Now that the presidential hopeful field has reached double digits, expect to hear scores of speeches about what should not have been done in Iraq. All the Democrats running, and even many of the Republican candidates, will most likely spend a good deal of time saying they would not have taken the same course of action President Bush did in Iraq. What I am interested in, though, is what those running would have done if they had been in President Bush’s shoes in those months and years following 9/11.
Some will probably say we already know what the senators running would have done, because we have their votes on record. Votes are funny things, though -- often conducive to interpretation. At least they are for those who wish they had voted differently. Besides, there are some who might find it easy to vote as a part of a large group, especially when voting with the majority, but if forced to make a decision standing alone, might not make the same choice. Although we can’t know for certain what the Senators running would have done had they been in the President’s place in 2002 and 2003, determining what they likely would have done then is crucial to determining what kind of President they would make in the future. Even though we will never know for certain, there are clues that point to the likely answer.
Cal Thomas recently pointed to a speech Hillary Clinton made to the anti-war organization, Code Pink in 2003, when the decision to go into Iraq was popular. At that time, Sen. Clinton said, "There is a very easy way to prevent anyone from being put into harm's way, that is for Saddam Hussein to disarm. And I have absolutely no belief that he will. I have to say that this is something I've followed for more than a decade. If he were serious about disarming, he would have been much more forthcoming. I ended up voting for the resolution after carefully reviewing the information, intelligence that I had available, talking with people whose opinions I trusted, trying to discount the political or other factors that I didn't believe should be in any way part of this decision."
Now that the war in Iraq is unpopular, Clinton is trying to distance herself from statements like that one. Statements made closer to the time she cast her 2002 vote, like the one Thomas quoted, give us greater insight into her decision making than any comments she could make now would though. The fact that she is now trying to deny much of what she said then is very telling as well. Does that mean that although she might have made the same decision George Bush did in 2003, that once things got tough and public opinion turned she would have abandoned the mission, as she is now trying to abandon her previous statements?