Debra J. Saunders

"I think it's particularly important to point out this is George Bush's war. He is responsible for this war. He started the war," Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., proclaimed during the CNN Democratic debate Sunday night.

So the Democratic pack of presidential candidates resembles misbehaving children, who point at a fellow playmate as they cry, "He started it."

If this were just about President Bush, some 3,493 U.S. troops would not have fallen in Iraq. This war is not simply Bush's war -- it is the troops' war and the Iraqis' war. They walk and fight among the ruins every day. They do not get to ask for a do-over. They are not made whole by the fact that Democrats who supported the war now regret it.

The thing about a war is that once it has started, you can't take it back. Yes, Bush did push for the Iraq war. Yes, Bush asserted that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Bush also had help -- a 296-to-133 House vote and 77-to-23 Senate vote in favor of a resolution authorizing the use of military force in Iraq, with Clinton, former Sen. John Edwards, and Sens. Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd voting in the "yes" column.

This is Bush's war, the Democrats claim, because that dunderhead president misled them -- which is interesting, because presidential frontrunners Clinton and Edwards told debate host Wolf Blitzer that it did not matter that neither of them had read the 90-page National Intelligence Estimate before they voted for the war resolution. They had been briefed. Edwards read the five-page summary.

So now it's: Bush lied, we read the CliffsNotes.

Maybe this attitude works in a primary election dominated by far-left partisans, but in the general election, I have to think that a more adult approach would work better for Candidate Clinton -- especially considering that the facts get in the way of her version of events. Clinton would look much better in the long run if she said not that she had been gulled, but that she had good reason to believe Hussein had WMD.

As reporters Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. -- authors of "Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton" -- wrote in a Sunday New York Times story that dissected Clinton's pro-war vote, while she did not read the full intelligence estimate, Clinton believed firmly that Iraq had WMD.

Of course she did. Her husband launched more than 400 cruise missiles at suspected WMD sites in Iraq when he was president.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton said of Saddam Hussein's WMD arsenal: "Someday, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal. And I think every one of you who has really worked on this for any length of time believes that, too."

Sen. Clinton claimed Sunday that she had expected that her vote for the war resolution would allow U.N. inspectors to finish their job -- even though Bush had made clear before the Senate vote that he was prepared to strike Iraq if Hussein did not back down.

Let me add, the figure who was really wrong was Hussein for his refusal to cooperate with U.N. inspectors. Hussein misled the world into thinking he had WMD.

As for Edwards, his idea of leadership is to claim in February, "I think I was the first, at least close to being the first, to say very publicly that I was wrong." To me, that makes Edwards the first, or nearly the first candidate, to let down troops who can't go home -- and fallen troops who cannot be brought back to life -- just because Edwards admits he was wrong.

And as Sen. Barack Obama pointed out: "John, the fact is, is that I opposed this war from the start. So you are about four-and-a-half years late on leadership on this issue."

Edwards and Clinton say they take responsibility for their wrong votes -- although Clinton won't quite say hers was wrong. If they truly want to take responsibility, they should not be running.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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