From a technical point of view, this John Edwards ad is pretty awesome:
Substantively, though, I’m not in love with this particular critique of Clinton precisely because it’s not a substantive critique. All politicians try to “have it both ways” to some extent, and anyone would be acting like this if they were a front runner. Her position on Social Security is the correct position, and there’s no sense in helping Tim Russert portray it as cowardly. But more to the point, Edwards leads off with some revealing Iraq clips.
The correct point to make about Clinton on Iraq, though, isn’t that her positions require too much parsing, the point to make is that her vision of an enduring American training mission in Iraq is a bad idea on the merits. She says we should keep troops in Iraq to train Iraqi security forces. In fact, we shouldn’t do that. Absent political chance in Iraq, the training mission makes things worse. We’re arming and equipping the parties to a civil war, pouring gasoline on the fires of violence. If a pony happens to emerge, it might make sense to re-evaluate the anti-training view, but given the current situation we shouldn’t be doing this training mission. Clinton’s position on this issue is wrong and that’s the problem with it.
Meanwhile, like GFR and Ezra I’m not really sure that Clinton did play the gender card. Anyone who’s ever ridden the, um, “Wellesley College Senate Bus” can tell you that “In so many ways, this all-women’s college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics” is standard-issue Wellesley talking points and not some nefarious piece of political messaging. I think it is true, though, that Clinton is counting, politically, on the fact that people probably subconsciously assume that a woman is less hawkish than an analysis of her policy positions would suggest.
UPDATE: Edwards campaign sources want to emphasize that Edwards did make a policy argument during the debate (though focused more on the idea of “combat missions” than the training farce) but that the MSM isn’t interested in policy arguments.