Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has opted for a slow lurch to the anti-war position that lacks the cathartic relief of Edwards’s reversal. Slowly, over the course of several months, Clinton has 1) been unapologetic in defense of her pro-war stance; 2) criticized President Bush for dismissing out-of-hand suggestions for early troop withdrawal; 3) rejected both a “rigid timetable the terrorists can exploit and an open timetable that has no ending attached to it”; 4) taken “responsibility” for her vote while at the same time criticizing the president for “misusing” the authority she granted him; 5) claimed President Bush “misled” the Congress about what he would do with this authority; and 6) recently introduced a measure in the Senate to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 90 days.
In short, her position on Iraq is very, shall we say, Clintonian.
There is no reason to believe Clinton’s tortured posturing on Iraq is damaging her electoral standing, however. Her aggregate lead over Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), her chief opposition in the Democratic primary at this point, is 18.2%, according to Real Clear Politics.
What is more, the two national public figures most associated with authentic, unyielding support for the war—President Bush and Sen. John McCain—are suffering at the polls. Almost 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s job performance. And former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has opened up a significant lead over Sen. McCain in recent weeks (though it should be noted, Mayor Giuliani is no slouch on the subject of national defense and the War in Iraq).
This evidence suggests Sen. Clinton’s inauthentic posturing on the war is the right thing to do, politically speaking. And yet, the latest Quinnipiac University poll shows McCain beating Clinton in a theoretical, though entirely plausible, head-to-head match-up in the General Election. How can this be?
Well, issues matter. But elections are about choices. In my experience, intangibles such as reliability, likeability and especially authenticity play significant roles in swaying the hearts and minds of voters, though they are difficult, perhaps impossible, to quantify. This is one reason why some conservatives are giving Mayor Giuliani who, along with McCain is another shamelessly authentic candidate, a good, hard look in the Republican primary. Indeed, it is probably why President Bush won a second term over his challenger Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). In difficult times and when faced with difficult choices, as we Americans undoubtedly are abroad, the courage of conviction trumps the pusillanimity of evolution every time.
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