Hillary Clinton still hasn’t explained how she came to make the worst mistake of her career

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
A U.S. soldier watching the statue of Saddam Hussein fall in central Baghdad on April 9, 2003.

Hillary Clinton needs to talk to Michael Kranish. She declined to do so in connection with Kranish’s story, published yesterday in the Washington Post, but when she is fully recovered from her recent illness, she should reconsider.

Kranish has written the most thorough piece I’ve yet seen about the worst mistake of Clinton’s public career, her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war. Kranish wants to understand how she came to cast that vote. So do I. So should the American electorate. It is a much, more important question than anything to do with her “damn e-mails” (as Bernie Sanders so elegantly labeled them) or the meetings she had as secretary of state with parties who were also donors to the Clinton Foundation, or the word she chose (“deplorable”) to describe racists and sexists who support Donald Trump.

Those may be sexier stories, but this is the real deal. Presidents get to decide what’s worth having a war over. (You can say that Congress technically has that constitutional power, but you’d be kidding yourself.)  Making that decision carefully and getting it as right as possible, is perhaps the biggest enchilada for a president.

Clinton has said that her 2002 vote was a “mistake,” although it took her until 2015 to embrace the “m” word. (According to Kranish’s piece, she considered using the word during her 2008 campaign against Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, but was advised that it would be a political mistake to call her mistake a “mistake.”)

Regular readers of this space will know that I’m slightly obsessed with Clinton’s vote for the Iraq war. It fits a pattern of hawkishness throughout her public career, which is the thing that worries me most about the prospect of her as commander-in-chief.

Kranish makes clear that she took the hawkish side of many debates during her husband’s presidency. If you read the piece, you’ll get the list. Some of them worked out better than others. On balance, I’m deeply convinced that the United States gets itself into too many wars, few of which live up to the promises of their promoters. The Iraq war was sold on a falsehood and on the usual exaggerated promises about the wonderful world-improving blessings that would flow from it, including the spread of peace and democracy across the Mideast.

Maybe it’s unfair to hold people accountable for all the negative consequences of their decisions, consequences that they didn’t hope or believe would ensue. But, within reason, I do think it is reasonable. People are still dying — yesterday, today and tomorrow — for this mistake. The wave of democracy in the region it was going to unleash isn’t looking that hot. And then there’s the fact the reason (or excuse) for the war – weapons of mass destruction – turned out not to be there. But then that was known before the war started.

Before providing a little of what Kranish found, let me get this out of the way. Donald Trump is not qualified to be commander-in-chief. It’s hard to imagine what we would get if he got the job. He is the loosest of loose cannons. He also favored the Iraq war, but now lies and says he opposed it. This is not a comparison between the two candidates’ fitness for the office.

The evolution of a hawk

As a college student, Hillary Clinton opposed the Vietnam War. By the time she was First Lady, she had become a hawk, apparently (according to Kranish) much more so than President Bill Clinton. She participated in pushing for military actions several times during his presidency. I’m not a pacifist, but in my view many of those military actions did as much or more harm than good.

Hillary Clinton is also a big-time believer in American exceptionalism, including in matters of using the military to make the world better. As Kranish writes, by the time she voted “aye” to authorize President Bush to use military force in Iraq, “it was little surprise to many who watched her evolution as a hawk over her years as a first lady and then as a senator.”

She is a serious person and a hard worker, so it was a bit surprising that, Kranish finds, she apparently didn’t read some of the classified analysis of the situation in Iraq made available to senators in the run-up to the vote. Some of those senators cited those classified analyses in explaining why they voted against the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).

Writes Kranish:

For years, Clinton has blamed [Pres. George W.] Bush for misleading her into voting for the resolution …. Clinton has often argued, for example, that the Bush Administration had told wobbly senators that he wouldn’t use the Authorization for the Use of Military Force to actually use military force, but that he would use the AUMF to pressure the United Nations to pressure Saddam Hussein to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq to find out whether Saddam was actually hiding Weapons of Mass Destruction.

… After Clinton left the White House, she took a call from national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Clinton later cited this conversation as evidence that the Bush administration “misled” her. As she told it in a 2006 interview with the Atlantic, “Condi Rice called me and asked if I had any questions. I said, ‘Look, I have one question: If the president has this authority, will he go to the United Nations and use it to get inspectors to go back into Iraq and figure out what this guy has?’

“‘Yes, that’s what it’s for,’” Rice responded, according to Clinton.

Rice declined to comment, but her spokeswoman, Georgia Godfrey, said via email that Rice never would have suggested that “the Authorization would be limited to getting inspectors in.”

I don’t claim to know whether Clinton or Rice or both are telling the truth about this claim. But if Clinton is the one telling the truth — the hard-to-believe claim that senators being asked to vote to authorize the use of military of force were being told by the White House that force would not be used and that the vote was just about pressuring Saddam to let the weapons inspectors back in – then Clinton has to address a large serious question that, to my knowledge, she never has.

Remember, Saddam did cave. He did let the U.N. inspectors back in and, according to the inspectors themselves, gave them full cooperation and allowed them to look anywhere, anytime with no advance warning, and they found no secret caches of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

The U.N. inspection team was finishing up its work of establishing that Saddam was indeed neither hiding nor developing Weapons of Mass Destruction when the inspectors were told to get out of Iraq because the U.S. bombing blitz known as “Shock and Awe” was about to begin.

If, as Clinton suggests, she had voted for the AUMF because she had been assured that it was just a tactic to get Saddam to let the inspectors back in, and then the inspectors did get back in and found no WMD but had to be evacuated because the U.S. war to rid Iraq of WMD (that didn’t exist) had to begin, it seems to me that she should have cried foul, and said that she had been duped. But she said no such thing until years later, as far as I can tell. That begs a question she should be asked, and she should answer, along with several others raised by Kranish’s article. Unfortunately, she declined to be interviewed for the piece.

I’ll give Clinton the last word, via Kranish, who found in the transcript of the recent “commander-in-chief” interview on MSNBC that moderator Matt Lauer, who framed the question backward (from my viewpoint) by challenging her to think about how it might make veterans of the Iraq War feel to find out that she now views her vote for it as a mistake. She replied:

It is imperative that we learn from the mistakes. We must learn what led us down that path so that it never happens again. I think I’m in the best possible position to be able to understand that and prevent it.

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Comments (40)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/16/2016 - 09:51 am.

    Considerieng She Was a Sentor From New York

    The state MOST affected by the events of September 11, 2001,…

    considering that the nation and the ENTIRE national news media,…

    (being based in New York City and Washington D.C.)…

    completely failed to understand what the grief of those events was doing to them:…

    causing them to cry out for revenge against the “terrorists,”…

    in a typical-but-mistaken belief that such revenge would assuage the pain and sadness of their grief,…

    and how likely the media and the Republican Party would have been to eviscerate Ms. Clinton if she had NOT voted to authorize the use of military force against “the terrorists,”…

    including in Iraq,…

    her political career would have been over if she had voted any other way.

    She CERTAINLY would not have been able to run for president, now.

    We all want to forget how crazy the grief of 9/11/01 made us,…

    but the fact is, the entire nation was neurotic (if not psychotic) for a couple of years,….

    in our very uninformed and dysfunctional response to our individual and collective grief,…

    (right up until the Bush administration’s response to Katrina snapped us out of it).

    Ms. Clinton could not offer any explanation that would satisfy those who now criticize her,…

    but who have completely forgotten what they were feeling, doing and saying in the aftermath of 9/11/01,…

    (Mr. Trump, for instance),…

    but in reality,…

    she HAS nothing to explain,…

    any more than the vast majority of Americans at the time have to explain why they supported invading Iraq.

    I can only wish that the next time something like September 11, 2001 happens,…

    and it will,…

    we could all be far more aware of how such shocking experiences invoke our normal grief responses,…

    how those responses make us feel and make us likely to ACT crazy for the ensuing weeks and months,…

    and keep our powder dry until we’ve had a chance to process that grief,…

    get to the other side of it,…

    and more thoughtfully and rationally devise responses to what has happened.

    Perhaps we could even devise responses IN ADVANCE,…

    based on our current awareness of the massive mistakes that were made after 09/11/01.

    I certainly wish all those who now second guess Ms. Clinton’s vote would go back and ask their friends and neighbors what they, themselves, were feeling, saying, and advocating as a national response at the time Ms. Clinton’s infamous vote was taken,…

    because I strongly suspect most of them have built up multiple layers of denial to hide from themselves how crazy THEY were in those ensuing months.

    Indeed, those who claim that 09/11/01 didn’t affect THEM at all,…

    are completely clueless to the workings of their own psyches,…

    and the working of our collective NATIONAL psyche,…

    including the national media,…

    which, rather than helping people make sense of what they were feeling, thinking, and wanting to do,…

    sought to AMPLIFY those things,…

    and FAN THOSE DYSFUNCTIONAL AND DANGEROUS FLAMES,…

    flames far more likely to burn US than to burn our enemies,…

    in order to grab more eyeballs, and selfishly raise their own profits and paychecks.

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 09/16/2016 - 04:52 pm.

      Hillary wasn’t the only one.

      As I recall, it wasn’t until we captured Saddam that we finally found out that WMD didn’t exist. Someone (I don’t recall who) had Cheney and Rumsfeld’s ear and they in turn influenced Bush to call for the invasion of Iraq.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/17/2016 - 12:32 am.

      Agreed

      I think many people choose to forget that emotions were high, Saddam was belligerent, the USA had been maintaining the no fly zones for ~10 years with little to show except dead Iraqis, etc,

      It seems to be Monday and folks are around the water cooler talking about how the team screwed up and they would have done better.

      There is a fascinating set of data here. (I think question 4) It shows that only 23% of people initially saw invading Iraq as a mistake. Whereas 75% saw it as not a mistake.
      http://www.gallup.com/poll/1633/iraq.aspx

      It looks like it didn’t go full 50/50 until mid-2005. Ironically… About the same time as Katrina hit. Good call.

      • Submitted by chuck holtman on 09/18/2016 - 09:45 am.

        This dead horse

        has been beaten many, many times on this site but the revisionism continues to irk.

        Mr. Kapphahn, you certainly may offer a purely political argument for Ms. Clinton’s willful blindness, but first, do not conflate 9-11-01 and 3-20-03; second, do not ascribe irrational hysteria to the almost half of the population who resisted the strongest propaganda push in the history of this nation and held fast to its fact-based and principled opposition; and third, please recall that there never was a relation between the 9-11-01 attack and Iraq and none ever was seriously put into play.

        Mr. Appelen, the poll you cite was four days after the invasion when the jingoistic euphoria skyrocketed. I’m not big on rooting thru polls, but the attached (near the bottom) indicates what I recall: that in the week before the invasion, less than half (47%) of the population supported it absent a Security Council resolution. http://www.gallup.com/poll/7990/public-support-iraq-invasion-inches-upward.aspx Such a resolution was being readied, then the Cheney administration preempted it by invading because it was clear it would fail.

        Millions marched against the invasion in February 2003. By early March, the WMD rationale had collapsed and the administration quickly dragged out the “bringing democracy” rationale, knowing it had to just throw something on the table to allow it to get the invasion underway and then the expected collectivist jingoism would take over. Less than two weeks later, the invasion commenced. It worked just as planned, until it didn’t.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/18/2016 - 09:36 pm.

          Facts is Facts

          Actually it looks like Gallup asked the same question many many times over many years.

          “In view of the developments since we first sent troops into Iraq, do you think the US made a mistake is sending troops to Iraq, or not?

          Mar2003 Yes, Mistake: 23% No, Not a Mistake: 75%
          Apr2004 Yes, Mistake:42% No, Not a mistake: 57%
          2005 Mixed results

          Then as things dragged on it flipped to ~55/~40.

          So yes a majority of Americans thought it was a good idea as long as we were winning…

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/16/2016 - 10:13 am.

    There is no plausible explanation

    That’s the problem, it’s a fatal flaw. Either she voted for political reasons knowing the war was a bad idea, or she actually believed the war was a good idea. Either way it’s a catastrophic mistake that simply can’t be explained away or ignored. The question now is whether or not the judgement by elite democrats that the war vote was inconsequential was catastrophic mistake as well. They can’t claim nobody warned them.

    There’s no getting around the private e-mail server fiasco either. The problem is that there is no plausible explanation other than extreme incompetence. And you can’t simply apologize for incompetence on that level and make it go away. Some mistakes are simply too big to set aside or forgive. Such mistakes are simply disqualifying, you can’t blow it like that and ask for a promotion.

    I am so angry with democrats it’s not even funny. They pick the worst candidate they’ve got, the most unpopular, the most distrusted, the most elite, the LEAST progressive and liberal, the most prone to controversy, and the one with the most fatal flaws that simply can’t be ignored. The campaign is a disaster struggling to find it’s footing with only weeks left, and they haven’t even debated yet. Clinton picked a stupid strategy to begin with (based on attack attack attack) and NOW, only NOW realizing they need to give people something to vote for rather just something to vote against. And only NOW realizing that they need those third party young millennial votes to win the election, only to find that they’ve got the wrong candidate to get those votes. This is just sooooo frustrating and spooky. Even Nate Silvers 538 trend shows a narrowing gap. This isn’t funny.

    I’m really really anxious about the upcoming debates, I think Clinton can blow it big time.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/16/2016 - 10:24 am.

    My 2¢

    I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Kapphahn. I’m also somewhat less obsessed by this than Eric. The most relevant (to me) question is one he asks in this piece: If Ms. Clinton was led astray by false promises from the Bush White House, Condi Rice, who-or-whatever, why didn’t she howl in protest at the time?

    I’m also inclined to think of the controversy over her vote as, if not much ado about nothing, then perhaps much more ado than seems necessary for relatively little. It’s not “nothing,” but it’s not the be-all and end-all of policy votes worth looking at from a presidential candidate. In that context, while this article may not be exactly a comparison of presidential candidates, a certain amount of that sort of comparison seems endemic to the season, and unavoidable. Framed that way, there still are only two realistic choices in November, and “mistake” or not, “hawkishness” or not, I much prefer the Clinton choice to the Trump choice. Clinton’s “mistake,” especially when compared to the alternative, does tarnish her image, but it doesn’t come close to persuading me to consider the alternative seriously.

    • Submitted by Linda Hopkins on 09/23/2016 - 11:52 am.

      Hillary Clinton voting for the war in iraq

      I agree with Ray Schooch that this is much ado over nothing. I never believed any of Colin Powell’s tepid proofs about Saddam to the UN and I protested against the war. However, Hillary as a senator from New York was in a “no win” dilemma. At the time, most newspapers were screaming that the US should march into Iraq and the few opposed to it were summarily ignored. Mrs. Clinton took the safe political path by voting for the war. I cannot imagine a senator from New York at this time who would have been re-elected after 9/11 if they had not voted for the war powers. If her dissent would have been a key vote, I would be more upset with the situation. But, in fact, almost all the other senators did the same thing, except for Paul Wellstone.

      Unlike Trump, who praises dictators and aggressors, and can only express policy positions in terms of violence and oppression, Mrs. Clinton’s whole life in government (outside of this vote) has been encouraging justice and equality, understanding, and the diplomatic goals of our government. It is very troubling to see writers search the tea leaves to find alleged conspiracies by Mrs. Clinton, overlooking her life of service. If they did the same thing to Mr. Trump, they probably would run out of ink before covering all his transgressions.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/16/2016 - 10:28 am.

    The why question

    Although we often ask why things happen, have you ever noticed how often the answer we get is unsatisfactory. Lately, on MinnPost, I have seen articles on why Ken Martin pursued a sure loser cast on Trump’s presence on the ballot, and on why it’s so difficult to pass legislation. In neither case did we get close to a real answer. The same is true about many questions related to Hillary’s various adventures. Very often the reason for that is that people just aren’t very revealing about explaining the motivations for what they do. While this isn’t necessarily the most satisfactory state of affairs, maybe we should be a little more willing to cut people a break. We all kind of know why Hillary voted the way she did even if she isn’t very forthcoming about it, and maybe we should be satisfied with that.

  5. Submitted by Chuck Linberg on 09/16/2016 - 10:46 am.

    Willful Ignorance

    Multiple times she blew off an opportunity to get the lowdown on Iraq’s WMD situation from the person who knew more about it than anyone else in the world. And he was a citizen of New York, one of her constituents.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-ritter/hillary-clinton-iraq-war-vote_b_9350340.html

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/16/2016 - 10:47 am.

    I’m with Ray.

    The question is not whether Clinton made a mistake 15 years ago — she clearly (along with many others) did.
    The question is whether she learned from that mistake, and would be likely to repeat it.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/16/2016 - 12:01 pm.

      That is exactly the question

      Unfortunately the evidence is not encouraging. For one thing, it’s hard to assume that someone who can’t or won’t explain a mistake has learned from it. Second, Clinton’s choices and behavior since then offer little evidence that she learns from previous mistakes. She seems to be stumbling through one blunder after another. She clearly still believes in regime change as a foreign policy. As far as I know she still wants to add getting rid of Assad to the Isis policy.

      As to Hiram’s quest for an actual explanation… I don’t think Clinton or MN DFL Chair are going to admit that they’re incompetent. Such an admission almost requires that they withdraw.

    • Submitted by Brad James on 09/16/2016 - 05:03 pm.

      Mark Dayton knew better and did not make the same mistake.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/16/2016 - 12:02 pm.

    When a mistake is more than a mistake

    Some mistakes are big enough to destroy your credibility no matter how long ago you made them. Obviously there are those who will make excuses for Clinton but its equally obvious that such excuses fall on deaf ears. And I hate to say it but the idea that the trauma of 9/11 impaired Clinton’s mental capacities enough to produce a disastrous decision to go war against a country that had NOTHING to with the attacks, doesn’t inspire confidence or bode well for someone wanting to be president; THAT explanation doesn’t actually help.

    Obviously there are democrats who are willing to don the appropriate colored glasses when it comes to the many and various problems Clinton brings to the table. The Problem is we know that Clinton can’t win the election with just those votes… she needs more.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/19/2016 - 07:47 pm.

      Ouch

      Now this is going to hurt, but I am going to defend Clinton… Part of the job of an elected official is to represent the will of their constituents. Now as I have documented above, a large majority of Americans supported the USA invading Iraq in 2003 & 2004. And I assume it was even higher in NY since they were angry and looking for payback on someone.

      So it seems folks here are recommending that Hillary should have voted against the will of the people who elected her.

  8. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 09/16/2016 - 12:10 pm.

    Admitting mistakes and going forward

    George W. Bush never admitted that he had made any mistake, about the Iraq war or anything else. Donal Trump can’t even get himself to say (he had a surrogate say it for him yesterday) that he was wrong about where President Obama was born–Trump has been a prominent “birther” for years!–and he won’t admit that he was, as a private citizen who never has had to make a hard decision on any public policy issue because he’s never held an elected or appointed position, in favor of the Iraq war.

    By contrast, Hillary Clinton has long since, and repeatedly, admitted she made a mistake with that Senate vote permitting executive branch action in Iraq,and apologized for it. Only those who are insistent that Hillary Clinton is responsible for the Iraq war, single-handedly (Eric: this has your name on it), could entertain the idea that she doesn’t learn from her mistakes.

    Drumbeats from the right that blame Hillary Clinton for Iraq–where’s Bush? where’s Colin Powell?–are attempts to deflect our attention from major issues. Like Trump being a liar and a prevaricator and a slippery con artist, fit for reality TV, maybe, but certainly not for the presidency of our county. We don’t need a pothead from New Mexico to get votes that non-deplorables would cast for Clinton and we don’t need some unknown Green to take her votes, either.

    What we need is more digging into Trump’s businesses, into his taxes [not]paid] and why he won’t reveal his tax returns, into his and his family’s racist housing development practices, into the work environment his female employees have had to live with over the years, etc. There’s dirt yet to be found with Trump; Hillary has been over-researched, boys.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/19/2016 - 07:54 pm.

      Humans

      My elderly parents are big fans of Trump, so it frustrated them greatly when I reminded them that both Trump and Clinton have a lot of skeletons in their closet. I mean they are both financial and power climbers…

      Of course, like many on the far Left and Right, they opted to deny Trump’s flaws and exaggerate Clinton’s. Hopefully someday people on both sides will accept that both candidates are rather self centered people with human flaws.

      The question is which do we think will do better for the USA in the future?

  9. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/16/2016 - 12:26 pm.

    Hats off to Mr. Kranish for treating his audience with respect

    …as opposed to the puerile and insulting propaganda coming from most sources regarding this election. There is almost no “news” or “coverage” about the campaigns that is not thinly disguised advocacy.

    Here, a journalist is actually functioning as a journalist. Amazing!!

  10. Submitted by C.S. Senne on 09/16/2016 - 12:31 pm.

    (Sigh…)

    What is it called when someone writes the same thing over & over & over again expecting a different result?

  11. Submitted by Adam Miller on 09/16/2016 - 12:37 pm.

    Exactly Zero

    Is the number of Senators that voted against the AUMF. It’s also the number of Senators that didn’t make the same mistake.

    Saying that she should have been the lone Senatorial voice against the thing that was almost universally agreed upon is holding her to a ridiculously high standard.

    They were wrong, and there was no shortage of people outside Washington that tried to tell them that, but the fact remains that Hillary’s mistake was not controversial at the time.

    And regardless of whether she had joined Barbara Lee to bring the number of dissenting votes all the way up to two, the AUMF was going to pass.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 09/16/2016 - 01:25 pm.

      Wrong vote

      There was a separate resolution on the Iraq war, which was opposed by 23 senators. That is the vote for which Clinton is criticized. At the time, I thought her yes vote (and the 76 other yes votes) were a huge mistake.

      That being said, Clinton has explained her vote and admitted it was a mistake many times. Kranish and other sad excuses for journalists just don’t like her answer.

  12. Submitted by chuck holtman on 09/16/2016 - 12:54 pm.

    Completely irrelevant

    We know why Clinton made that “mistake.” We can call it “establishment mindset.” What is meant by “establishment mindset” can be elaborated over thousands of words, but that’s what it is, and it isn’t going to change, because that is who Clinton is.

    Clinton’s “mistake,” and what it meant about Clinton, was relevant in the primary. But it matters nothing now, because Clinton is the only candidate running in this election, and so we must vote for her provided she is breathing on election day. The other choice is not for a candidate, but for nihilism. Trump is a performance artist pranking the media and his supporters. With each day, he elevates the fullness of the nothingness he presents: no policies, no path to implement policies, no facticity, no reasoning (Western or otherwise), no norms of human behavior, no traits of personal character, indeed one could say no object permanence, a gradual stripping away of any possible feature on which one could rest one’s support for a candidate, nothing but a nihilism offered to those who no longer can summon the strength to exist in human society and want to see it all go away, preferably in a maelstrom of others’ suffering. And if Trump wins? It won’t all go away, though he likely will, leaving it all in the hands of Republican establishment figures and an assortment of his malignantly eccentric hangers-on.

    The election season is meaningless and the media coverage is Potemkinist farce that hides the absence that it purports to consider. Can we just vote already?

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 09/16/2016 - 03:41 pm.

      Agreed

      Both Trump and Clinton supported the Iraq war.

      One candidate has acknowledged it was wrong, explained why she did it (although not to the satisfaction of some reporters) and apologized.

      The other candidate keeps repeating the bald-faced lie that he opposed the Iraq war, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

      Yet somehow here we are nitpicking the explanation of the first candidate. This is a complete and utter failure of journalism. The press has failed the American people this year.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/17/2016 - 11:05 am.

      Huh?

      Clinton’s “mistakes” and her propensity for making them were actually very relevant during the primaries and accounted for a good deal of the support Sanders got. Those mistakes and tendency to keep making them continue to dog Clinton now and are responsible for her low historically low trustworthiness and popularity ratings.

  13. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 09/16/2016 - 04:30 pm.

    real issues, anyone?

    It would be nice to have a piece that contrasts the Clinton and Trump stands on various urgent national issues, instead of stuff that contrasts an empty political past (Trump’s consists of buying off political figures,which he brags of doing) with a fine record of elected and appointed offices held (Clinton).

  14. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 09/16/2016 - 06:58 pm.

    Just a reminder

    “People are still dying — yesterday, today and tomorrow — for this mistake.”

    At the time, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were dying every year under the regime according to our press.

  15. Submitted by Rosalie O'Brien on 09/16/2016 - 08:34 pm.

    Utterly Incoherent

    Thank you, Greg Kapphahn, for reminding us of how it was after 9/11. I think you make a great point! My husband and I were in Chappaqua that day visiting family, finally driving home to St. Louis several days later when we were lucky enough to get a rental car. I’m sorry to say that it hadn’t occurred to me, but I think you may be right that, especially as a senator from New York at that time, Hillary could not have voted any other way.

    It is still difficult to understand how anyone as smart and hard-working as Hillary can do such a dismal job of dealing with whatever things are thrown at her in the political give-and-take. It is almost Shakespearean that as a very capable candidate in terms of experience and values, she exhibits such a serious–and possibly tragic–inability to address questions and accusations successfully, in a way that would be respected by most reasonable people.

    What disturbs me most, though, is the effect that the existence of a bogus candidate is having on our national political discourse. As others have said, Mr. Trump isn’t a real candidate for a responsible position of leadership; he’s a narcissistic huckster who will say anything that he feels like saying at the moment. (There are many things worse than a garden variety narcissist, and one of them is an ignorant, totally irresponsible, tending-toward-sociopathic narcissist!) But instead of being treated like the entertainer he is and laughed out of the picture, he is being treated as legitimate by the media when, for example, it credits him as having had a position from which he then deviates. I understand that he has won primaries and that the media is supposed to present a balanced perspective, but there is still no excuse for such treatment. It makes a sham of our political process and paves the way for election results that ill-serve the country.

    “One person, one vote” doesn’t work if those who cast the votes don’t think in a coherent way. Can it be that the rise of digital media, with its knee-jerk timing and absence of depth, has rendered serious, meaningful democratic process impossible?

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/19/2016 - 08:05 pm.

      Obama Words

      Rosalie,
      Obama said something to the effect of “he had to undergo a huge change and learn a lot of things when he moved from being Candidate Obama to sitting behind the big desk as President Obama”.

      So though I have very real concerns about Trump’s past, I have great faith that he is highly motivated to carve out a glowing place for himself in history. And he is happy to change his beliefs based on the will of the majority.

      That said he may not be as bad of a President as many here believe.

  16. Submitted by Rosalie O'Brien on 09/16/2016 - 09:43 pm.

    post script, and apologies to Ms. Clinton

    Having just read “Fear of a Female President,” by Peter Beinart, in the October issue of The Atlantic, I commend it to all and note a few points made in the story:

    –“Among the emasculations most men fear is subordination to women,” which is shared by some women who value traditional gender roles; thus, both men and women judge powerful women more harshly than powerful men.

    –The presidential primary candidate whose supporters were most likely to believe that America is becoming feminized was Donald Trump. His supporters led by double digits over Cruz supporters.

    –According to Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, Ms. Clinton “has generally grown more popular when she stops seeking an office and begins occupying it” (e.g. NY senate); however, a pollster notes that she “has generally been more popular” when performing “traditional” gender roles (such as working on women’s issues during Bill’s presidency, sticking by him during the Lewinsky scandal, being loyal to Obama as Secretary of State) and least popular when violating them (health care reform in the early 90’s, running for President).

    The story notes that some of her biggest mistakes began as relatively inconsequential errors in judgment, but when seized on by critics, she did as now: dug in, because she feared that admitting a mistake would “arm her enemies.”

    How does a woman conquer the handicap of being a woman, especially when cast opposite a quintessential blustering male?

    We have a long way to go. To begin with, we can try to make sure that she doesn’t lose this election.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/19/2016 - 08:01 am.

      Women

      Sexism is clearly alive and well in America but I honestly don’t think gender is the issue for Clinton. I think Americans are/were actually more willing to vote for a woman than they were a black man for president. I voted for a woman president back in 1984 (Lenora Fulani). People will vote for a woman, they just don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton. She came into this with historically high levels of distrust and dislike, she’s had no compelling agenda other than being Hillary in the White House, her name is “Clinton”, her actual record is a mixed bag, and she’s an awful campaigner with a documented record of blowing huge leads in the polls. We don’t need a gender analysis to explain voter reluctance. When you hear hooves clomping down the street, think horse, not zebra.

  17. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/17/2016 - 01:04 pm.

    Fresh from the Atlantic: the debate we’re NOT having

    …in this election. But across the pond, they are exploring their doubts and considering the consequences:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/09/trump-clinton-iraq-libya/499238/?google_editors_picks=true

  18. Submitted by Eric Black on 09/17/2016 - 05:00 pm.

    Her explanation

    Regular commenter Neal Rovick tried to post a long excerpt from this Slate piece in which Fred Kaplan explained Clinton’s vote. The excerpt got too long for the thread, but read the link and you’ll see that it’s similar to the argument in my post, that Clinton believed Bush had promised not to use the AUMF to actually start the war but only to pressure Saddam to let the U.N. inspectors back in. It doesn’t address why she didn’t complain when the bombing started or for several years after that she felt the authorization had been abused or obtained under false pretenses.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/18/2016 - 12:28 pm.

      Not a credible explanation

      So Clinton is telling us that she didn’t think she was actually voting for the use of military force when she voted to authorize the use of military force? She “trusted” Bush? I’m sorry this “explanation” just raises more questions about her judgement, if it’s true, it disqualifies her.

      I was there and I saw what they did, anyone who didn’t think the Bush White house was committed to war wasn’t paying attention. Did Clinton NOT see the big giant army that Bush was positioning to invade Iraq? What was the “Coalition of Willing” if not an invasion force? And anyone who trusted Bush and Cheney after the election, the Enron collapse, and Sept. 11 can only be described as naive. The fact is that Obama, Sanders, and others got it right and no matter what kind of explanation Clinton offers, she got it wrong. Millions of people all over the world as well as the press heard the war drums… but not Clinton? It was patently clear that war was inevitable so how could anyone vote to authorize military force and think they weren’t going to get a war out of the deal?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/19/2016 - 08:12 am.

      About the Kalpan article…

      One point of interest about the Kaplan article that Neal tried to excerpt: The gist of the article ends up being that Kaplan himself has decided that he believes Clinton is telling the truth about thinking she was voting for leverage instead of war. It’s kind of a weird a “gist” for an article and may demonstrate the confusion behind the inept handling of Clinton’s campaign.

      Clinton supporters have always struggled for focus beyond Clinton being Hillary because they’ve never taken the time to understand why people don’t want to vote for her. Clinton supporters have always just dismissed liberals and progressives who don’t want to vote for Hillary with insults and patronization. In this case Kaplan seems to think that we care whether or not HE believes Clinton; he’s shadow boxing with the wrong issue. Yes, trust is an issue, but an “honest” description of incompetence and poor judgement doesn’t bode well for Clinton. It’s like Clinton and her supporters just can’t admit that people actually have a problem with her judgement and competence, they keep making up other explanations for her poor performance. Meanwhile the gap keeps narrowing and as we’ve seen before, Clinton’s “lead” (which was never that big in the first place) seems to be slipping away.

  19. Submitted by Matthew Nelson on 09/18/2016 - 04:38 am.

    What is a mistake

    Wouldn’t it be a mistake, for the people of the great u.s.a to vote for president they don’t see fit to run the country? When is a mistake just a mistake? If someone loses a life because of another persons mistake, shouldn’t that person be held accountable for their mistake? It would seem to me if she admits her mistake then she understands innocent people lost their lives because of it. Yet she still see’s herself fit to be president…

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 09/19/2016 - 12:01 pm.

      But you’re forgetting that Hillary Clinton has actually been elected to a major national political office (US Senator from the state of New York–where you have to have lots of votes, unlike in Wyoming or Idaho where just a few thousand people can elect someone to the Senate). And she served four years as Secretary of State, working closely with President Obama and conferring on matters of life or death for other Americans in foreign wars started by George W. Bush. Not by Hillary Clinton.

      Trump–who is the alternative we have if we denigrate the distinguished public service record of candidate Hillary Clinton–has never been elected to anything. He supported the Iraq War and that’s recorded, but he lies about that. In fact, he lies about everything, sooner or later. He also cheats his business associates as a matter of course, uses gigantic subsidies from public money for his real estate developments, discriminates against blacks in housing applications, and he’s so embarrassed about his non-contributions to charities and his non-payment of income taxes that he has been lying about there being a federal audit that ostensibly prevents him from sharing his tax returns with us. He’s not worth as much money as he would have the public believe.All he’s got to say about his health is that he’s got a great penis and lots of testosterone, which he brags to Dr. Oz about on national TV. Please.

      In the face of Trump’s hiding everything, we attack so viciously Hillary Clinton’s wish for privacy about having pneumonia? He blathers this way and that way, and we attack her for a Senate vote?

      There is definitely an un-examined bias against a strong woman leading all the men in this country. All women with careers in business know that bias, all women with political careers know that bias, most married women know that bias. Hillary Clinton just doesn’t bow her head and play sweet. She’s strong, determined, outspoken, articulate, smarter-than-most, ambitious (you know a man who’s regularly criticized, as she is, for being politically ambitious?). She’s disliked for being that kind of woman, not for anything she’s done. And the dislike is based on years of men attacking her, on TV and radio and in the right-wing press.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/19/2016 - 01:53 pm.

        Forgotten?

        “But you’re forgetting that Hillary Clinton has actually been elected to a major national political office (US Senator from the state of New York–where you have to have lots of votes, unlike in Wyoming or Idaho where just a few thousand people can elect someone to the Senate). And she served four years as Secretary of State, working closely with President Obama and conferring on matters of life or death for other Americans in foreign wars started by George W. Bush. Not by Hillary Clinton.”

        I’ve never forgot any of this, and I doubt anyone else has either.

        • Submitted by Jim Million on 09/20/2016 - 10:23 am.

          Everything dies eventually.

          This one pretty much took Vietnam down a notch, as it did Korea. The financial and ethnic legacy of this one may prevail for a long time. As mentioned before, Saddam predicted this aftermath, not before the invasion,
          but after it was well underway. Perhaps he did raise the specter early, and maybe forces suppressed the news media. Who knows about that? In any case, he was already under invasion–too late for anyone to listen. It happened, is still with us, but is not yet looking like a new Soviet Union or Berlin of 1948. Hard to tell how long this release of reality will continue after being suppressed for 90 prior years back to WW I, perhaps longer.

  20. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/23/2016 - 06:25 pm.

    Just Curious Eric

    When do we start the crucifixions? And do we stop with all those that voted for the war? Or do we just waterboard them? Or perhaps 90 days of sack cloth and ashes? Seems lots of the folks running for senate reelection etc. aren’t held to the same standard?

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