Wednesday, February 21, 2007

See How She Runs, pt. 2 - On a weekend when the Senate was fortuitously unable to bring itself to vote on a resolution condemning the President's "surge" into Baghdad, Hillary Clinton found herself similarly unable to concede that her vote for the war that necessitated such an escalation was - in the parlance of the antiwar Left - a "mistake." According to the NYT, Sen. Clinton has doubled-down on her ridiculous bet that she would be able to appease her critics with language to the effect of "if I knew then what I know now..." by suggesting to those who are yet dissatisfied with her current response that "there are others to choose from." This of course is a thinly veiled reference to Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, the former famously recounting his opposition the war while in the Illinois Senate, and the later having recanted his support during his bid as John Kerry's Vice-President.

According to the NYT, this show of either rock-ribbed fortitude or monumental stupidity may well serve as a defining moment in Hillary's campaign.

Her decision not to apologize is regarded so seriously within her campaign that some advisers believe it will be remembered as a turning point in the race: either ultimately galvanizing voters against her (if she loses the nomination), or highlighting her resolve and her willingness to buck Democratic conventional wisdom (if she wins).

At the same time, the level of Democratic anger has surprised some of her allies and advisers, and her campaign is worried about how long it will last and how much damage it might cause her.
And therein lies the rub for Hillary, that she is this far over a barrel about not admitting a mistake that she didn't make (i.e., that her vote in support of the Iraq War resolution was the wrong thing to do), as opposed to making misleading statements about something that didn't happen (e.g., that she was somehow lied to by President Bush.) Rather than making her look resolute, her recalcitrance about admitting this non-mistake makes her look arrogant and wrongheaded. Worse yet, it puts her squarely on the wrong side of the antiwar Left whose votes she desperately covets; over the past few days, Hollywood progressives - long considered to be in Hillary's camp - came up with $1.3 million reasons to support Sen. Obama over Ms. Clinton.

Given the elasticity of Sen. Clinton's thinking on the issue of war with Iraq (to its credit, the NYT has chronicled Hillary's various positions on the Iraq War), it does not surprise that some on the Left would find her explanations tedious and her current stance untenable. Ms. Clinton has been on all three sides of the issue, and there is no conceivable stance that she can presently adopt that will look anything other than highly contrived. Indeed, there is nothing about her handling of this affair that commends her for the job of President. If anything, all of this confirms everyone's worst suspicions about Hillary; to say that she is calculating is beyond understatement, and even her allies would conclude that she makes no decision without giving serious thought to its impact her her personally.
Mrs. Clinton's image as a strong leader... is critical to her hopes of becoming the nation's first female president. According to one adviser, her internal polling indicates a high proportion of Democrats see her as strong and tough, both assets particularly valuable to a female candidate who is seeking to become commander in chief. Apologizing might hurt that image, this adviser said. (Emphasis added.)
One is reasonably left to wonder if Hillary would apologize if in fact she felt that her decision was incorrect - even if it hurt her politically. I suspect that would be the type of resoluteness that voters might well appreciate in a would-be President. Ironically, it is a display of this type of leadership that Hillary is assiduously avoiding.

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