Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) New York, at a DNC meeting said, "If I had been President in 2002, I would not have started this war." Yet, she voted for authorization to use force, she has supported previous troop rotations and voted in favor of the budgets and other monetary expenditures for the war. She publicly stated many times that she did not regret her vote, only the way the authorization was used, in an attempt to split hairs and maintain the centrist position that reflects the majority opinion of American citizens: Iraq War was okay to start, but is not going well and they'd like to see a different approach.
The Senator is on record as supporting a "non-binding" resolution to cap troops and set a time table for withdrawal. However, she has not supported any resolution to stop funding the operations and, has stated publicly that she would not damage the troops ability to fight by withholding critical funds to finance their safety and security.
She, and many Democrats, are desperately trying to hold on to a shaky position straddling both sides of the aisle while keeping the fiery "anti-war" base firmly in their camp. Without the two halves of the Democrat base, "anti-war" and "security" Democrats along with the "centrist" public that has decided the last two Presidential races, no Democrat can hope to be assured election.
The "centrist" public may still believe that Saddam had to go, but don't like the fact that the US is in a protracted guerilla war that doesn't appear to be resolvable. Some may feel that, after the death of Zarqawi in June of 2006, Al Qaida is not as big a factor or part of the fight as is the "sectarian violence" they are bombarded with every night. Add to that a general feeling that the Iraqi people have squandered the opportunity to be free, peaceful and prosperous at the cost of young American lives.
For the Republicans, the insistence on continuing the war for an increasingly blurry purpose, as well as scandals regarding corruption, uncontrolled spending and a general sense that little or nothing has been accomplished, will have a killing effect on any candidate running. The only thing going for them is the economy and even that has been overshadowed by the Iraq war and escalating oil prices.
Republicans cannot base their hopes on "victory" in Iraq. History has shown that the American public does not necessarily see the party that led them through the war as the party they want in peace.
Adding to the question of Iraq is the latest NEI report that, giving a wink towards the upcoming campaigning and election years, states:
Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this Estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006.
On the otherhand, Democratic pronouncements regarding the war may be premature. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) reminded Democrats that he had been against the war from the beginning, had voted against it and his record was consistent. If Iraq stabilizes, Obama may not be able to count on the "cross over" votes that may feel he failed to support their ideas.
Senator Clinton may still be "triangulating" her position, covering all possibilities by insisting that, if she is elected President, she would end the war in 2009. She may be hoping that, by then, most of the fighting and political issues that plague the country will have decreased sufficiently to be able to "end the war" while still supporting her actual belief that a stable and democratic Iraq would benefit the US in the region. Then she will have upheld her campaign promise while securing American interests.
She is expecting the President to hold to his announcements that Iraq will continue to be the responsibility of his successor. However, if other problems in the Middle East arise or Afghanistan heats up as some have predicted, such pronouncements may turn into Sen. Clinton's "read my lips" moment.
In the meantime, Republicans are also trying to "triangulate" their position by sponsoring different "non-binding" resolutions that appear "bipartisan" and represents their own take on "centrist" America and the bleeding support of their own party members.
Triangulation, premature pronouncements from Democrats along with "non-binding" resolutions and the upcoming budget that includes $354 billion in spending for defense and expected requests for $120 billion supplemental spending for Afghanistan and Iraq may yet force a split in the Democrat party. This is where the rubber meets the road. The Democrat early campaigners are desperately trying to ignore the increasing calls for Congressional Democrats to stand by their anti-war rhetoric by refusing funding to the war.
Sen. Feingold (D-Wisconsin) held a hearing regarding Congressional power to end the war and few in the Democrat war critic camp showed up.
Mr. Feingold's reward for honesty was to preside over what might have been the least-attended hearing so far in the Iraq debate. And those of his Senate colleagues who did bother to show up looked like they couldn't wait to hit an exit door. "If Congress doesn't stop this war, it's not because it doesn't have the power. It's because it doesn't have the will," declared Mr. Feingold. Ted Kennedy--one of two Democrats who put in an appearance--could be seen shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
In the long run, as long as troops are in Iraq and Iraq remains unstable, the outcome of the Presidential race will end in Baghdad.
The Republicans may be playing it safe by not announcing candidates who will actually run for president. At the moment, several have only announced that they are forming "exploratory committees". Staying in the background may give the Democrats the podium and lead in rhetoric today, but it also means whatever they say today can come back to bite them in the future; similar to Sen. Kerry's "I was for the war, before I was against it". It's unclear how Sen. Clinton can make the same position work for her.
Both parties are trying to have their cake and eat it, too.
Cross referenced at the Castle