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Hillary Clinton’s Iran Vote

Hillary ClintonIf the American people have a major reservation about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton Presidency, I suspect it is none of the usual reasons given about what the Republicans might have on “the Clintons” or our readiness to have a woman as President.

Unlike the Republicans, the American people like Bill Clinton; and they can tell Hillary is smart, articulate and capable. That’s partly why she’s the front runner.

And they’ve no doubt observed that countries all over the world have women presidents and prime ministers, and every one of them is obviously smarter and wiser than George Bush and less reckless and duplicitous than Dick Cheney.

No, it seems more likely the reservation is about what she learned from her vote to authorize Bush and Cheney to start a war. That question was front and center in Wednesday night’s Democratic candidates’ debate. And her answer was chilling, because it confirmed everyone’s worst fears about her basic judgment.

When challenged about her Iraq authorization vote, Senator Clinton has repeatedly tried to pin the blame on George Bush — that she had a right to expect him to be honest, to use good judgment, and to exercise good faith in completing the WMD inspections and acting on the facts. In short, Hillary’s defense has been “I trusted Bush to make the right decision, but against my advice, and to my surprise, he deceived all of us and made the wrong decision.” And she has added, “if I had known then . . .” and (paraphrasing) “I would not have made the same judgment as Bush.” Not very satisfying, but she’s stuck to it.

But what about the next war? Senator Edwards framed the most obvious question: Now that we know Bush and Cheney cannot be trusted to tell the truth, or to give peaceful alternatives a chance, or to act with wisdom and due regard for consequences, why would anyone in their right minds approve a resolution that would give Bush and Cheney the idea Congress had enabled them to make any decision regarding possible war with Iran?

Wednesday’s vote on the Lieberman – Kyl resolution, condemning Iran and allowing the designation of its Revolutionary Guards as a “terrorist” entity, was a litmus test for candidates seeking the Presidency. The vote separated the wise from the foolish, and Senator Clinton voted — again — for foolish.

The post debate media spinners gave us the conventional wisdom that candidate X was positioning himself for the primary, while candidate Y was positioning herself for the general election. But the vote on the Iran resolution was not about positioning for the general election, because it was not about what a President Clinton would do, but about what Bush/Cheney might do.

Hillary Clinton expressed the Bush framing about the terrorist nature of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, but her statements were not relevant to whether it was wise or foolish to vote for the Lieberman – Kyl resolution. That resolution’s relevance is not about what Hillary Clinton would do as President, but about what it enables Bush and Cheney to do without Congressional opposition during their term, not hers.

There is no way to spin Clinton’s vote to blunt what it tells us. Her vote in favor of the resolution was reckless and foolish and exhibited exactly the same flawed judgment — if not opportunism — as her original Iraq authorization vote. Only this time, she has no excuse of claiming she didn’t know Bush’s character.

If this were a Republican candidate, I would see it as a disqualifying event. Why shouldn’t the same apply here, especially when two other Democratic candidates facing similar political pressures — Dodd and Biden — voted for “wise”?

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley