JOHN IN DC: A lot of people didnt notice that Hillary gave an interview last week about Iraq that read like George Bush at his worst. Not only did she lecture Democratic voters about how Iraq is tied to September 11—which it most certainly is not—but she then one upped herself by chastising the other Democratic candidates, and we presume their supporters, over the fact that SHE was alive on September 11, and apparently we weren't.Sounds bad. John linked to an AP report (by Mike Glover), from which he pulled a five-paragraph excerpt. He highlighted the third paragraph, just as we do here:
GLOVER (1/27/07): Attention focused on Iraq and her vote to authorize the use of force ahead of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Presidential rivals such as former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards now say the vote in support was a mistake.With all due respect, that's a load of crap, John wrote. He also lived through 9/11, he complained—and he ended with a further, tougher gripe about that highlighted paragraph. Invoking September 11 when asked about Iraq is unconscionable, he wrote, slamming Clinton. It is pure Dick Cheney, and an outright lie.
"There are no do-overs in life," Clinton said. She says Congress received bad information going into the vote and that she would have voted differently given what she knows now.
"As a senator from New York, I lived through 9/11 and I am still dealing with the aftereffects," Clinton said. "I may have a slightly different take on this from some of the other people who will be coming through here."
Clinton said her view is that the nation is engaged in a deadly fight against terrorism, a battle that she contends Bush has botched.
"I do think we are engaged in a war against heartless, ruthless enemies," she said. "If they could come after us again tomorrow they would do so.
CARLSON (2/6/07): Last night the Senate voted against debating the non-binding anti-war resolution, put forward by Senator John Warner of Virginia. It was a blow to sincere anti-war Democrats, like Russ Feingold, but a new survey by the Politico shows that nine of the 18 senators who voted in favor of the Iraq invasion continue to stick by their choice.That account of Clintons stance is just bogus. But no one in the four-member panel challenged what Gerstein had said.
So what gives with the party elected to end the war?...Dan, how can half the Democrats who voted for—essentially for the resolution that gave the president the power to go to war in the first place in 2002—they wont retract their vote. They wont recant? How does that work?
GERSTEIN: I think its pretty easy to explain. And I think this is what Hillary Clinton has done, which is to separate the decision about going to war, versus how the war has been conducted. I give Hillary Clinton a lot of credit for not doing the politically expedient thing, and doing what Edwards did in repudiating that vote, because she thought it was the right thing to do. She sort of says, Im not going to do revisionist history. But you can still say it was the right thing to go to war and say that the Bush administration has completely bungled— [interrupted by host]
MATTHEWS (2/5/07): We are back with the washingtonpost.com`s Chris Cillizza and the Weekly Standards Matt Continetti. Matt, you haven`t been here in a while so tell me this [tone of exasperation]: What is Hillary—what is her position on the war in Iraq?Night after night, we hear the same frame. Hillary Clinton wont repudiate/renounce/retract her vote on the October 2002 war resolution. As a matter of fact, she wont even recant! Finally, Matthews expressed it in the most childish way possible: Why wont she say she was wrong?
CONTINETTI: Right now again Hilary Clinton not repudiating her vote. That is the one thing that distinguishes her from John Edwards, who also voted for authority and now declares it was a mistake.
MATTHEWS: What is your strategy behind not saying youre wrong if everybody thinks you think you`re wrong?
CONTINETTI: The Clinton strategy was always trying to get as left as possible, but still hold out space for the general election. I fear she has moved too far to the left for the general. Now saying she resents the fact that Bush is continuing the war and Bush better make sure we are all out of Iraq before she becomes president, that is going to open her up to a lot of attacks if she makes— [interrupted by host]
Why wont Clinton voice the specific words, I was wrong? We have no idea (nor do we much care). On Sundays Washington Journal, Chuck Todd offered a speculation; her campaign may think that a woman will be treated more harshly than a man if she admits to having been wrong. We dont know if that is the thinking—but Continettis answer to Matthews question shows the way a particular frame is being built around Clinton. What is her position on the war? he was asked—and, essentially, he chose not to answer. In his initial nugget response, he didnt say the obvious relevant things—that she has insisted that Bush must bring the war to an end; that she just said she will end the war if Bush doesnt. He didnt say that she signed on to standard Democratic anti-war frameworks when they were developed last summer. Instead, he took out his hammer and started pounding. Clinton wont repudiate her vote, he replied. Its what makes her different from Edwards.
Tomorrow, well review some things Edwards said on Sundays Meet the Press. But remember, it was on that same program—in 2004!—that Clinton said there would have been no basis for the war if wed known there were no WMD. But so what? For reasons only they can explain, the boys and girls of our celebrity press corps are hammering nightly on an odd framework. Night after night, this framework is being built on flat misstatements (see Gerstein) or on odd formulations (Continetti).
Why is this framework being built? Lets note one part of the shadow it casts. Last night (see text above), Carlson drew an invidious distinction between sincere antiwar Democrats (like Feingold) and all the other Dems—like Clinton. On Monday, Matthews took a similar tack; he acted as if no one on earth has the slightest idea what Clintons stance is. (He then insisted, as he constantly does, that she would cheer for a war with Iran. His voice conveyed the standard disgust he likes to display in such moments.) In these exchanges, these loud, stupid boys typed a favorite old mainstream press script: You just cant believe those fake, phony Clintons! It has been the greatest script of the past fifteen years—applied to both Clintons, and to Kerry, and to Gore. (Will someone please go tell Josh Marshall?) But then, when it comes to mouthing this well-worn script, we are all Jim Nicholson now.
With apologies for our endless poor form: If you want to see fellows like Carlson and Matthews escorting Their Next Preferred Nut to the White House, then go ahead—let them continue to hammer that frame around Clinton. Nightly, theyre working on that new framework. Theyre constructing your next defeat now.
NICELY RENDERED: All praise to Kevin Drum for this apt framing of the key question regarding Joe Klein. Why didnt Klein speak more clearly about Iraq in the fall of 02? In the winter months which followed? Well go ahead and take a wild guess: For the same reason that Clinton/Edwards/Kerry cast their votes on the war resolution.
Kevin asked the right question last night. Klein, now a blogger, gets to answer.