Clinton, Obama, Geffen and the question

As the campaigns spar over Hollywood, Clinton says her Iraq vote was a "sincere" one based on what she knew at the time.

Published February 22, 2007 3:58PM (EST)

People with the antenna for such things are atwitter over the current nastiness between the Clinton and Obama camps concerning what David Geffen said to Maureen Dowd, but we're with John Edwards on this one. Asked yesterday if the American people aren't going to be suffering from "election fatigue" by November 2008, Edwards said there will be no fatigue then because "right now hardly anyone is paying attention."

Well, maybe not "hardly anyone," but we can't imagine that a lot of votes will turn next November on what Geffen said about Clinton, what Clinton's campaign said about Geffen's relationship with Obama or what Obama's camp is now saying in return. Like Edwards' own blogger meltdown earlier this month, this is inside baseball stuff, not the sort of thing that sways voters unless it makes a huge difference in campaign possibilities -- Has Hillary lost Hollywood? Has Edwards lost the netroots? -- or becomes part and parcel of some kind of conventional wisdom about a candidate: Al Gore is dishonest, John Kerry is rich, Hillary Clinton is a little snippy.

What we find more interesting -- which is to say, a little more likely to mean something in the election next November and in a lot of primaries and caucuses before then -- is the way in which Clinton is remaining resolute in her un-resoluteness on the question of her 2002 vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

That vote was part of Geffen's Clinton critique: "It's not a very big thing to say, 'I made a mistake on the war,' and it's typical of Hillary Clinton that she can't," he told Dowd. This late in the game, we wouldn't have expected Geffen's comments alone to prompt anything further from Clinton on the subject. It hasn't; indeed, if anything, Geffen's comments and the media attention to the question seem to have stiffened Clinton's resolve not to say that she erred when she voted back in 2002.

In New Hampshire earlier this month, Clinton said that knowing what she knows today, she "never would have voted" for the use-of-force authorization. At a Democratic candidates' forum in Nevada Wednesday -- the same one at which Edwards spoke -- George Stephanopolous asked Clinton, "Why wasn't your vote a mistake?" In answering, Clinton seemed to move farther away from -- not closer to -- admitting that she was wrong back in 2002, and she seemed resigned to the fact that her position, then and now, could hurt her when Democrats start voting. ''My vote was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances that I had at the time," she said Wednesday. "And I have taken responsibility for my vote, and I believe that none of us should get a free pass. It is up to the voters to judge what each of us has said and done."

By Tim Grieve

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

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