, although he focused more on the need to decrease the availability of nuclear weapons overall. He criticized President Bush for abandoning the goals of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and he said the US needed to work with Russia so both countries can begin reducing their nuclear arsenals.
Four out of Five Facebook users said Saturday's debate was helping them decide who they would support, and two-thirds said they were confident a Democrat could handle national security issues, according to real-time polls on the social networking site.
Later in the debate, Clinton implicitly invoked President Bush in warning about the perils of choosing likability over experience in a presidential race. The former First Lady, who's long struggled with image concerns, joked that it "hurts my feelings" that polls show voters find Obama to be far more likable that her.
"He's very likable, there's no doubt about that," Clinton said, but "I don't think I'm that bad."
"You're likable enough," Obama cut in.
Then Hillary unleashed her Bush comparison.
"In 2000 we ended up with a president who people wanted to have a beer with," she said.
"The most important question is who is ready to be President on Day One."
This video is from ABC Presidential Debate, broadcast January 5, 2008.