This is perhaps the biggest ground for supporting Obama over Hillary. In 2002, Hillary voted to authorize the President to go to war in Iraq. Obama did not–while not in the Senate, he spoke against the war. This is not merely a matter of looking at old votes to see who was vindicated in hindsight. It is an important issue of how we confront the war machine. Imagine two debates:
Obama: “I have been against this war from the beginning.”
McCain: [war-mongering insanity]
Clinton: “We need to end this war.”
McCain: “You voted for this war, now you’re flip-flopping? We need to finish what you started!”
[Enter John-Kerry, stage left]
Aside from showing that I can’t write good dialogue, this is a huge problem for Clinton. Sometimes liberals worry about looking weak on national security. We’d do better to spend more time worrying about just looking weak and confused. We’re better off with a candidate who can speak confidently and with convictions the public can discern.
At a real level, Hillary’s actions don’t make sense. Sometimes people have tried to explain voting for the war by citing political necessities. But the fact is those political necessities were only there if you thought that the war would go well. If your belief was that war would go poorly, the political necessity is to vote against it–you might take heat in the short term, but you’ll be vindicated. In any case, if Hillary gets the nomination, look forward to a lot of tortuous explanations during the general election.
We don’t need to fear a direct confrontation–McCain’s ideas are dangerous and unpopular. What we need to worry about is whether we’ll be able to make that case or whether the message will be drowned out.