The Democratic Daily Rewrites History on Clinton’s Position on War

The Democratic Daily attempts to once again sell the fairy tale that Clinton’s views did not differ from Obama’s on the war. There are major flaws in this rewriting of history.

The author tells a half truth in saying that Obama had said he did not know how he would have voted in 2004. This leaves out the important fact that Obama only played down how he would have voted before the 2004 convention, where he was speaking, to avoid saying anything which could be taken as negative about Kerry and Edwards, who had voted yes.Obama had already made his views on Iraq clear in a speech on October 2, 2002:

I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

The Democratic Daily quotes extensively from Clinton at the time of the IWR vote. There is perhaps a valid argument that Clinton didn’t consider the vote a vote to go to war, but even if we give her the benefit of the doubt on that, this still isn’t enough to make a claim that Clinton was not a supporter of the war. The major flaw in this argument is that Clinton didn’t oppose the war until it became politically expedient.

I could possibly accept Clinton’s argument on voting yes, but to do this I would compare her actions to John Kerry’s as she is now making essentially the same argument that Kerry made during the 2004 campaign. Both Kerry and Clinton voted yes and gave similar arguments that the vote did not represent approval to go to war except under limited circumstances. Kerry made this clear in his Senate floor speech as well as in articles in The New York Times and Foreign Affairs at the time of the vote. As it became increasingly clear that Bush had not proven that we were threatened by WMD, and that he planned to go to war regardless of the facts, Kerry increasingly spoke out against going to war. Speaking at Georgetown University on January 23, 2003, Kerry urged, “Mr. President, do not rush to war.” Following the onset of the war Kerry protested by saying, “What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States.”

Contrast this with Hillary Clinton. She not only voted yes, but she remained a cheer leader for the war even after the war started. She did not speak out against the war until it was both necessary and safe politically. There is plenty of documentation of Kerry showing opposition to the war before it began, but I have seen no such arguments against the war from Clinton. After all, if the argument is that George Bush lied about plans to seek a diplomatic solution, and that Bush misused the authority granted, the logical response from someone who was so deceived would be to speak out against going to war before it began as John Kerry did.

There is a tremendous difference between someone like Kerry who spoke out against the war before it started and someone like Clinton who did not speak out against the war until much later. If Clinton had spoken out against the war before it began as Kerry had then these arguments might be plausible.

Even if someone believes the rewriting of history at The Democratic Daily we might also consider the political ramifications. Kerry had a strong defense of his argument in having spoken out against going to war before the war started. Despite this, the Republicans were successful in claiming that Kerry was criticizing them for a war he had voted for, and labeled him a flip-flopper. Kerry’s argument did not work in the 2004 election even when true. If this argument didn’t work for Kerry when it was true, it certainly won’t work for Clinton since her use of this argument is easily disputed by her failure to oppose the war before it started. Only a candidate who was consistently against the war, and is not burdened by a vote which can easily be interpreted as an act in support of the war, can successfully win the argument against the Republicans.

Update: An Addition and a Correction

There is yet another significant difference between Obama and Clinton’s views on the war. During his 2002 speech Obama said:

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

Obama correctly separated Bin Laden and 9/11 from Iraq. In contrast, Clinton actually referred to 9/11 to justify an attack on Iraq:

And finally, on another personal note, I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year’s terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am.

There have been a number of bogus attacks on Obama for committing the thought crime of using “right wing frames.”  What right wing framing has done us more harm than the one Hillary Clinton used–tying in 9/11 and the Iraq war?

As for the correction, as Pamela notes in the comments, the post I am responding to is written by one of several authors at The Democratic Daily and this does not necessarily represent the views of the other authors.  Considering the history of that blog, I certainly hope that the others realize that Hillary Clinton is no John Kerry.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Pamela Leavey says:

    Ron

    Your title is misleading. There are many authors on The Democratic Daily and each author speaks for themself as the disclaimer says on the website: “The opinions of the authors and contributors on The Democratic Daily are their own and not the opinion of the Editor.”

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Ok, I accept that there are authors at The Democratic Daily who might not agree with this. Are you saying you do not agree with this post?

  3. 3
    Pamela Leavey says:

    Ron

    Whether I agree or disagree is moot. There are many authors on the DD, one endorsed Edwards before he dropped out, another has endorsed Obama – so in this primary everyone speaks for themself there. And to be frank, I’ve been off line most of the day and haven’t even read it all yet. But, hey thanks for the link again.

  4. 4
    Nelson M. says:

    Ron, good work on pulling up those quotes between Hillary and Obamaon Iraq and 911. Right wing framing is exactly why Obama said in the last debate that he wanted to change “the mindset” that took us to war.

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