November 28, 2007

Why We Called It Clintonesque (Update: Bill Would Have Voted For War)

Common wisdom holds that Bill Clinton provides his wife with her biggest political asset on the stump, but yesterday demonstrated that the former President can also supply her with hurdles as well. Campaigning in Iowa, Bill attempted to rewrite history by claiming to "oppose[] Iraq from the beginning" -- leading ABC and bloggers to uncover a treasure trove of statements that expose that assertion as a lie (via Memeorandum):

Former President Bill Clinton portrayed himself as having been against the Iraq war "from the beginning" while campaigning Tuesday for his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, in Iowa.

"Even though I approved of Afghanistan and opposed Iraq from the beginning," said Clinton, "I still resent that I was not asked or given the opportunity to support those soldiers."

Clinton has long been critical of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and called it a "big mistake" as far back as November of 2005.

But like his wife, the former president supported giving President Bush the authority needed to go to war.

"I supported the President when he asked the Congress for authority to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," said Clinton in 2003 while delivering commencement remarks at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss.

That last quote represents the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few more, received by e-mail this morning:

"So, you're sitting there as President, you're reeling in the aftermath of [September 11], so, yeah, you want to go get bin Laden and do Afghanistan and all that. But you also have to say, well, my first responsibility now is to try everything possible to make sure that this terrorist network and other terrorist networks cannot reach chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material. I've got to do that. That's why I supported the Iraq thing." ("His Side Of The Story," Time, 6/28/04)

"'Saddam is gone and good riddance,' former President Bill Clinton said yesterday. Clinton also said Bush should not be faulted if banned weapons of mass destruction aren't found. 'I don't think you can criticize the President for trying to act on the belief that they have a substantial amount of chemical and biological stock. ... That is what I was always told.'" (Joel Siegel, "W Fought A Good Fight, Clinton Says," [New York] Daily News, 4/16/03)

"I supported the president when he asked the Congress for authority to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." (Former President Bill Clinton, Remarks At Tougaloo College Commencement, Jackson, MS, 5/18/03)

Those who profess an undefinable discomfort with a Clinton return to power may find more definition for that discomfort after this display. It's not the equivocation that has people squirming; it's the ease with which Bill Clinton can issue flat-out lies. In fact, the fact that he issues such researchable and exposable lies and still has the chutzpah to use them on the stump that may worry people most of all. Does he really think that the media will allow those statements to go unchallenged?

The pattern here is really unmistakable. In the early days of the war, Bill had no problem climbing onto the Bush bandwagon, claiming support for the war. Now that it has proven as unpopular as it is, Bill wants to rewrite history and claim that he always opposed it, despite his record of public support. He will say anything to match up with the public sentiment of the moment, showing himself as a man completely without reliable principles.

That's the problem for Hillary, who almost completely lacks his campaigning skills and needs his assistance in connecting to voters. Her reliance on his campaigning winds up associating herself with his lack of honesty and credibility. When his slickness combines with her high negatives, Democrats should consider the likely result -- a general-election disaster.

UPDATE: Via CapQ commenter Neo, here's a report about Bill Clinton's 2002 state of mind from that charter member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy ... The Nation?

The Alliance was created to think long-term and to fund gaps in progressive infrastructure. But with two major elections coming up, short-term electoral needs were bubbling to the surface.

A surprise guest at the meeting [in May 2006] was Bill Clinton, whose agenda seemed to be protecting his wife. But things didn't work out quite as planned. When Guy Saperstein, a retired lawyer from Oakland, asked Clinton if Democrats who supported the war should apologize, the former President "went [expletive] ballistic," according to Saperstein. Forget Hillary, Clinton said angrily during a ten-minute rant; if I was in Congress I would've voted for the war. "It was an extraordinary display of anger and imperiousness," Saperstein says.

The willingness to challenge Clinton at least temporarily reassured progressive Democrats that partners in the Alliance had a spine and wouldn't be a front group for "Hillary '08." But Clinton's response was a not-so-subtle warning to partners to avoid divisive issues, like the war, that might harm his wife in the next presidential election. Hillary herself has had a number of one-on-one sit-downs with members of the board, as has Howard Dean.

So as late as last year, Bill was telling Democrats that he supported the vote on the AUMF. He supported the war. He's either lying now, or was lying last year, and/or lying in 2003, 2004, 2005 ....


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