March 8, 2008 9:54 a.m.

I guess these things run in cycles. But let’s get real and admit that Hillary Clinton is getting the free ride of all free rides on her repeated invocations of foreign policy experience. As part of her foreign policy experience Clinton claims “I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland.”

The whole quote is as follows …

You know, I was involved for 15 years in, you know, foreign policy and security policy. You know, I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland. I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo. I’ve been standing up against, you know, the Chinese government over women’s rights and standing up for human rights in many different places. I’ve served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And I was the only senator of either party asked to be on an important task force put together by the Pentagon under this administration to figure out what to do with our military going forward.

Now, the Chicago Tribune reports that the borders in question were opened the day before Clinton arrived in the region. But the Northern Ireland claim is the kicker. George Mitchell, who’s obviously a friend, has called Clinton’s role ‘helpful’, according to CNN. But the UK papers today have David Trimble, a key unionist leader and former First Minister and Irish historian Tim Pat Coogan both pooh-poohing her claims. Coogan says her role was “part of the stage effects, the optics.”

These are the sorts of puffed up claims that get other candidates held up to mockery and derision. But Clinton is using them as cudgels in her effort to portray Obama as a lightweight with no experience dealing with foreign policy crises. And basically she’s getting a pass. I guess it speaks to the advantages of staying on offense, which can never be gainsaid. But she’s still getting a big pass on this and a lot else.

Late Update: Here’s the Clinton campaign’s argument (with testimonials) about Hillary’s role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

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