Here’s an interesting tidbit from Mark Penn’s latest strategy memo: “No one believes that if Hillary had been president she would have started the war.”
I don’t have an incredibly firm view on the counterfactual here. After all, it’s a bit hard to specify a scenario in which Hillary Clinton would have been president in the spring of 2003. But when Bush did start the war, Hillary surely could have said that despite her vote to authorize him to start a war she believed he was making a mistake in doing so. She didn’t do that. She didn’t say that in March of 2003, and she didn’t say it in April of 2003 and she didn’t say it in May of 2003. To the best of my knowledge, she didn’t start saying anything of the sort until years after the invasion had happened. So I hardly think it’s wildly unreasonable to take her statements, actions, and silences at face value and say she thought Bush was more-or-less doing what she would have done in his position.
Or maybe not. I lot of people I know are convinced that Hillary did, in fact, all along believe that Bush was committing a huge strategic blunder but that she pretended not to believe that because she thought it was important to her presidential ambitions. I don’t think I really buy that. Among other things, I don’t think Clinton would have thought that backing a huge strategic blunder would help her presidential ambitions. Insofar as she thought the war was politically savvy, that would almost certainly have been related to a view that the war wasn’t a huge substantive error. But either way, if Mark Penn thinks his candidate was only pretending to approve of Bush’s conduct he ought to say so plainly. Clearly, she wasn’t a major critic of his conduct at the time.