Bernie Sanders has been cautious in recent months when going after Hillary Clinton, which made it all the more interesting over the weekend when the Vermont senator criticized Clinton’s 2002 vote authorizing the war in Iraq.
The criticism has the benefit of accuracy – as a senator from New York, Clinton voted with the majority, a decision later described as wrong. Regardless, the criticism at least makes sense, insofar as Sanders, who opposed the war, is looking for advantages in the Democratic presidential primary.
What makes far less sense is for the Republican National Committee to go after Clinton the same way. And yet, the RNC published this striking press release:
On the anniversary of Clinton’s Iraq war vote, a closer look at her record shows her failed judgment on a consequential foreign policy issue. […]Throughout her career, Clinton has always been wrong on Iraq. Clinton voted to authorize the war in Iraq, which was devastating to her 2008 presidential bid.
The headline on the piece reads, “Wrong At Every Turn.”
If there’s an annual award for partisan chutzpah, I’d say the RNC has the honor all wrapped up.
Exactly 13 years ago yesterday, 77 senators voted for the Authorization to Use Military Force. Clinton was one of them. Voters are more than capable of deciding on their own whether to hold that vote against her now.
But for the Republican National Committee to use this as proof of Clinton being “wrong” and demonstrating “failed judgment” is ridiculous, even by 2015 standards. It was a Republican resolution, backing a Republican White House, which received the support of nearly every Republican in Congress.
The new Republican message, in effect, seems to be that Clinton made a dreadful mistake in 2002 because she agreed with Republicans. That argument is coherent coming from Bernie Sanders and Clinton’s more progressive critics, but it’s laughable coming from the RNC.
This is not to say, however, that Iraq is unimportant to the 2016 presidential race. In fact, just the opposite is true – candidates like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and others have said the 2003 invasion was the right call, and if they had it to do over again, even recognizing the disastrous consequences, they’d do exactly what the Bush/Cheney administration did.
If we’re going to talk about candidates who were “wrong” and showed “failed judgment,” perhaps it’s best to start with those who look back at the catastrophe as a smart idea.