Hillary, Iraq and the nonadmission admission

"The problem with this president is he should not have been trusted with this authority."

Published February 12, 2007 2:13PM (EST)

Hillary Clinton received what the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza calls an "energetic but not ecstatic reception" this weekend as she made her first foray into New Hampshire as a presidential candidate.

The problem is Iraq, mostly, and the ways in which Clinton explains -- or doesn't -- her October 2002 vote to authorize George W. Bush to use force there. One version of the nonadmission admission she offered this weekend: "The problem with this president is he should not have been trusted with this authority."

Let's just say this about that: We're pretty sure we'd get an "energetic but not ecstatic reception" if we tried that kind of line at home.

On overspending: "The problem with this iPod is that it should not have been acquired with this credit card."

On drinking too much: "The problem with those margaritas is that they should not have been consumed in such quantity."

On marital infidelity: "The problem with that woman is that she should not have been exposed to this cigar."

OK, that was a cheap shot. But Clinton's husband understood -- at least in the end -- the value of sometimes admitting that he was wrong. Why does she find it so hard to do the same? Does she fear the political fallout from such an admission? That doesn't make a lot of sense: Seventy-five percent of Americans thought the war was the "right decision" in early 2003, but only 40 percent do now, suggesting that a lot of Americans have had the same sort of change of heart that Clinton could acknowledge but won't.

So why won't she say -- as John Edwards has -- that it was a mistake to have voted for the 2002 resolution? Like Talking Points Memo's David Kurtz, we see only two plausible explanations if some sort of misguided political calculus isn't it: Either Clinton thinks she was right about Iraq, or -- like the president she would replace -- she's simply too stubborn to admit that she was wrong.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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