Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Clinton and Mistakes

When George McGovern ran for President against Richard Nixon in 1972, two youngsters worked on his campaign: Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham. We all know what became of those two. Now, Hillary is running for the democratic nomination herself, working hard to persuade us the nomination is already hers.

Five years after Senator Clinton voted with the Senate to legitimize Caesar's plans to attack Iraq, almost to the day, George McGovern endorsed her for president. As democrats who understand this war in Iraq for what it truly is reconcile themselves that a nominee is developing months before a single vote will be cast, McGovern was asked about Hillary's vote to authorize war in 2002 against a country that had not attacked us, had no weapons of mass destruction, and was a contained menace to us at worst.

McGovern said, "I don't expect to find a mistake-free candidate; we all have made mistakes."

To this day, Senator Clinton has refused, even when invited to do so, to say that her vote in 2002 was a mistake. Here is an example, from a New Hampshire town hall, in which a citizen asked the Senator to admit the vote was a mistake:

Roger Tilton: I want to know if right here, right now, once and for all and without nuance, you can say that war authorization was a mistake. I, and I think a lot of other primary voters — until we hear you say it, we're not going to hear all the other great things you are saying.

Sen. Hillary Clinton: Well I have said, and I will repeat it, that knowing what I know now, I never would have voted for it. But I also (applause), I mean obviously you have to weigh everything as you make your decision. I have taken responsibility for my vote. The mistakes were made by this president who misled this country and this Congress into a war that should not have been waged.

Senator Clinton ducks and weaves to avoid saying she, Hillary Clinton, was mistaken. Note the bright line made between being fooled and her judgment being wrong. Note the shift of blame away from herself and her vote, back on to the hateful president. At first, I suspected this might be because the Senator feels - as George W. Bush does - that it is unpresidential to admit error or uncertainty. But no, silly, it's more obvious than that. She shouldn't say her vote was a mistake because it was not a mistake.

In 2002, Senator Clinton knew everything I knew - and probably more. She knew damned well that Iraq could not possibly have a nuclear weapons program in operation that had escaped detection. She knew damned well that Iraq had not attacked the United States of America on 11 September 2001, had no means to do so, and had no reason to collaborate with Osama bin Laden (an ideological enemy, and a threat to his regime). She would have had better access than I did to the information that our own intelligence agencies were in dispute over any link between Iraq and the events on September 11, that already there were whispers about crooked intelligence and a premeditated agenda on Iraq. This was all in circulation in October of 2002.

For her to call her vote a mistake would be every bit as preposterous as Senator Larry Craig trying to withdraw his guilty plea months after the fact. To paraphrase Judge Charles Porter, Hillary cast her vote "accurately, voluntarily, and intelligently."

Her vote was not a mistake. She did her moral calculus and, no doubt, her domestic political calculus. Given the uncertainty about the administration's intentions and its judgment, she voted her conscience and if she refuses to say it's a mistake, I suppose that means it wasn't.

Which brings me back to McGovern's endorsement, and his indulgence of Clinton's war vote. If she won't call it a mistake, he doesn't get to call it a mistake either. Mistakes can and should be forgiven; mistakes bring about improvement when something is learned from them.

If Hillary did not make a mistake five years ago when she cast her vote for this disastrous invasion, we have to assume her acquiescence was voluntary and deliberate.

1 comment:

• Eliane • said...

Politicians recognizing their mistakes? That would be the day. It is all very scrupulous calculations.