It was not easy to be against that war back when we cast that vote in October of 2002. I was one of 23 who voted against the war. Barack was supportive – one of the few candidates speaking out strongly against it in Illinois. If President Clinton had opposed that war as strongly as Barack Obama at the time, it would have helped a lot of us who had voted against authorizing an invasion.
Every time I criticize a war supporter’s past support for the war, someone comes along and chimes in with “well didn’t you support the war?” And, of course, I did — it was a big mistake. Be that as it may, there’s an objective difference between the status of an important political leader and that of a college senior. In other words, I supported the war in part because Bill Clinton and people like him were supporting the war. As Durbin is indicating here, had anti-war Senators like himself, Carl Levin, Nancy Pelosi and Russ Feingold had more backing from high-profile national leaders they might have had more success.
But Bill and Hillary Clinton were for the war. Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt were for the war. Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke were for the war. I remember sitting around the dorm feeling smarter and better-informed than my anti-war friends and smugly noting all this: Sure, you may not trust Bush but look at all these good Democrats, I would say. Needless to say, in retrospect that looks like a very foolish argument to have been making. It was naive to trust those people. But a lot of people did trust them. Every blog commenter and emailer on the internet now claims to have been 100 percent prescient about the war, but if you look back at the polling you’ll see that lots of Democrats, like me, followed the party’s leadership in giving Bush the benefit of the doubt and wound up burned by it.
I think it’s valid to say that other considerations might outweigh this one, but I have to say that it really rankles that the Clintons seem unwilling to even acknowledge what happened — that there was a debate and they took one side of it, and other politicians took the other side — and take responsibility for it.