Talking to Hillary about her hawkish image

( - promoted by Drew Miller)

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s biggest challenge in Iowa may be the Iraq War and her reputation as a hawk. She tries to dodge the single most important issue in the 2008 race; she knows it is her Achilles heel. When asked at the IDP Central Committee meeting this morning, she almost apologized for her 2002 vote authorizing Bush to use force against Iraq. Almost. She said she takes “responsibility” for the vote and said she would not have voted that way had she’d known what she does now. But she added that there are no “do-overs” in life, and we need to discuss what to do now.

It was just dumb luck that I got to have a personal, 5-minute conversation with Hillary. I just happened to be by the coffee machine as she was exiting the building, and I struck up a conversation over her hawkish reputation as she shook my hand. To tell you the truth, I was surprised at how personable she is in conversation, unhurried and very at ease (I think JoDee Winterhof is not yet confident enough with Hillary to pull her away from worthless conversations with party activists like me).

Hillary is smart and capable of winning people over at the retail level. She is pretty good looking, too, though Edwards is the clear winner in the 2008 Iowa beauty pageant. And though Clinton is more knowledgeable in foreign policy than Edwards, I think Edwards is ahead of her on the most important issue of the day.

Hillary knew exactly what I meant when I said that her hawkish reputation would be a limiting factor for her in the Iowa caucuses. She first gave me the excuse she used earlier in the morning, that her experience as a New Yorker on 9/11 is perhaps influencing her positions. That response is not too much different from what Bush gives when he needs to justify his failed war.

But then she gave the more reasonable and understandable explanation: she has to worry that she would be perceived as too weak in a general election. This is the sort of triangulation that helped Kerry lose in 2004. Still, if you look at the poor showing that our female congressional candidates had in 2006 compared to male candidates, you can sympathize with Hillary’s predicament – she has to look tough in the 2008 general election, another war election.

The bottom line she gave me was that if she had been confronted as president with the situations Bush encountered, there is “no way” that she would make the same terrible mistakes, such as invading Iraq in a pre-emptive war. I believe her, and I am more comfortable with her foreign policy positions now. But she probably will have to do better than that to win the Iowa caucuses.

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  • Hawk Fear

    It’s good to hear Hillary admit what a number of political activists already know, assuming they haven’t jumped to rash conclusions without putting themselves in Hillary’s shoes. This highlights or serves as a microcosm of electoral fears, which have been exacerbated under the Bush Regime: When in doubt, people tend to vote their fear in lieu of their conscience. Hillary’s bid for president threatens the male stanglehold on power and those threatened by it the most (e.g. The Right Wing) will do everything in their power to paint Hillary as a threat to our country. Watch the smear campaign unfold and follow the smear trail and see where it ends up. Hillary has no other choice but to take a strong, hawklike stance on war if she wants to squelch those harboring fears. If she can play on this, expose her attackers, and exploit their fears, this should prove advantageous to Hillary. Obama will have the problems, only with his race.

    Regarding whether or not I’d support Hillary, the Iraq issue is a “push” — especially since she’s not alone in voting to grant Bush the authority to destroy other countries as well. I still haven’t heard her admit she was wrong in this endeavor, taking responsibility (but she may have that I’m not aware of) Spread the wealth, eh? My concerns are the rest of Hillary’s stances and political philosophies, especailly since she’s the DLC personified. I’m hesitant to trust any DLC politician who proposes a progressive agenda. They’ve been beholden to corporate interests since the DLC’s inception, attempting to mirror the Corporate Repbulican political successes of the ’70s and ’80s. I’m also more willing to trust someone whose background suggests socioeconomic struggles and obstacles in their past. Bill had this going for him, so when he “felt your pain” you could identify with him. This will be a hard sell for Hillary. Vilsack, Edwards, and Obama have this working for them.

    Hillary has more than the war issue to overcome in Iowa if she wants to connect with caucus voters. I’m glad she’s running and her voice is important for a whole plethora of reasons, whcih I won’t go into at this point.

  • Hillary, Edwards, et al

    How is it that I, just an average citizen living hundreds of miles from Washington D.C., knew before this war started that (1) Saddam Hussein did not pose an imminent threat to the United States, and (2) an attempt to control 22 million Iraqis divided into three sectarian groups would land us in a quagmire? If I could figure that much out, anyone in Congress could have figured it out, too. Any one of them who says s/he didn’t know is either stupid or bullshitting you. Most of the Democrats who voted for the war did so because they thought their political futures depended upon it. So we can know from experience that they are willing to sacrifice American lives for the sake of their own career ambitions. Who in good conscience can vote to make a candidate with such character the most powerful person on earth?

    • Pretty much.

      Except you have to remember that there was no stopping the invasion. Cheney was determined to go in, no matter the opposition, international or domestic. With Republicans united to invade, there was nothing the Dems in Congress could have done to stop it. So, it was CYA.

      There is a chance that someone that voted for the 2002 authorization will be the Democratic nominee. If that happens, I am still going to support their candidacy, because they are going to put forward a better foreign policy than anything the Republicans will do. Can you imagine a McCain presidency?

      Still, you’re right. They knew better.

      • Inevitable or not...

        ..the Dems didn’t have to just roll over. They could have retained their power to declare war. Instead, they signed over their Constitutional powers to the President with barely a wimper. They had a moral obligation to speak out, but most didn’t. Yes, most of them would be better than another Bush, but how much better, if you can’t really trust them to do the right thing when it counts?

        The chance of McCain getting nominated are pretty slim, but you are right that almost any Republican currently running would be a bad choice. But I have to admit that my energy to work for candidates whom I don’t really believe in is waning. And I’m tired of having to parse these guys’ spin. I am hoping beyond hope that, this time, the Democrats will nominate someone who speaks in a straightforward and honest manner. So far, the only one I’m hearing this from is Obama.

        • Then support Obama

          Besides Obama, Richardson has a clean record on Iraq, and a ton of good foreign policy experience. They haven’t declared, but Wes Clark and Al Gore would both be exceptional presidents and have clean records on Iraq.

          We have many choices for nominees, and I hope we can spend more time supporting our favorites than tearing down the other Dems. Senator Clinton is not that high on my list, but I am actually getting pretty tired of the Hillary haters.

          • no hate, just frustration

            I certainly don’t consider myself a Hillary hater, but I think it is our responsibility not to be snowed by her or Edwards’ rhetoric about their war vote. By holding them accountable, we open up more room for candidates like Obama, Richardson, Clark, and Gore. Many of the attacks we are already seeing on Hillary, Obama, et al, are ridiculous, but the war is a valid issue to press these folks on.

            • Definintely

              I did not consider your comments to be those of a Hillary hater, not even close. But there is some venom out there, and it is not all from those indoctrinated by the right wing conspiracy. The absurdity and severity of the Iraq invasion has everybody’s blood boiling.

        • where is Senator Obama on the war?

          I am tired of hearing Obama supporters brag about how he was against the war from the beginning.

          Let’s be real. Obama was against the war when he was a state senator no one outside Illinois ever heard of. His stand against the war was not some kind of profile in courage act.

          For the last two years, Obama has been a “rock star” in the Senate who is frequently booked on nationwide tv. Is he using this incredible platform to call for redeploying troops immediately? No, as Atrios has documented numerous times, Obama is always saying we need to give it another 4 to 6 months, then think about what to do. A few months down the road, is he saying bring the troops home now? No, he is saying we need to give it a few more months.

          He goes on Larry King and the first thing he says is, here’s what I completely agree with the president about.

          Which is to say that Obama, once in the nationwide spotlight, is cautious and doesn’t want to be seen making a mistake on a big national security issue. Which is just like most of those Dem senators when they voted for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002.

          I’d like to see Obama show a little courage now, but instead he is playing it safe to hang on to his status as media darling.

          • Win

            Jeez people.  Open your eyes.  The easy thing to do would be to bang the drum and court the super-activists.  It shows a lot more courage to hold a little of that passion inside.  Why?  Because maybe they are trying to win.

            How much better is Congress now that Dems are running the show?  They control the agenda.  Instead of voting on partisan garbage intended solely to put Dem members in danger, you’re seeing progressive legislation.  Minimum wage.  Stem cell research.  Even a resolution telling the president to back off escalation in Iraq.  In order to do that, we had to win first.

            Winning gives us back the agenda.  I’m so sick of activists complaining about someone not being super-liberal enough.  You don’t see Cindy Sheehan winning any elections, do you?  I’m not sure she’d get elected in San Francisco, let alone a nationwide election.

            So my advice is to have a little bit of faith and back off of your obvious complaints.  All the Dem candidates want to end the war responsibly.  That’s a fact.  To do so, they have to control the reigns of the country.  To do that, they may have to hold their cards closer to their chests.

            • you're complaining to the wrong person

              I am for Edwards this time around. I recognize that his vote on the IWR was wrong, but I feel that he has atoned for that and is the most progressive viable candidate in the race.

              It’s the Obama fans who are quick to say we should never support anyone who’s ever made a mistake (and rarely do they acknowledge Obama’s mistakes).