Advance copies of Hillary Clinton’s new book have been distributed and the book has already created a buzz over her statements about the Iraq War, Bergdahl, and other subjects. In a statement that will be viewed as many as “too little and too late,” Clinton now says that her support for the Iraq war (and vote for the war as a Senator) was a mistake. At the time of the Iraq war, many of us opposed the vote and called on Clinton and her colleagues to hold real, substantive hearings on the war. With the exception of Russ Feingold, the members refused and eagerly jumped on the band wagon for war. After all, the war was popular and the polls were with Clinton. Then the war became unpopular, the reasons for the war exposed as untrue, and Clinton’s position began to change. She tried to offer a nuanced answer while running for President in 2008, but avoided an admission of fault or mistake on her part (as opposed to others). Now, she is coming out and offering a type of “oops, my bad.” At the same time, she has moved to separate herself from the backlash over the Bergdahl trade. With some 44 percent of Americans opposed to the trade (and only around 29 percent supporting the trade), Clinton wants no part of the scandal and insists that she was steadfastly opposed to any trade for Taliban. At the same time, Clinton has publicly stated that she and Bill also faced hard times after leaving office. It seems that when they were “dead broke” while living in the large home in New York and worried (like so many families) of how to cover tuition costs and the mortgage.
The logic on Capitol Hill has long been that votes for wars like Iraq are the safe choice for politicians since the costs of appearing unpatriotic would have greater costs. Moreover, the view in Washington is that Americans have a short attention span and you can always express regret later or blame the prior administration. While thousands of Americans are dead or severely wounded, the war can be treated as something in the past when we need to look to the future.
For those families, Clinton’s new admission is unlikely to erase the anger:
“Many senators came to wish they had voted against the resolution. I was one of them. As the war dragged on, with every letter I sent to a family in New York who had lost a son or daughter, a father or mother, my mistake (became) more painful. . . . I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”
Of course, it ignores the objections at the time that Clinton and others were unwilling to even listen to objections over the failure to address constitutional problems over another undeclared war. She also ignored demands for substantive hearings that might have revealed that there was no real evidence of weapons of mass destruction. These calls were ignored because the members did not want to hear anything that would make it difficult for them to vote for a popular war. It was at best willful blindness and can only be defined as “good faith” if one ignores the concerted effort to avoid countervailing information in the rush for war.
For those of us who opposed the war, the revision of history by those responsible for it is not short of maddening. In September 2005, Clinton began to re-position herself and blamed the Bush Administration for her vote. That was three years into the war when the polls were falling. She continued this theme in 2008 in her presidential run. She did not however come clean about being mistaken. She however adds “I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong.” That is not exactly the “buck stops here” attitude when it comes over a decade too late and shares blame with others.
Having offered the admission on Iraq, Clinton proceeds to throw Obama under a bus on Bergdahl. She makes clear that she was against the now unpopular trade and that she made clear “that opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war.” She also said that Obama ignored her call to arm the Syrian rebels and that they might have been able to overthrow the regime. She wanted action and portrays Obama as timid: “[T]he risks of both action and inaction were high. Both choices would bring unintended consequences. The President’s inclination was to stay the present course and not take the significant further step of arming rebels. No one likes to lose a debate, including me. But this was the President’s call and I respected his deliberations and decision.”
So there you have it. She was “wrong” on the war but not alone but do not blame me for Bergdahl or Syria. It is called a political pivot.
If that reinvention is does not take, Hillary also appears to be making a pitch to struggling American families that she knows their pain because she and Bill were “dead broke” after leaving the White House. In an interview with ABC, Hillary details the harrowing reality that followed their departure from the White House: “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.” For a candidate who has had persistent problems with authenticity, this is not going to help.
Of course, unlike most Americans, Bill Clinton immediately started a speaking tour that brought in millions, including some fees from questionable associations. Also the Clintons were able to call upon fundraiser Terry McAuliffe (now, the governor of Virginia) to secure a loan for a $1.7 million home in Chappaqua, N.Y. Hillary Clinton has pulled in the same huge fees after leaving office as we previously discussed. This includes half of a million dollars from Goldman Sachs in less than a week. The weird math that allows the Clintons to claim to be “dead broke” is that they had legal fees from their time in the White House. However, no one seriously expected these Democratic firms to pursue the Clintons for payment and donors quickly worked to pay off that debt. Those bills were entirely paid off by 2004 by donors eager to help the Clintons.
It is not clear if this will remake Clinton into a new image of a struggling mother and peace advocate, but many in Washington believe that American voters have the memory of a golden retriever puppy. They will have to. The Democrats have been pushing Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton to a public that is calling for an end to the duopoly of the two parties and a break from the Washington establishment. It will be interesting to see if the next book paints Biden as an outsider in Washington. In any case, the campaign has clearly begun and, despite even liberals wanting to see Hillary face a primary challenge, the Democratic Party appears to be treating her nomination as a done deal.