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April 16, 2003

attacking a politician for his mixed feelings

Larry Sabato's "Crystal Ball" is often a good indication of what the hard-boiled political analysts think. Sabato writes about Sen. John Kerry and the war. "It's also possible that John Kerry will reap the benefits of being Clintonian, of voting to authorize the Iraq war while speaking up against aspects of it and calling for 'regime change' in the U.S., not just Iraq." Sabato then reminds us of Clinton's position: "In 1991 Bill Clinton uttered this marvelously ambiguous, pre-'the meaning of is' statement about the congressional debate for authorization of the Persian Gulf War: 'I guess I would have voted with the majority [for the war] if it was a close vote. But I agree with the argument that the minority made [against the war].' In other words, in true Clintonian fashion he managed glibly to avoid antagonizing either side, while giving both sides hope that he was secretly one of them."

I have no special brief for John Kerry (nor for Bill Clinton), but isn't it reasonable to adopt a somewhat nuanced position on the war? Surely a reasonable person could decide as a matter of principle to vote for the war while expressing reservations about it and criticizing the president. In fact, I don't see how a reasonable person who favored the war could avoid expressing some criticisms of the way we have handled it. Clinton was much mocked for his statement, but (just like him) I agreed with many arguments that doves made against the 1991 war, while ultimately favoring the decision to liberate Kuwait. Presidents have to be decisive (and defensive about their own decisions), but surely we can welcome a little more complexity from a U.S. Senator.

April 16, 2003 12:00 PM | category: Iraq and democratic theory | Comments


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