It has become almost a parlor game for White House reporters to try and draw the Obama White House into the 2016 presidential campaign, something they rarely indulge in, and usually on their own terms. At Friday’s White House daily briefing, Fox News’ Kevin Corke took the best shot at it, trying to draw Hillary Clinton into the current feudlet between President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth “Elizabeth” Warren (D-Mass.)
Corke pressed Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz over whether President Obama is disappointed that Hillary couldn’t help a brother out and whip some support for his trade deal. It was a very nice try:
Unfortunately, Corke had a very disciplined White House and a thick briefing book to contend with, but Hillary Clinton’s silence on TPA and TPP is only a bad thing (to this White House) to the extent it hurts or helps her in the long run. President Obama would much rather have a Democratic successor who kept her mouth shut for a minute than a loser who had his back one time.
Later in the briefing, though, Sirius XM’s Jared Rizzi did manage to extract a sliver of daylight between President Obama and Hillary Clinton, in the form of the shortest White House briefing answer ever.
Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush has been Riverdancing on a field of rakes all week trying to explain whether or not he would have invaded Iraq, knowing what we know now. Rizzi asked Schultz if then-Sen. Barack Obama, in 2008, was making the case that Iraq was a mistake even based on the evidence presented at the time:
The significance of this is that the Republicans’ opening gambit, including Jeb Bush, is to lay off President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq on Democrats like Hillary Clinton, who voted in favor of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq. It won’t be a means for Jeb to attack Hillary in 2016, but he and others will continue to try and use it as a defense.
It’s a defense that the media has largely let Jeb get away with, probably because there’s no percentage in defending Hillary Clinton, and it’s appealing to them for “both sides” to be to blame. However, there are several gradients to this issue that are important to recognize.
Yes, history has proven Hillary Clinton wrong for voting to approve that AUMF, and as Jeb Bush lamely pointed out in his initial stab at this question, she saw the same flawed intelligence that everyone else did. She didn’t, however, participate in a propaganda campaign to cherry-pick and hype that intelligence, an effort for which the media has completely let the Bushes Jeb and Dubya off the hook.
Aside even from that, though, then-Senator Hillary Clinton offered a defense of her vote that has become more compelling over time. During a 2008 debate, she explained that her vote was intended to give President Bush the credible threat of military action that he needed to force a diplomatic resolution:
“I believe that it is abundantly clear that the case that was outlined on behalf of going to the resolution — not going to war, but going to the resolution — was a credible case. I was told personally by the White House that they would use the resolution to put the inspectors in.”
Now, it is true that many of us, at the time, were yelling at the movies screen “No! Don’t go in there!”, and there was certainly a lot of political pressure on Democrats to go along with anything Bush said in the aftermath of 9/11, but the argument she made there isn’t that dissimilar to the one President Obama re-made just yesterday during his press conference at Camp David, quite forcefully:
“With respect to Syria, my commitment was to make sure that Syria was not using chemical weapons, and mobilizing the international community to assure that that would not happen. And, in fact, we positioned ourselves to be willing to take military action. The reason we did not was because Assad gave up his chemical weapons.”
The key difference here is that one president really did want to resolve the issue diplomatically, and Congress wouldn’t even vote on it, while the other just wanted to go to war, and Congress went along with it. That’s the contrast Hillary Clinton can draw in 2016.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice? No, Jeb.