Prev | List | Random | Next
Does Senator Clinton "get it" with respect to the troops? Let's see if Tim Russert got the answer he was looking for:
MEET THE PRESS, NBC TV, DECEMBER 7, 2003
Interview with Senator Clinton
TIM RUSSERT: This is the way one Republican, Scott Reed (sp), responded. He said the comments you made were "un-American. Any member of the U.S. Senate should be supporting our troops 100 percent. It sounds like Senator Clinton has been stung by the fact that President Bush overshadowed her trip to Iraq and left her as an afterstory -- (laughter) -- so to break into the debate she had to take the low road."
SEN. CLINTON: Oh, that's so sad. You know, I think that that's reflective of the efforts by this administration to deny and divert attention from what everybody knows. I mean, it is like the old children's story -- the emperor has no clothes. I mean, you know, if you say there are serious questions on the ground raised by our troops, raised by Afghans, raised by Iraqis, raised by our friends around the world, somehow that is not appropriate.
You know, I find that sad because to me we have a lot at stake -- not only the lives of American men and women, not only the lives of Afghans and Iraqis, but about the future leadership of this country. And I think that given the globalization of information and communication, we have to be very forthright in saying, you know, failure is not an option. We are going to stay the course. But we have got to figure out what the course is. And I feel very strongly that in the last several months this administration has had a lot of happy talk and a lot of rosy scenarios instead of dealing in a forthright way about the challenges that we face. I don't think that does anyone any good, particularly the men and women who are serving with such bravery abroad.
MR. RUSSERT: But if someone suggests you're undercutting morale by criticizing the commander in chief to these soldiers in Iraq, it doesn't trouble you?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I don't think that's what I did.
So what is "Centrist warhawk" Clinton's plan for Iraq?
FACE THE NATION MR. ROBERTS: You've talked about the need to internationalize the operation there. What do you mean when you say internationalize? How can it be more internationalized than it is already? You already have troops from a number of different countries there. You have a number of different countries participating in the rebuilding.
SEN. CLINTON: Well what I have in mind is something more in the order of both what we did in Bosnia and Kosovo in the Clinton Administration.
MEET THE PRESS
Now, we did a couple of things right in Bosnia and Kosovo. We had the friends of Bosnia and Kosovo, we had regional powers. We had many more troops in Bosnia and Kosovo than we have in Afghanistan, and we had more multilateral commitments than we have in Iraq. So why don't we set up some kind of international bridge. The U.N. can be playing a role, NATO can be playing a role. We can create some new entity, the Iraq reconstruction stability authority. We can do something that then gives, frankly, cover to other countries to come in and support us.
THIS WEEK ON ABC
But I still believe that we would be doing ourselves a great favor in the long run by trying to internationalize this and getting more troops on the ground from other countries who could be involved in this effort with us.
Andrew Sullivan writes in the Sunday Times of London (or, if you prefer, The Sunday London Times):
British anti-war liberals, lefties, and conservatives have just won a new enemy. This gung-ho member of the neocon cabal, this imperialistic threat to world peace, this destroyer of multilateral alliances actually believes that president Bush is too soft for the Iraq war. The president is too swift to turn over sovereignty to Iraqis, according to this critique. He needs to pour in more troops, display more resolve, demand more from allies, and take more time to get the job done right. Who is this foe of the anti-war left? Drum roll, please. It's Hillary Clinton.
Which I must presume is an apt view, as I am no expert on British politics, but an incorrect one insofar as I don't think for a minute that Sen. Clinton wants a "get tougher" policy on Iraq. Her stance is rhetoric; she may as well shout that the president should stand on his head in the capitol rotunda and sing The Star Spangled Banner as call for a greater "international presence" (code: France Germany Russia) in Iraq. It ain't gonna happen. And the Senator knows it.
And Mr. Sullivan is savvy enough to know politicking when he sees it, as he so aptly proves:
It was a nifty rhetorical strategy - far shrewder than anything most of the Democratic candidates have been saying. And as the blogger Mickey Kaus observed, she can't really lose. If Bush's strategy succeeds, she can say that she favored the war and its objective of a stable democracy in Iraq. If Bush's plan fails, she can claim that she supported different tactics. Certainly she cannot be accused of selling out American troops, being weak on national security or wishy-washy in the war on terror. Maybe she's sincere. Maybe she's not. Either way, she wins.
...But it strikes me as far too cynical to believe that the Bush administration is attempting to pull a quick exit strategy for purely political reasons. Between next June and November, there is a long period in which the consequences of premature Iraqi sovereignty will be fully visible. Bush will be judged electorally whatever his policy. And if he really wanted to use Iraq purely for electoral purposes, why announce a deadline now - rather than unveil a surprise later, when it would have more impact on the electoral cycle? Besides, with a booming economy, and major legislative gains on hand, Bush's re-election prospects have never looked better. He doesn't need the boost his critics are accusing him of engineering.
But all of that plays into Hillary's hands as well. Almost certainly, she has no plans to run for president next year. But the more the Democratic candidates degenerate into anti-war shrillness and the further they drift away from a decent chance at beating Bush, the better situated she is to take control of the party machinery after a Bush re-election; and the easier it will be for her to run from the center in 2008. Hillary's enormous gift is that the left of the party adores her, almost regardless of what she says or does. She is so hated by the far right that the left adopts her as an ally almost reflexively. So she alone of most Democrats has the ability to campaign from the center, to pose with troops in photo-ops, to out-flank Bush on the right in the war on terror, without endangering her base.
If I may be so bold, I suggest a slightly different spin: Sen. Clinton chooses to avoid a line in American politics that many of her Party cohorts have pranced far across (though some perhaps long before they joined the Party); that point where loyal opposition approaches treason. The Democratic party's Far Left, in what many view as descent into lunacy, have in many cases abandoned all but the thinnest veneer of patriotism. The current crop of contenders for the highest office in our land all define themselves by degree of opposition to the president, which is what 'opposition' candidates must by definition do.
Sadly, perhaps fueled by early success of Howard Dean, they define that opposition by their stances on the war in Iraq. They fall over one another in the struggle to establish supremacy of their level of anti-war rhetoric. And their personal comfort zone with regards to how far they will veer from center on this issue seems to change with the moment, as they leapfrog each other into political oblivion. (Note that those candidates - Lieberman, Gephardt - who choose not to play are already considered "not electable")
So yes, an outstanding opportunity indeed for Ms Clinton. She can stand bemused on the sidelines and watch them race themselves to the edge of the proverbial cliff. But will the antics of this small and tragic group of cliff divers define the landscape of American politics? Ms Clinton is hardly "centrist", unless one accepts that Dennis Kucinich defines the Left and George Bush the Right. And that is how so many would shape the current political stage, but they'd be wrong. For Bush, in response to that far left exodus in the Democratic Party, has also taken steps to the center.
Andrew Sullivan again:
It's the reverse of Bush, who has such emotional support from the right that he can do nothing to stop abortion, spend money like Lyndon Johnson, enact the biggest new welfare state entitlement in a generation, and still be enormously popular with the party base.
The unspoken implication is that there is a "vast right wing" somewhere beyond the president, and indeed there is. The mistake is to marginalize that wing. Folks "right of Bush" are likely a more potent political force then "folks left of Kucinich". Ignore them at your peril, those of you who are convinced you have the shape of the American political landscape figured out.
THIS WEEK ON ABC (emphasis added): MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about President Bush. You're in Houston this week and I want to show our viewers something that the "Houston Chronicle" reported you said: "President Bush has not only been radical and extreme in terms of Democratic presidents, but in terms of Republican presidents, including his own father, his administration is making America less free, fair, strong, smart, than it deserves to be in a dangerous world." Radical, extreme, less free, fair, strong and smart. Those are very tough words. Is that really what you said?
SEN. CLINTON: It certainly is what I said. And it is what I mean. I think we are dealing with an administration that has thrown over the consensus-building and the bipartisan agreement that basically built the 20th-century America that I'm very proud of and that I'm a product of. And yes, you know, there may have been people more to the right or more to the left, but if you look at the efforts that were made starting in the 1930s to save capitalism from itself to put us on the right track, to have the kind of middle class that would grow and provide ladders of opportunity for anybody willing to work hard, if you look at how we built up alliances, the painstaking, frustrating work of working with other nations around the world, I don't think that this president had a mandate to do that coming out of the 2000 election.
Because Hillary Clinton is not the center, and never has been. The center is still firmly occupied by a large group of fine Americans, who will tire of being branded "right wing extremists" in short order. Who will tire of Hillary and others of her sort claiming to belong to their group while actually occupying ground far to their left, and who recognize a significant portion of the Democratic party moving far beyond the pale.