Before debate with Clinton, Sanders touts vote against Iraq War

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Story highlights

  • Sanders distributes 2002 speech against the war
  • A likely line of attack on Clinton in Tuesday's CNN debate

Boulder, Colorado (CNN)Three days ahead of the first Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders' campaign reminded voters on Saturday that he voted against the Iraq War in 2002 -- emailing out his 13-year-old speech from the House floor.

Going into Tuesday night's faceoff on CNN, the email was effectively the Sanders' campaign telegraphing an expected line of attack that the independent Vermont senator could use against Hillary Clinton, who voted the other way, giving then-President George W. Bush the authority to wage war.
The email, which came from Michael Briggs, Sanders' spokesman, said the 2002 speech "shows that he has the judgment and experience to make foreign policy decisions in the best interests of the United States and our allies" and called the Iraq war vote "one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the history of the United States."
    Sanders brought the same message to his last rally before the critical debate, telling an audience of 9,000 in Boulder, Colorado, that he never believed the Bush administration's talking points on the war so he gave it a thumbs down.
    "In my view, a major military power, which is what we are, has got to do everything that it can to resolve international conflict without going to war," Sanders said.
    It's not the first time Sanders has brought up the Iraq War to hit Clinton.
    "I would point out to you that in perhaps the most significant public policy issue of our time, the war in Iraq, I cast the correct vote," he told CNN in an interview earlier this year. "On the other hand, Secretary Clinton voted for that war. Her judgment was not right. It is an issue we have got to talk more about."
    Clinton's 2002 vote in favor of the Iraq War hung over her for a decade. It was one of the biggest divisions between her and then-Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary, and liberal Democrats hammered Clinton for her vote. Some analysts say it was one of the key reasons she lost the nomination.
    In her recent memoir "Hard Choices," Clinton writes that she "should have stated my regret" on Iraq "sooner and in the plainest, most direct language possible."
    "When I voted to authorize force in 2002, I said that it was 'probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make,'" she writes. "I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn't alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple."
    At a town hall in New Hampshire earlier this month, Clinton was asked by a Iraq war veteran about her vote.
    "I misjudged what he would do with it and I am very regrettable about that," she said. "I am probably much more wary and prepared to say no because I saw what was done with a vote I gave a president, so I would be even more cautious" to approve war again.
    Sanders will likely not be the only Democratic candidate on the stage on Tuesday looking to hit Clinton on Iraq.
    Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has signaled repeatedly throughout his dark-horse presidential campaign that he will use Clinton's Iraq War vote against her.
    "Considering the premise for invading Iraq was based on falsehoods and considering the ramifications we live with now from that mistake, I would argue that anybody who voted for the Iraq War should not be president and certainly should not be leading the Democratic Party," Chafee, who voted against the war, said in an interview with CNN earlier this year.
    Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is running way behind Clinton and Sanders in the polls, has also subtly knocked Clinton on Iraq. In June, he said the "the invasion of Iraq... will be remembered as one of the most tragic, deceitful and costly blunders in U.S. history."