Tue 6 Feb 2007
Regarding the obvious inconsistencies noted in her having voted *for* the war in 2002, but now saying that she would not have done it if she were President at that time, James notes:
Whether or not you think the war was a good idea, it was indisputably the product of President Bush’s leadership. He rallied the country behind it, so that it commanded something like 70% support in opinion polls. Congress’s support was similarly strong, with 69% of the House and 77% of the Senate (including not just Mrs. Clinton but also fellow Democratic presidential candidates John Edwards, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, along with John Kerry) voting in favor of the war.
Mrs. Clinton now says that if she were president in 2002, she would not have led the country to war. This amounts to an acknowledgment that her vote in favor of the war was not an act of leadership–that she was a follower. Was she following the president? This president? Obviously not. President Bush led the public to support the war, and Sen. Clinton followed the public. Now that public opinion has turned against the president and the war, so has Mrs. Clinton.
Why is this so important? If you care most about being on “the winning side” of public opinion, then you ultimately do not have any principled positions of your own. The ‘opinion’ of the public is quite fickle.
So on Iraq, Mrs. Clinton stands resolutely on the side of public opinion, whichever side that may be in any given year. On Iran, about which public opinion is unformed, she is maddeningly noncommittal. This is fine for a senator, who merely casts one vote among 100. But the president–especially in times of international peril–needs to be able to make decisions in the national interest. Sometimes that means shaping public opinion, as President Bush did when he persuaded the public and Congress to support the war in Iraq. Sometimes it means defying public opinion, as Bush has done lately by resisting pressure to flee.
Were these decisions bad ones? History will judge, but at the moment most Americans seem to think so. Mrs. Clinton is seeking to become President Bush’s successor by countering his dangerous boldness with extreme caution. She is presenting herself as the candidate who won’t make bad decisions because she won’t make decisions–who won’t lead us astray because she will not lead.
But an excess of caution is itself a form of recklessness. Someone who won’t make decisions won’t make good or necessary decisions either. Therein lies the peril of a Hillary Clinton presidency.