John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are capable top level candidates far more connected to the world as it really is than the crowd Republicans put up for president these days. Unlike current Republicans, however, people like myself aren't shy about expressing criticism, points of disagreement or concerns about candidates we would gladly vote for. The rubber stamp Republicans of the last six years will go down in history for their complete inability to act responsibly or question anything a president of their party does. The inability of most of the media to notice the lack of responsibility among Republican members of Congress or the White House is something I'll never understand; and when a few of the bigger names do come around to recognizing the failures of somebody like Bush, some of them still seem to miss the picture.
I used to read Richard Cohen of The Washington Post on a regular basis but his judgment slipped badly on Iraq, and certainly more badly than did Hillary Clinton's judgment. In his column today, Richard Cohen
Yet another man has betrayed Hillary Clinton. This time it's George W. Bush, who not only deceived her about weapons of mass destruction but, when granted congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq, actually did so. This, apparently, came as a surprise to her, although in every hamlet and village in America, every resident who could either read or watch Fox News knew that Bush was going to take the country to war. Among other things, troops were already being dispatched.
Somehow, Bush's intentions were lost on Clinton, who then as now was a member of the United States Senate. This was the case even though she now rightly calls Bush's desire to topple Saddam Hussein an "obsession."
... For reasons extraneous to this particular column, I thought the war would do wonders for the Middle East and that it would last, at the most, a week or two. In this I was assured by the usual experts in and out of government. My head nodded like one of those little toy dogs in the window of the car ahead of you.
First, let's get on Cohen's case for that unnecessary sexist first sentence. It's cleverness that doesn't add anything to a supposedly serious discussion.
Now let's get some issues straight. Presidents aren't always honest. That's not news. But if a proposal is on the table, members of Congress have various ways to verify, particularly when it comes to foreign affairs, what the real issues are behind the politics. At least that's how things used to work up until 2002; Richard Cohen himself fell victim to the new Bush marketing method by way of the discussions he had with the 'usual experts.' What Cohen didn't know at the time was how carefully orchestrated the 'experts' were, particularly by Cheney in the background always claiming to know more than anybody else and always manipulating the evidence with the help of a political public relations team that gave short shrift to the real facts. I've read several books now where generals, for example, took for granted that what they were being told by the 'experts' was true and how they slowly realized the hard way how very wrong the 'experts' were.
As for everyone knowing we were going to war, that became more obvious the closer we got to March of 2003 but it was not a certainty in the summer of 2002 when the Bush Administration began publicly pushing its case for war. And of course we all listened to Bush lie through his teeth every time he said he hadn't made up his mind about whether we were going to war. During this time, Congress, though mainly the Democrats, were trying to get Bush to respect a process, such as going to the UN and trying to get real multilateral help and trying to get a clearer assessment of the Iraqi threat (the Bush Administration was claiming at the time that it had more evidence and would present it in due course, but no such additional evidence existed). Bush kept going through the motions but he largely blew off the process for most of the five months that followed the vote. These are things Cohen knows so his column is a bit disingenuous.
Iraq was a major strategic blunder. Senator Clinton has yet to acknowledge that fact and has instead chosen to focus largely on Bush's incompetent execution of the war. When Clinton came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I briefly thought she was finally going to get on the right page. But she began triangulating again. To my mind, Hillary Clinton has some explaining to do largely because she keeps hedging and waffling on what happened. That's a Clinton habit that doesn't work anymore and it's a habit we all hope Senator Clinton breaks because we have, after all, moved on to a very different era, with different needs, and Clinton is, after all, a very good candidate, but being straight with the voters is more in line of what we need. If Hillary Clinton doesn't come up with a more acceptable explanation for her past position on Iraq, then yes, Barack Obama and John Edwards are going to have a better chance of taking the nomination than Hillary.
Labels: 2008 presidential race, Hillary Clinton