John Kerry made a lot of mistakes during his campaign for the presidency, but one of the most pivotal ones (aside from not responding to the Swift Boat smear artists) was the answer he gave to the question about whether he would have voted for the war, knowing what the aftermath was. The man said "Yes", and collectively Democrats wanted to bean him.
Here's the point for Democrats who voted for the war: Either you stand by your vote and think it was still the right thing to do OR you made a mistake and knowing all the evidence we have on hand right now, you would have voted against it.
YOU SIMPLY CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. You can't be a critic of Bush's handling of the war and also say, well you still would have voted for the war because ONE IS DEPENDENT ON THE OTHER. If you see now how Bush has royally screwed the pooch, why in God's name would you think your vote in 2002 was still the right call?
If anything, this mirrors the thinking of most Americans, who were not exactly gung ho about the war (something everyone forgets to mention on accident or purpose is that most people didn't think we should go into Iraq without UN support) but now think it was a bad choice. If anything, changing your mind on Iraq humanizes a candidate and presents a strong contrast with what most now consider the worst part of President Bush: his habit of assuming he's right, no matter the facts to the contrary.
I don't know if it's because she wants to "stay the course" or what, but Senator Clinton is going to let this thing blow her shot at the nomination, and the White House, if this keeps up.
Yet antiwar anger has festered, and yesterday morning Mrs. Clinton rolled out a new response to those demanding contrition: She said she was willing to lose support from voters rather than make an apology she did not believe in.
“If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from,” Mrs. Clinton told an audience in Dover, N.H., in a veiled reference to two rivals for the nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.
Her decision not to apologize is regarded so seriously within her campaign that some advisers believe it will be remembered as a turning point in the race: either ultimately galvanizing voters against her (if she loses the nomination), or highlighting her resolve and her willingness to buck Democratic conventional wisdom (if she wins).
Here's the thing: Democratic voters are kind of tired of making too many calculations. In 2000 many of them were not wild about Gore (I was, but I've always been a Gore guy), in 2004 they certainly weren't nuts about Kerry but he wasn't Bush. Especially among Democratic voters, there is always the hunt for the next FDR, JFK and Bill Clinton. It may not be the entire enchilada, but in 2008 the odds-on winner is going to be the candidate Democrats swoon for in the way Republicans swooned for Reagan and Bush II (and didn't for Bush I or Dole). If you're Hillary Clinton, I gotta think the last thing you want to do is give them the last little shove that pushes them into the Obama or Edwards camp simply because you want to be - let's be real here - stubborn about the vote you made in 2002.
And that's what it looks like Sen. Clinton is doing here. For the smartest, most well organized campaign out there at this point it looks like a dumb move to me.