April 22, 2004


Keeping Close Eye on Senator, Clinton-Watchers Increasingly See a Hawk (RAYMOND HERNANDEZ, 4/23/04, NY Times)

Even as the war in Iraq proves unpopular with her core base of liberal supporters, not to mention some mainstream Democrats, Mrs. Clinton has emerged as one of the most prominent Democratic backers of the military activities. In recent months, in speeches and interviews, she has defended her vote authorizing the Republican president to wage war, argued for more troops in Iraq and sided with President Bush's contention that Saddam Hussein was, as she put it, "a potential threat'' who "was seeking weapons of mass destruction, whether or not he actually had them.''

Last week, with violence surging in Iraq, she stood by her decision to approve a Congressional resolution permitting military action there, though she did accuse the president of failing to build sufficient international support for the war and failing to plan adequately for the aftermath of Mr. Hussein's downfall. And she appeared to agree with President Bush's contention that the conflict in Iraq was part of the broader fight against terror, indicating that global threats like Mr. Hussein took on greater urgency in a post-Sept. 11 world. "After 9/11, a lot of threats had to be looked at with fresh eyes,'' she said in the interview.

Mrs. Clinton surprised even some of her closest advisers by taking a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee early last year, becoming the first New York senator, Republican or Democrat, to serve on the panel. She has used her spot on the committee to advance the kind of agenda commonly associated with lawmakers from conservative districts with military bases and large populations of veterans: seeking better pay and other benefits for soldiers, visiting troops abroad and arguing forcefully against military base closings. Her office says she has "voted for every defense appropriations bill since she entered the Senate."

Her motives have become a matter of conjecture within political circles. While she said last week that she was not interested in a place on the Democratic ticket this year, some think she may be burnishing her military credentials in preparation for a national candidacy in 2008.

Others suggest her actions reflect the true convictions of a woman who is no longer overshadowed by the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton, who had a strained relationship with the Pentagon.

Whatever her motives, Mrs. Clinton's actions have prompted Democrats and Republicans to view her in a different light, according to interviews with lawmakers and political strategists in both parties.

She has by all accounts been a hard-working and collegial Senator and certainly no more liberal than one should expect of a Democrat from NY. If she's content to carve a career there she could become a player. But, if she wants to run for president it's kind of silly to think people will base their opinions of her on such inside baseball stuff. In the media and the public mind she'd revert right back to the Hillary of the 90s and she would face all the same problems as John Kerry has defending Senate votes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 22, 2004 11:16 AM
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