In early October 2002, Congress voted in overwhelming numbers to authorize the war in Iraq. Few would have imagined the war would grow to consume American politics and cost the president’s party its majority in both chambers.
With every day’s headlines hammering home the awful truth about the war – that it was an unnecessary and disastrous mistake – some politicians have taken responsibility for their vote. One who has not is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
When pressed on the issue, Clinton has given the “if I knew then what I know now” song and dance and said that Iraq’s sorry shape is all President Bush’s fault. While there’s no denying that the president’s prosecution of the war has been inept, probably the biggest reason for this has been his failure to acknowledge when things aren’t going well and change course accordingly. What we are seeing from Sen. Clinton is remarkably similar to President Bush’s belief in his own infallibility, and her opponents have already fired off some early salvos on this subject in the 2008 campaign.
In the last two weeks, Clinton has begun saying that if her position isn’t good enough for voters, there are other candidates to choose from. What she believes is a tough, stick-to-your-principles decision is really just an effort not to look like the dreaded flip-flopper; and her reference to the “other” candidates only further highlights her inability to admit to a mistake. One of her main competitors for the Democratic presidential nomination, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, voted to authorize the war in 2002 and has since said repeatedly his vote was a mistake and apologized for it. We don’t expect politicians to be right 100 percent of the time – they’re only human. What we do expect is that they be honest and admit to error when they commit one.
Over the last six years, we’ve seen what happens when a president refuses to acknowledge his own mistakes. As a senator, it is Clinton’s responsibility to provide a check on reckless abuses of executive power, not defer to them and give them the benefit of the doubt. She failed, and now it’s time to acknowledge this, or Bush won’t be the only one to have Iraq become a political Waterloo.