Candidate Obama in 2007: Americans ‘Have a Right to Know’ Before Government Takes Military Action

By Matt Cover | March 25, 2011 | 4:55 PM EDT

( – President Barack Obama, as a presidential candidate in 2007, said the American people have a right to know about and participate in the debate over U.S. foreign policy decisions and whether the nation uses military force. His comments were captured on videotape.

“But the fact of the matter is that when we don’t talk to the American people – we’re debating the most important foreign policy issues that we face, and the American people have a right to know,” Obama said at the AFL-CIO debate on Aug. 7, 2007.

“It is not just Washington insiders that are part of the debate that has to take place with respect to how we’re going to shift our foreign policy,” he said.

Obama’s comments came at the end of a discussion between himself, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) over whether it was proper to announce, as Obama had done, that he would launch military strikes into Pakistan if Osama bin Laden was found there.

Dodd and Clinton both criticized Obama for saying he would launch the military strikes if the Pakistani government was unable or unwilling to kill or capture bin Laden, saying that openly discussing such military options was unwise.

“I think it is a very big mistake to telegraph that and to destabilize the Musharraf regime,” Clinton said, arguing that openly advocating military strikes might harm the fragile regime of pro-U.S. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

“I think it’s highly responsible – or irresponsible for people who are running for the presidency and seek that office to suggest we may be willing unilaterally to invade a nation here who we’re trying to get to be more cooperative with us in Afghanistan and elsewhere,” Dodd said.

Obama answered by saying it was “common sense” to note that if the Pakistanis could not act, then America should launch strikes into Pakistan.

“[I]f we have actionable intelligence on al Qaeda operatives, including bin Laden, and President Musharraf cannot act, then we should,” said Obama. “Now, I think that’s just common sense.”

Obama then went on to make the statement shown in the video, defending his position that telling the American people what he planned to do, before he did it, was the right thing to do.

This video has surfaced at a time when the Obama administration is facing mounting pressure over its attacks on Libya in North Africa, which were launched without the open debate that then-candidate Obama said Americans had a right to participate in.

The attacks on Libya – launched without congressional authorization on the day Congress went on a week-long recess – are part of a broader international mission intended to enforce a no-fly-zone on Libyan dictator Moammar Ghadhafi, who is fighting a civil war against armed rebel factions in the eastern part of the country.

The Obama administration has also moved hurriedly to hand control of the mission over to NATO commanders this week, ahead of Congress’ return on March 29.