Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clinton's choice

I'm watching replays of the CNN Obama/Clinton debate. This is painful.

The argument that Clinton needs, and is failing to make, is that there is a difference between how Senators and Presidents collect the information they need to make their decisions. The Congress does not have an NSA. The President does. Clinton made her decision, one she regrets, on the basis of information provided by George Bush's team. Had she been in President Bush's position, things would be entirely different because she would have had a completely different set of options, including better discovery of what the facts actually were.

She's not making that argument. I'm not sure why, and it suggests to me that she still doesn't think about how to be a President. She's thinking about how to argue about stuff, not how to find the right answer.

There is another angle that Clinton is missing. To win, the Democratic presidential candidate will have to appeal to some Republicans. What is going to go over better? "I was right, you shouldn't have gone to war, now I'm going to fix your mistake and pin the cost on you?" or "We got into this tragedy together, and I will help get us out of it together?" Obama's Iraq message is actually more divisive.

Finally, for what it's worth, the idea of scheduling a withdrawal scares me a lot. I think our withdrawal from Mogadishu contributed directly to the planning of 9/11. I worry about what we're going to be dealing with in 10 years, and where we're going to be dealing with it.


  1. Actually, I don't believe she, or obama, needs to appeal to republicans. In this race, republicans will stay home because McCain is a terrible candidate, despised by most true conservatives, and historically republicans vote for the candidate rather than voting the party.

  2. The reason that Clinton did not make the argument that you suggested is very simple -- the House and Senate were provided with secure rooms in which they could review the same classified data that President Bush used to make his decision. And the primary person on his team responsible for the data was George Tenet, head of the CIA, and held over in that post from the Clinton Administration.

    Indeed, I wonder how much time Hillary spent looking at the data -- the log books of the Senate room where the documents were kept would show this. Perhaps she spent very little time there, and would have been embarassed by a fact which implies whe was lax in her senatorial war decision duties.

    Anyway, it's all academic now, since the surge has worked, Obama is the nominee, and is now moving to the center on the Iraq issue.