What kind of president would Hillary Clinton be?
To grasp the essence of how her Administration would run aground, watch the way she's handling the Iraq War controversy right now.
She has painted herself into a corner with her bad judgment, tone deaf instincts, and stubbornness. Now she's squirming to find a way out – and looking bad in the process.
As she struggles to meld her conflicting past and present positions about her 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq war, she has become as convoluted as a pretzel.
At the same time, her style and mechanics are significantly improving. Hillary has settled on a novel, presidential-looking, and well-toned campaign vehicle: an "almost weekly" Internet video address to the nation via her web site HillaryClinton.com.
Between the chatty and overly contrived "talk on the couch" she used to announce her candidacy and her new, more formal format, one senses she has been busy getting the input of focus groups.
Her new format works. Hillary looks convincingly presidential against a backdrop of French doors that mirrors the Oval Office. She has found her groove.
But she still has problems. The juxtaposition of good advice and handling on the one hand, and flawed candidate instincts on the other, has always characterized Hillary's activities. Such dissonance in her performance continues to this day.
Hillary's problems today stem from her 2002 vote in favor of the Iraq war. Clearly, she cast it because, as a new Senator from New York, she saw Ground Zero from a front row seat.
Her constituents demanded action and she wanted to seem to be tough on terrorism.
Hillary also know that as a future woman presidential candidate, she needed to appear tough enough to be commander in chief. When no WMDs were found in Iraq after the U.S. invasion, Hillary still stood by her vote because she feared appearing inconsistent.
Now Hillary is a full-fledged presidential candidate and faces the dilemma of whether to apologize for her vote, as John Edwards did.
No doubt, Hillary remembers vividly how the label of "weak" and "flip flopper" dogged her husband. Bill Clinton challenged this labels by taking decisive actions in Bosnia and against the House Republican government shut down.
And there was John Kerry and his windsurf ad in the 2004 that characterized him.
Haunted by these memories, she has put a premium on never reversing field and refusing to say "I'm sorry."
Of course, she should have said she made a mistake. Everybody did. Voters would have taken her admission and not missed a beat.
We all felt there were WMDs in Iraq and nobody anticipated the blood letting that's happened there since. An admission of error by Hillary would have killed the issue.
Why didn't her advisors prevail on her to admit it?
Because they are scared to death of Hillary's fury, rage, tantrums, and, ultimately, of being exiled.
So Hillary refused to say "I'm sorry." As a result, she has brought herself no end of woe as she tries to appease the left.
Then the question arose of whether to cut off war funding. Again, Hillary refused to go that far.
Why? Because she felt that, as a woman with a reputedly anti-military past, she could not be accused of denuding our troops in the face of the enemy. Again her advisors likely found her convictions too entrenched to challenge them.
So now Hillary has to spin a position against the war that is meaningful but doesn't cut off funding. Now, Hillary has introduced a bill demanding a withdrawal beginning in 90 days and making it illegal to add more troops.
The bill will never pass. The 90-day clock will never make it out of the watch factory. But does this new formulation give her a place to stand in the current debate?
Not really. While she is willing to set a begin date for "redeployment," Hillary won't set an end date as Obama and Edwards have both done.
In the near future a defunding resolution will come to the Senate floor. When it does, and when she votes no, it will dominate the discussion among Democrats – despite Hillary's own proposals.
Hillary has also opened the door to massive criticism by embracing "engagement" and calling for a Mid-East regional conference – obviously including Iran – to settle the war.
These positions put her at odds with those who see a nuclear Iran as threatening Israel's and America's future and who demand tough economic and, if necessary, military action to stop it.
How can you boycott or bomb a country and then "engage" with them?
But the larger lesson is that Hillary has put herself in an impossible position by refusing to apologize and ruling out a funding cutoff.
Had she said, "I'm sorry" and then agreed to cut off funding (about the same thing as a mandatory troop ceiling), she would have coasted to the Democratic nomination.
But now she has laid out a rocky road for herself. And she has only her own bad instincts to blame.
All this begs the question of where is Bill?
He has better instincts and usually is the wiser, cooler head.
Hillary's jagged course suggests that either he is making one of his periodic visits to Hillary's doghouse or he isn't able to make her see common sense.
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