In the recent ABC News Presidential debate on August 19, Hillary Clinton came the closest she has to date to admitting that her decision to authorize military action in Iraq was a mistake. She didn't of course, but did say that she "regret[ted] giving George Bush the authority that he misused and abused." Just as in the past, she blamed her decision on the lies and deception of the Bush Administration, and reiterated that given the information she had at the time, she made the best decision she could. Perhaps little noticed at that point, and certainly little acknowledged by the media since then, was a voice from off camera: "Were you tricked Senator Clinton?" It was easy to miss, as there was no follow-up, and Clinton's excuses went otherwise unchallenged.
The question was a fair and important one, as there were a significant number of Senators and Congressmen who, though subjected to the same lies and deception as Senator Clinton, were able to see through such deception and make the right decision. The question appropriately came from Congressman Dennis Kucinich, one of the leading voices of dissent in the run-up to the war. It is important to note, however, that there were others who, though unable to see through the lies as Kucinich did, still had the wisdom to vote against authorization for other reasons. Clinton, on the other hand, in both her ability to be deceived and in her decisions that followed, displayed a lack of judgment that should indeed be seriously questioned.
During her speech on the Senate floor explaining her vote for authorization, Clinton spoke of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his connection to Al Qaeda. "Now this much is undisputed," she said. The reality is that what was undisputed in Senator Clinton's mind was very much disputed by those who cared enough to seek the truth. One week before, in a speech explaining his vote against authorization, Congressman Kucinich disputed each of the claims that Ms. Clinton would subsequently call indisputable, walking through the Iraq resolution point by point, dissecting and countering its assertions. On each point, Kucinich proved to be correct. Clinton was dead wrong.
How was it that Senator Clinton was so easily tricked? It's not as if she hadn't been warned. Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who unlike Clinton had read the Iraq Intelligence report and subsequently voted against authorization, specifically urged his fellow senators to also read the report during his own Senate floor statement, as in his mind it left much room for doubt. Yet still, in preparation for this literally life and death decision, Senator Clinton chose not to bother. This failure to actively pursue all of the facts before making such a grave decision was and is absolutely inexcusable.
To be certain, Clinton was far from the only Senator or Congressman to recklessly buy into all the false information that was being thrown their and our way. In fact, most did. But at least some, though believing Iraq to be the serious threat that it obviously wasn't, had the good sense to vote against authorization for other reasons. Senator Clinton did not.
Senators such as Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, while not questioning the truth of the Bush Administration's claims as sharply as did Congressman Kucinich, nevertheless questioned the wisdom of providing the President with sole authority to declare war against Iraq, fearing an unnecessary rush to war against the will of Congress. Hillary Clinton also questioned the wisdom of rushing into war but decided to "take the President at his word that he [would] try hard to pass a UN resolution and seek to avoid war, if at all possible." In fact, there was an amendment to the Iraq resolution proposed by Senator Carl Levin that would have ensured just that, allowing Bush to seek a second vote to "move against Iraq without UN support" should a UN resolution fail. Clinton chose to support the original resolution and vote against the amendment. One might wonder if she had missed class at Yale Law School during contract law discussions.
Even if Bush could have been trusted to pursue diplomatic efforts, to provide an open ended blank check for him to go to war without consideration of the complete ramifications of such war was unwise to say the least. That dangers created by the war could be more serious than those the war was meant to address should have been clear from the start, even if those latter dangers had been real. Others, such as Representative Tammy Baldwin and Senator Russ Feingold, were clear about this in their floor speeches explaining their votes against the resolution. Once again, Hillary Clinton came up short. Not only was Senator Clinton tricked, but she was dangerously shortsighted as well.
In what other profession could someone make such grave errors of judgment resulting in disaster of epic proportion and then be considered for promotion? Having failed so completely in the self-professed most important decision of her life, how are we to trust that she won't fail again?
Senator Clinton's unwillingness to accept any responsibility is almost as disturbing as her lack of judgment. Again, we might wonder if she also missed class at Yale the day they discussed the concept of contributory negligence. Then again, perhaps her inability to admit to any mistake is just a psychological defense mechanism so that she can sleep at night. After all, over 3,700 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead due in part to her bad judgment. As Senator Graham had warned when urging his fellow senators to read the Iraq intelligence report, "Blood is going to be on your hands." And so it is. How could Clinton lead a country with so much death and destruction on her conscience? More importantly, why would any of us want her to?
Adam Penn is a restaurant owner in Cambridge, MA. He welcomes your e-mails and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.