Three Little Words

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 Doesn’t Get It on Iraq.”

CLINTON: I kept trying to say “Well if we knew then what we know now it would not have ever come for a vote,” all of which was true, but just sort of avoided the fact of my saying “You know I just got it wrong, plain and simple. I made a mistake.” I thought a lot about that, because people said well—“You’re not saying you made a mistake for political reasons.” 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 “Terrible mistake, shouldn’t have done it,” 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 couldn’t break faith with them. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to anybody else but me, but that’s how I felt about it. So I kept temporizing and I kept avoiding saying it because I didn’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 “mainstream” 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.

“I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’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.”

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.

20 thoughts on “Three Little Words

  1. I have the same worries, maha.

    But, at a time when the architects of “Dick & W’s Deadly Follies” – Kristol, Krauthammer, Feith, Wolfowitz, etc… – are doubling down on going into Iraq (AGAIN! ‘Third time’s the charm, eh boys?’), I look at Hillary and see at least some evolution.
    Or, maybe I’m just not wanting to see what’s really there.

    Is it that hard to say, “I was wrong?”
    I guess for politicians it must be – because we so rarely hear that phrase.

  2. Seriously? The way to keep her faith with this Marine lieutenant she’s close to is to risk his life for no reason? God forbid she should keep her faith with the country in the same way.

  3. You nailed what is so nauseating about Hillary Clinton. She could not plainly see that invading Iraq was wrong, and she lacked the guts to say so. Instead we get a pile of equivocations. When you understand something clearly, there’s no need for a pile of words.

    The supermarket across the street had a table set up last night with copies of Hillary’s book – and I can’t imagine the largely hispanic and lower class white clientele just rushing to buy this doorstop. There’s something unnerving about the forced expression on her face, someone whose mind is so screwed up with having to believe certain things for political expediency. Seeing her staring back at me with that riveted look in her eyes, next to the produce department, was not unlike those ubiquitous graphics of Big Brother from “1984”.

    Of course I’ll vote for her over the Republican nightmare, but the late 90’s phrase “Clinton fatigue” (which was fictitious at that time) comes to mind.

  4. Iraq is only the beginning of what’s wrong with Clinton. She’s never met a defense appropriation or war she didn’t like. Her tenure as SoS was marked by maneuvering for military action in numerous trouble spots. She’s a hawks hawk. On top of that her economic policy is as corporatist as it gets
    Frankly, I will never vote for anyone who voted for AUMF for any public office – from dog catcher to president. Claiming her original vote was based on bad information is the worst sort of lie – I’d rather she just say she’s proud of her vote and leave it at that.
    Every progressive in the country saw through the lies in real time. How this then sitting US Senator can claim she was mislead is beyond me, but frankly I don’t care. If she’s the nominee I go third party. She will never get my vote.

  5. Bob,
    I can certainly understand how you feel.
    But the people who voted for the third party in 2000, netted us the W & Dick co-Presidency, and “Dick & W’s Disastrous Follies.”
    With, of course, a lot of help from the SCOTUS.

    If Hillary’s a clear winner, go ahead and vote your conscience.
    But if it’s close, please don’t damn the rest of us with another Republican President – especially because the party has gotten so insane, we may long for the times of W & Dick, and remember them, as “The Good Old Days.”

  6. Gulag – that’s my fear: that the next Republican will be even worse than W. I hope Bob lives in a Blue State where a few third party votes won’t matter to the electoral college. I voted for Nader in 2000, but my state went for Gore anyway (phew). I can certainly sympathize with Bob: some choice – a full crazy Republican or Republican-Lite.

  7. I live in a very blue state but frankly it doesn’t matter. I’m 56 years old and have spent my entire life hearing – and making – the same “we gotta vote Democratic” arguments. I’m tired of it. We have given the party a perfect reason to not change – why should they if our votes are guaranteed?
    Yes, the base needs to do more – especially at the state and local level. The left tends to emphasize presidential elections – the right looks down ticket.
    Regardless, a Democratic Party guaranteed our votes regardless of positions is a Democratic Party moving ever further rightward.

  8. Bob,
    The party is actually starting to move back to the left.
    See, Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, etc.

    WE have to be the ones motivating the politicians.
    We’ll wait forever, if we’re not the ones pressing them to move left.
    Look at Obama’s first two years – he did more than any Democratic President in his first two years since FDR, than LBJ.
    WE did that.
    And then, too mane of US didn’t show-up in 2010.

  9. I honestly don’t see a nickels worth of difference between Hillary and, say, Jeb Bush. If you want a woman president – work on Elizabeth Warren’s campaign! Hilary is a corporatist, through and through!

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  11. c u n d gulag: you wrote “WE have to be the ones motivating the politicians.”
    It seems to me that’s the argument I am making. I am trying to motivate Democratic politicians.
    Clinton is as militaristic and corporatist as anyone in the Republican Party. Would she be better in terms of NLRB and Supreme Court nominations? Yes, marginally at least. But still, in my opinion AUMF was the worst bill passed in my lifetime. I saw it – quite clearly – as being based on outright lies – as did virtually all progressives. Yet Democratic senators want us to believe they were fooled.
    They weren’t. They misread the mood of the party faithful and didn’t have the guts to stand up to George fucking Bush.
    If I can’t withhold my vote based on that – the single worst bill in 50+ years and being afraid to stand up to a halfwit like Bush – then your argument really boils down to I can’t withhold my vote for any reason.
    Sorry, but I vehemently disagree. I don’t know how far you are willing to let Democratic politicians go before saying “enough is enough” but AUMF and Bush backing is beyond my level of acceptance.

    • Bob — I don’t think anyone’s arguing with you. However, a big reason progressives are ignored by politicians is that progressives skip midterms and often ignore down-ticket races. And older voters are much more reliable voters than younger ones. ONE of the things that needs to happen to turn things around is that politicians need to fear progressive voters. Right now, they don’t.

  12. One thing to consider is if Hillary got elected President it would break the glass ceiling for a woman to attain that office. Even if she’s the biggest flop she will have broken the barrier that the office of the presidency is an exclusively male club. That fact alone would represents progress. Just like Obama broke the barrier that the presidency was an exclusively white male domain.
    There’s also the possibility that if she’s elected she’d be in a position to be true to her convictions and she could put aside the political posturing.
    I’ve never been a big fan of Hillary’s, but I do feel that she has a fight in her, and if some of the constraints of political maneuvering are removed from her she might be a better president than her history would make her appear. And I would support her based solely on that feeling.

  13. Those comments are definitely a tell as to what we could expect from a Hillary presidency. If she was truly being honest when she said she was wrong about her Iraq vote, then she missed an easy opportunity to just admit it without reservations.

    Clinton is no fool, and I believe, unlike some of her mentally challenged colleagues across the aisle, that she had the intellectual wherewithal at the time of the Iraq vote to know that it was a disaster in the making. But voted for it anyway out of political expediency.

    Many on the left say we have to get behind Hillary or else some crazy wingnut insane enough to make W look like Gandhi will become president. But the dems and their standard bearer has to stand for more than I am the lesser evil.

  14. Bob…I hear what you’re saying, and I agree in large part. One point I don’t agree with is where you say that the Democrat Senators want us to believe they were fooled. There is a real possibility that they were sincerely fooled. If I remember correctly the run-up to the invasion was such a cluster fuck of bullshit and misinformation that it was difficult to know what the truth was at the time.
    I remember one scene where some senator who was wanting more information about the intelligence before he would commit to be a go along was treated to a behind closed door super secret briefing with some committee. When he emerged from the briefing and met with the press.. he appeared like he’d just seen a ghost. Whatever line of bullshit he had been fed behind those doors had removed any doubt in his mind that Saddam had to go. I don’t remember the Senator’s name, I do remember I perceived him as a standup guy, not some partisan hack.
    I guess my point is that there was so much shit coming in from all directions that it was near impossible to sort it all out and know with conviction that we were being given a snow job. Even the politicians had to rely on unreliable sources to get any information on which to base their votes.
    I know for myself that the invasion of Iraq was well underway before I knew for sure that I had been played just like millions and millions of other Americans. I never heard of PNAC until 2004. And that was one of my clues in firmly understanding that I had been played.

    I gotta commend Cheney and his team in one respect…They did a good job of deceiving the American people.

  15. @Maha: I agree with you with the caveat that progressives are also ignored because the bulk of us will vote Democratic no matter what in presidential elections. If we ask for nothing in return for our votes we can hardly act surprised when we get nothing in return.
    @Swami wrote: “There’s also the possibility that if she’s elected she’d be in a position to be true to her convictions and she could put aside the political posturing.”
    She is being true to her convictions right now – and she was true to her convictions as SoS and a Senator. Why do you believe her entire political career is a sham?
    Furthermore, I fail to see how that would represent a positive side of her character. If she has been so craven as a US Senator and SoS as to aggressively pursue policies she actually opposed and knew to be harmful to the country in order to advance her own career I’ll add that to my list of reasons to never vote for her. She sent thousands of American soldiers to their deaths in Iraq knowing it was wrong but thinking it would help her politically? THAT’S a selling point?
    Note sure why you find that acceptable but frankly it’s a more damning argument than any I’ve made.
    I have no objection to some of the stupid shit politicians do to advance their careers. Hell, I don’t care that Sen Clinton helped push a flag burning amendment – pure nonsense but virtually meaningless nonsense. If she felt that would help her career who cares. But Iraq? I have more respect for her if she believed in her vote at the time. If she thought it wrong but cast it for her own advancement she is a more loathsome person than Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld combined.

    • “I agree with you with the caveat that progressives are also ignored because the bulk of us will vote Democratic no matter what in presidential elections.”

      It’s complicated. Back in the 1970s the New Left kicked the props out from under the Democratic Party — basically, what was left of the old New Deal coalition, especially labor unions — but didn’t bother to replace the old props with new ones. Instead, all the movements rooted in the 1960s devolved into single-issue advocacy organizations that may have leaned Democratic but didn’t make any promises. Party politics was passe, dontcha know. Dem candidates had to go where the money was, which was corporations. As I’ve heard it said, Dems meekly got into line behind Republicans for the second biggest checks. Through the 1980s and 1990s Dems in Washington learned to not depend on progressive voters for anything. So maybe most of us voted for them, in a he’s not as bad as the other guy way, but it’s also the case that there was no coalition of interest groups/causes/whatever the Dems could count on to get into the trenches, work for candidates, get out the vote, and write checks. It’s been only in the past ten years or so, and mostly through organizing over the Web, that there’s been anything resembling a grassroots effort to turn that around. So while I appreciate what you say about taking progressive voters for granted, the real problem started when progressive voters disengaged from the party, and I don’t see that continued disengagement is going to solve that problem.

  16. Why do you believe her entire political career is a sham?

    Basically because its in the nature of politics or in being a politician that political expedience has a necessary advantage over personal convictions. Look at the AUMF or Patriot Act.. I’m sure many of the votes cast to pass those two measures were cast more to relieve political pressure or through political expedience than were cast out of conviction.
    I think there’s a sign that hangs in the rotunda of the Capitol.. It reads: Abandon all scruples ye who enter here.
    As a Senator Hillary might possibly be showing her true convictions, but as SoS she is under authority and is duty bound to serve the President’s directives. She is not a free agent who gets to exercise her own agenda. I guess she could always pack it in if she had a conflict of principles that made the job intolerable, but that would be the end of her political career.
    My thought on my post above was that once you’ve reached the office of the Presidency your political career had run its course, and hopefully with that understanding would come a freedom from the demands of making decisions based on political expedience. At least in theory.

  17. Swami,
    “I gotta commend Cheney and his team in one respect…They did a good job of deceiving the American people.”

    I was living in Chapel Hill, NC, at the time, and “The Raleigh Observer,” did GREAT job of telling fact, from fiction.
    It was a Knight-Ridder paper, and they weren’t IM-bedded in the DC MSM Cocktail circuit.
    The MFer’s were lying!
    But too many people, MSM members included, WANTED a war to call their own.
    They got it.
    And so did we.
    Right up the ass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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