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Posted by on Jan 28, 2007 in Politics, War | 17 comments

Hillary Clinton Takes “Responsibility” For Her Vote For War

hillary1.jpgNew York Senator Hillary Clinton, the favorite in the (early) polls to gobble up the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, has taken “responsibility” for her vote for the war — yet another step in trying to satisfy those in her party who continue to clamor for her to express regret for her earlier vote.

But will it be enough?

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton blamed President Bush on Saturday for misusing authority given him by Congress to act in Iraq, but conceded “I take responsibility” for her role in allowing that to happen.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Clinton also said she would not cede black votes to Barack Obama and that she had proven as a U.S. senator that gender is irrelevant.

Of her husband, the former president, she said he would have a role in the campaign but “I’m the one running for president.”

Clinton was making her first campaign swing through this early nominating state, which twice voted for Bill Clinton for president. She met with key activists and held a raucous town hall meeting with 1,500 cheering backers and hundreds of journalists.

“I have said clearly and consistently for quite some time that I regret the way the president misused the authority,” said Clinton. “He misled Congress and the country on what he was seeking and what he intended to do.”

The responsibility Clinton said she accepts was helping clear the way for Bush’s path in Iraq.

“I take responsibility for having voted to give him that authority,” she said. “My focus is on what we do now. That is the proper debate.”

In more normal times, that would be enough. But if you listen to some pundits, nothing short of “I BEG YOU — please accept my apology! I was wrong! (Sob!) I was wrong!” will do.

The problem with that is this whole line of argument assumes that all the politicos who voted for the war did so out of political self-interest or were going along to get along, or were not as wise and skillfully analytical as those who opposed the Iraq war at the very outset.

Just as many politicos and Americans supported the war for a variety of reasons, Americans seemingly opposed the war at the outset for various reasons. Some looked and studied the info, data and official justifications and felt it just didn’t add up. Others were offended by the craven way in which the Bush administration used approval of the war as a wedge issue against Democrats (if they didn’t support it, it was implied they were soft on terrorism — after all those mushroom clouds might be seen over American streets..). And then there were those who would oppose almost any war and those who simply would not support Bush or believe anything he said. For some of those, it was not opposition based on analysis but on acting on gut instinct and personal dislike.

What proportion do you find on each side on this? How many supported the war because they really felt it was the thing to do? And how many opposed it because they truly did an analysis and found it simply didn’t add up? We’ll really never know.

But we do know one thing.

If you go back and read the early news stories, some politicos — and most Americans, if you look at the history of the polling on the war — gave the administration the benefit of the doubt. Bush enjoyed widespread credibility after his early 911 speeches and the Afghanistan war. Americans were not used to (a)being so misled by their government in recent times and (b)being fed information that later turned out to be false.

The question facing Ms. Clinton: are those who will demand “I supplicate you, I plead with you forgive me on my vote!” the ones she needs? Or will her strong poll numbers, effective use of her hefty campaign chest, intricate political network, be enough? Will there be a new Howard Dean of the Left — someone that’ll come racing out of the primaries to set the Democratic party’s progressives on fire? Will charisma-packed Obama split the centrist vote? And what happens if former Vice President Al Gore surprises/doesn’t surprise (choose one according to your own political bias) everyone by entering the race?

Could and should Hillary Clinton go beyond this statement on the war? And, if it’s being demanded, is the demand that she indulge in what American political culture has become — a big, fat demand for politicians to SPIN. Because it’s clear that at the time Ms. Clinton believed she made the right choice. Will it help if she spins and finesses a judgment she made at the time that she felt was the right one, after weighing the information and giving Bush the benefit of the doubt? Times have changed: today, George Bush today isn’t getting much of the benefit of the doubt from some in his own party.

Hat tip to Hinessight