I guess I should not have been surprised by this quote from Hillary Clinton’s campaign swing through Iowa on the weekend:
“I think it’s the height of irresponsibility and I really resent it – this was his decision to go to war, he went with an ill-conceived plan, an incompetently executed strategy, and we should expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office.”
(Extricate Hillary, shurely!) Can Clinton just now be realizing that being president is not going to be all beer, Skittles and Vogue covers?
What is even more sobering is that when Hillary Clinton came of age, such a statement from a serious presidential candidate simply would not have been possible. Is it really progress to have a woman president, if she expects it to be largely a ceremonial position?
No doubt Richard Nixon did not appreciate being handed responsibility for the Vietnam War by a Democratic president who implemented a massive escalation in U.S. forces (to 600,000). Lyndon Johnson was so discouraged by the war that he announced barely six months before the November 1968 election that he would not seek a second term. I doubt, however, that Nixon publicly proclaimed that Johnson was obliged to leave his desk clean of any foreign policy files in January 1969.
Unlike for Hillary Clinton, foreign policy was Nixon’s forte, going back to his time in Congress and his eight years as Eisenhower’s vice president. Thanks to the Watergate tapes and other revelations, Nixon’s private peevishness, paranoia and casual racism are now well known. But he was not one to be surprised by – much less publicly whine about – the weight of world affairs on an American president.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, seems unperturbed that her husband’s administration was, as famously described by Charles Krauthammer, “a holiday from history,” and wants to get right back to the pre-Monica Martha’s Vineyard of government-mandated prostate exams and spelling bees. (Unfortunately, there will be no re-living of the Ben Affleck-Gwyneth Paltrow makeout sessions on movie night at Camp David, as both are now old married people with children.)
It is clear now that Clinton’s pursuit of a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee was never a serious foray into defence and foreign affairs, but a mere prophylactic against the charge that her credibility on matters beyond America’s borders was limited to French day care and Swedish hospitals.
Getting back to Nixon, not only did he not complain about inheriting a war into which millions of Americans had been drafted, he actually tried to win what the Democrats had started then abandoned. Some believe the effort was actually succeeding, too, until a Democratic Congress cut funding to the South Vietnamese after Watergate.
Oh, yes. Congress. There actually is a way for Clinton to circumvent Bush’s refusal to synch up his foreign policy with the election cycle and Hillary’s dreams of glory. She could rally her Congressional colleagues to cut funding to the war effort, instead of passing craven resolutions that do nothing but give encouragement and comfort to America’s enemies. If Congress cut funding, Bush would have little choice but to begin a troop pullout, which would likely be complete or near-complete by the time of Clinton’s presumed inauguration in January 2009.
But that would take leadership, courage and the willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions and their aftermath. The Clintons serendipitously found such qualities unnecessary (and in the case of Hillary’s doomed health care initiative, detrimental) to success in White House their first go ‘round. Why would they assume these qualities now?
James Taranto at Opinionjournal.com argues:
Let us think this through, shall we? If withdrawing from Iraq is in America’s interests, why doesn’t Mrs. Clinton – who by the way voted for the war – simply urge President Bush to do so on that ground, or promise to do so herself if elected?
Her demand for withdrawal by Jan. 20, 2009, has a logic to it, though, if she believes it isn’t in America’s interests. Even the Iraq Study Group acknowledged that premature U.S. withdrawal carries with it “the potential for catastrophe.” If Bush withdraws and catastrophe ensues, then President Clinton 44 will not bear any of the blame for it.
If Bush stands firm, the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq would present Clinton 44 with a choice between continuing an unpopular war or doing the politically expedient thing and withdrawing: between doing what is right and doing what is popular. If she does what is popular and catastrophe results, the public, fickle beast that it is, would blame her.
I really resent it, she says. “Height of irresponsibility” indeed.