Why Hillary won’t apologize for her vote Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The other day, in answer to the Iraq war vote question which seems to dog Hillary Clinton at every appearance, she answered:
"If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast a vote or who has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from."
As we noted on the podcast, that's probably the best answer she could give. But why, many ask, won't she just apologize for the vote and issue a mea culpa? John Edwards did. And so has just about every prominent Democrat who voted for it whether a presidential candidate or not.
Why not just admit it and get it over with now?
Brenden Miniter gives you an answer and it is something I've been saying for months:
In mid-January an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that public support for President Bush's troop surge increased to 35%, up from 26% a few weeks earlier. The same poll found that a slim majority of Americans were against the war in Iraq, but 68% said they opposed shutting off funds to fight it, and 60% said they would oppose Congress's withholding funds necessary to send additional troops.
The poll was not an anomaly. Hillary Clinton and her chief strategist, Mark Penn, himself a former pollster, know how to read public opinion surveys. Which may explain why she steadfastly refuses to "apologize" for voting to authorize the war in 2002 while also calling for Mr. Bush to end the war before he leaves office and favoring a nonbinding Senate resolution opposing an "escalation." The war may not be popular, but the public isn't ready to support losing either.
The AP/Ipsos poll is supported by the IBD/Tipp poll I featured yesterday. And further support can be found in the USA Today/Gallup and CBS polls. As Minter points out this isn't an anomaly. And this is the minefield that the Democrats now find themselves in. Of course, it's one of their own making so excuse me if I don't feel sorry for them (not that I would anyway).
So veteran poll watcher Hillary Clinton has read the tea leaves and decided that not apologizing has two benefits.
A) It demonstrates firmness. That's a quality many voters want in their chief executive. One of the big lessons learned by Democrats in the last election was 'flip-flopping' is not good. Standing firm, even if some of the base find that objectionable, may turn out to be better than changing you mind. I think Mitt Romney is learning that lesson right now.
B) It puts her nominally with the majority who are against cutting off funding even as they also are not pleased with the progress of the war. Or said another way, she recognizes that those who say they are unhappy with the war in Iraq aren't necessarily saying the war is wrong, but instead, that we aren't doing what is necessary to win. By refusing to apologize for her vote but continuing to criticize the administration's handling of the war, she can claim to represent this group if it becomes politically valuable to do so. Her refusal to apologize positions her to do so.
What she will most likely avoid like the plague is signing on to any version of the Murtha slow-bleed strategy. Minter gives an good assessment of the corner in which such a strategy may find the Democrats have painted themselves if they succeed in passing such a law:
Rep. John Murtha, who's spent more than two decades amassing political clout by doling out defense earmarks, might prefer to "slow bleed" the administration by putting conditions on money appropriated to fight the war. Mr. Murtha, with the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, may even succeed at hamstringing the president. But political success of such a strategy depends on two things: first, that U.S. troops will fail to win on the ground in Iraq; second, that a fickle public doesn't turn around and blame Democrats for that failure.
During the government shutdown in 1995, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich learned the hard way that the public can turn on congressional leaders who pick public fights with sitting president for little apparent gain. With the nonbinding resolution, Speaker Pelosi might have signed up for co-ownership of failure in Iraq, with little right to share credit for victory should the surge succeed.
Right now, given the visibility of the slow-bleed strategy and the advocacy for such a strategy by the Speaker, the worst thing politically which could happen for Congressional Democrats is to see the surge work. OTOH, hamstringing it could also end up being fatal politically. What a position to find yourself in politically, eh? Your political future may depend on your country failing in Iraq.
It sucks to be Hillary at this moment in Democratic party history. Ten years ago she was in the White House as Bill Clinton struggled with the destabilizing influence of Saddam Husseim’s regime in the Mid-East. She was a firsthand witness to the events that led up to the recent war.
During that era, moonbats like the Liberal Avenger were still struggling to get through puberty. But now the moonbats are large, in charge, and armed with the power of the My DD Action Alert. They are positioning themselves to be the king-makers in Democratic party politics.
Hillary faces a choice of submitting to re-education, or facing an attempt by the nutroots to purge her like they did to Lieberman. She does have the Clinton machine behind her, though, and it looks like those people are savvy enough to realize that she came to the fork in the road where she had to choose between the nutroots and political viability, and they steered her in the right direction.
The Democratic party as a whole will probably come to a similar fork in the road in the years to come.
As you’ve laid it out it may be a risky strategy, given that one accepts the conservative spin about advocating defeat, etc. However, how could it be more risky than signing on to another plan formulated by the Bush administration?
They have a demonstrated track record in Iraq. I would be very hesitant to portray the surge strategy as a sure winner for Republicans. Sometimes the blind faith in George W. Bush displayed by conservatives is amazing. It sure isn’t merited by his performance.
Sometimes the blind faith in George W. Bush displayed by conservatives is amazing.
I don’t consider my self a conservative and my position on this issue has nothing to do with Bush. Let’s start over, and try to look at this issue without invoking either of these two bugaboos.
Do you remember the debate before the war? Some people argued that since a war was such a grave decision that would entail much loss of life the inspections should be given a little more time.
Historian Niall Ferguson wrote in the Los Angeles Times yesterday about the probable effect of a sudden American pullout such as Murtha is trying to acheive:
In a devastating 2006 paper for the Brookings Institution, Daniel L. Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack pointed out that "the only thing standing between Iraq and a descent into a Lebanon- or Bosnia-like maelstrom is 135,000 American troops."
In fact, Iraq has already matched the level of violence witnessed in the Lebanese and Bosnian civil wars. And it could get much worse. If the U.S. pulls out, as Obama recommends, Byman and Pollack predict "a humanitarian nightmare" in which we should expect "hundreds of thousands (conceivably even millions) of people to die."
The Brookings Institute is not known as a hotbed of neoconservatism.
The actual policy choices that we face are:
1. Allowing General Petraeus a chance to stabilize Baghdad so that the US can withdraw in an orderly fashion without triggering more loss of life than the war itself has caused so far.
2. Allow Murtha to pull the rug out from under the troops immediately.
Aside from partisan political considerations, the only advantage that Murtha has claimed from acting immediately is his unsupported assertion that an American pullout would somehow reduce the violence in Iraq. Even the Washington Post, hardly a bastion of neoconservatism recognized that this argument is fraudulent (Feb 17, 2007):
Mr. Murtha’s cynicism is matched by an alarming ignorance about conditions in Iraq. He continues to insist that Iraq "would be more stable with us out of there," in spite of the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies that early withdrawal would produce "massive civilian casualties."
Is an apology from Hillary for voting in favor of the 2003 Iraq war resolution really necessary or is it just sound political strategy at this point? I explore this issue in an article entitled Hillary’s Turn to Apologize.