All the Democratic presidential candidates disagree with President Bush's Iraq policy, but they stood united in their criticism against Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y) during the Sunday debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.
When John Edwards, former senator of North Carolina, criticized Sen. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) for “standing quiet” on their recent votes to cut funding for U.S. troops in Iraq, Clinton implied that the Bush Administration should be held responsible for the outcome in Iraq, not Democrats.
“There is a difference between leading and following that I have made clear from the outset,” Edwards said. “Others were not, others were quiet….Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama did not say anything until they appeared on the floor of the Senate and they were among the last to vote.”
Clinton responded, “I think it’s important particularly to point out, this is George Bush’s war — he is responsible for this war.” She said, “He started the war. He mismanaged the war. He escalated the war. And he refuses to end the war.”
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio) seized her comment and said it was “a teachable moment,” that demonstrated the Democrats’ unwillingness to take responsibility for the outcome in Iraq.
Kucinich said, “The Democrats were put in charge by the people in the last election with the thought that they were going to end the war. Well, they haven't. They have to stop the funding.”
Clinton has gone back and forth over funding the war since announcing she would run for President. She even changed her position in the last month on it. After a May 5 interview, the Associated Press’ Mike Glover reported that “Clinton said she ‘of course’ eventually will support a measure paying for the troops.” Then, before breaking for Memorial Day recess, Clinton voted to against a bill to fund operations in Iraq through July. Clinton was one of fourteen senators to vote against the measure.
Sen. Joe Biden (D.-M.D.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, defended his vote to maintain funding for the war. In doing so, he explained the consequences of not sending the money. Biden said, "As long as there is a single troop in Iraq that I know if I take action by funding them, I increase the prospect they will live or not be injured, I cannot and will not vote no to fund them."
“Some things are worth losing elections over,” he said.
?One of the sharpest attacks of the evening was delivered by Obama after moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Clinton to defend not reading the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.
Clinton recently admitted in a town hall meeting that she did not read the prewar intelligence report before she voted to use force in Iraq. The NIE contained information compiled by Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, who was installed by President Clinton, which President Bush used to make the case for war. It was available to all U.S. senators before the vote on the Iraq War Resolution.
Clinton?--a lawyer by training?--said, ?"I knew all the arguments. I knew what they all were saying.?"
Obama, who has been opposed to the war since its inception, suggested if Clinton had read the report she may not have voted for the war.
“I will say on the National Intelligence Estimate that Chairman Graham, Bob Graham (D.) of Florida, who at the time was the head of the Intelligence Committee, cited that specifically as one of the reasons that he voted against it. So obviously there was some pertinent information there,” Obama said.
Edwards’ comments on this issue suggested Clinton was untrustworthy, Biden implied she was irresponsible and Obama indicated she was downright neglectful.
As the campaign for President goes on, so will the war and Clinton’s day job in the Senate. Many Democrats, not just those standing on stage last night, don’t trust Clinton because she refuses to adopt clear “for” or “against” positions on critical matters, like the war in Iraq.
There will be plenty of “yes” or “no” votes she will have to make in the near future that will dictate the outcome in Iraq. And, judging from the course she is on now, those will not be positions even her fellow Democrats will let her defend on stage.