If Hillary Clinton intends to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, questions about Benghazi!!! may be less likely to trip her up than questions about Iraq. A little candor on her part might go a long way toward putting her support for the invasion to rest, but I’m sorry to say candor isn’t her strong suit.
These days she is saying her vote to authorize the invasion in 2002 was a mistake, but she couldn’t recant the vote because she couldn’t “break her faith” with the troops. See George Zornick, “Hillary Still Doesnâ€™t Get It on Iraq.”
CLINTON: I kept trying to say â€œWell if we knew then what we know now it would not have ever come for a vote,â€ all of which was true, but just sort of avoided the fact of my saying â€œYou know I just got it wrong, plain and simple. I made a mistake.â€ I thought a lot about that, because people said wellâ€”â€œYouâ€™re not saying you made a mistake for political reasons.â€ Well in fact, in the Democratic Party at that time, the smart political decision, as so many of my colleagues did, was to come out and say â€œTerrible mistake, shouldnâ€™t have done it,â€ and you know blame the Bush administration. I had this sense that I had voted for it, and we had all these young men and women over there, and it was a terrible battle environment. I knew some of the young people who were there and I was very close to one Marine lieutenant who lead a mixed platoon of Americans and Iraqis in the first battle for Fallujah. So I felt like I couldnâ€™t break faith with them. Maybe that doesnâ€™t make sense to anybody else but me, but thatâ€™s how I felt about it. So I kept temporizing and I kept avoiding saying it because I didnâ€™t want there to be any feeling that I was backing off or undercutting my support for this very difficult mission in Iraq.
“I was wrong” would have been a better answer. Instead this comes across as “I avoided admitting my mistake and calling for a change in direction because we were sending all those troops over there to die and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings.”
Combine that with something Robert Kagan said a few days ago —
But Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his â€œmainstreamâ€ view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.
â€œI feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,â€ Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obamaâ€™s more realist approach â€œcould theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the tableâ€ if elected president. â€œIf she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,â€ he added, â€œitâ€™s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.â€
That’s exactly what worries me.
A few days ago radio interviewer Terry Gross pressed Clinton to explain the evolution of her thinking on same-sex marriage, and Clinton later criticized Gross for being persistent. All Clinton had to say was “I used to oppose it, but then I realized I was wrong and changed my mind.”
This is not difficult. It might even be true.
Where I see enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton in 2016, it appears to be coming mostly from women who really, really want to see a woman president. But that’s not good enough. After all the bellyaching about how Barack Obama isn’t progressive enough, why are we even thinking about Hillary Clinton, who is arguably even more corporatist and less progressive than Obama? It’s not like the Republicans are going to nominate someone who won’t scare the bejesus out of most folks, and we have to settle for name recognition.