One month from tomorrow, the Iraq War will be half a decade old. It will be the job of the next Presidentâ€”assuming he or she cares enough to respect the vox populiâ€”to extricate the U.S. from this costly mess. Don’t count on “Maverick” McCain to take swift action in this regard. If he winds up occupying the White House, American troops could be occupying Iraq for the next hundred years or more. Chances are that it will take one of the Democratic contenders to get the job done. Both Clinton and Obama seem to be in favor of ending the warâ€”or, at least, beginning a withdrawal of troops. But which of them can be most trusted to back up their talk by walking the walk?
My head and my heart say Obama. His opposition to the war has been more consistent and of greater duration than Ms. Clinton’s. And she did, after all, vote in the affirmative on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. While it’s true (as a recent commenter to this site pointed out) that Obama was not in the Senate at the time and thus was neither privy to the same information nor subject to the same political pressures as his opponent, that does not change the fact that Clinton voted, “Aye.” And it seems disingenuous for her to explain away her vote as the mere product of inadequate or inaccurate information. She has suggested that she and others would have voted against the resolution “if we knew then what we know now.” But others did knowâ€”or, at least, have an inklingâ€”that the resolution was dangerous and unwise. Twenty-one of the fifty Democrats in the Senate at the time knew enough to vote, “Nay.” A sizable majority (61%) of the Democrats in the House also voted, “Nay.” Is Ms. Clinton suggesting that she is more susceptible to being bamboozled or steamrolled than her nay-saying colleagues? Or that she is somehow more ignorant and less prescient? Hillary Clinton is many things, but unintelligent and uninformed are not among her qualities. (President Bush, on the other hand…) She is shrewd, smart, and perceptive. So how could she vote, “Aye”?
Perhaps because she is shrewd, smart, and perceptiveâ€”and she already had her sights set on a run for the presidency. I firmly believe that her vote was more about her future ambitions than the nation’s immediate needs. It was more about political self-interest (the I) than public interest (the we). It was a shameless effort to position herself as a no-nonsense centrist willing and able to make tough decisions. In short, she was packaging herself for the electorate’s eventual consumption, selling out in order to sell herself.
And that is why I do not trust her and believe that Obama is the better person for the job. He seems to possess greater integrity and to be more genuine. Where Ms. Clinton seems to inspire a certain wariness, Mr. Obama inspires hope. While one can argue that her experience (however exaggerated) makes her more suited to lead from “day one” of the presidency, Obama seems more suited to lead in the days beyond. This nation is hungry for change and desperate to put the partisan politics and feckless policies of the past behind us. Obama has tapped into our collective desires and discontent in a way that no candidate in recent memory has. He is galvanizing a new generation of voters. In that regard, he is a true leader. Can the same honestly be said about Hillary Clinton? Her history and character suggest otherwise. In 2002, she was among those who led us into war. Is she really the best person to lead us out of war and into the peace and healing that must, of necessity, follow? Does her “Aye” deserve yours?