Reader Letters

Guilfoile-Warner Counterpoint

Dear Morning News folks,

So Barack Obama fans Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner agree that in a prospective match-up between Hillary Clinton and John McCain, they might well vote for the Republican. Which raises the question: On what basis do they support Obama? Is it just because he’s the anti-Hillary?

Don’t get me wrong. I like Obama, too, because I think his poetic style would be a huge relief from that of the most prosaic president in the history of the republic—but also because I agree with his consistent opposition to the war in Iraq. And I believe that an Obama administration would take a progressive approach on climate change, civil liberties, human rights, and, perhaps most important, appointments to the Supreme Court.

I don’t see any major policy differences between Clinton and Obama. My main problem with the prospect of another Clinton presidency is my distaste—shared by many Americans—for the dynastic right of succession that has crept into our presidential election cycles.

If Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee, however, I will gladly vote for her over John “100 years in Iraq” McCain. On all of the above-mentioned issues, she would be light years ahead of the man whose Straight-Talk Express took a detour to the doorstep of Jerry Falwell and the Christian right. The most extreme elements of the Republican Party may still think McCain is a closet liberal, but he’s proving them wrong.

On the key question of war, McCain has been particularly clear. Rather than extricating U.S. forces from an expensive, bloody occupation predicated on fear-mongering and massive fraud, the senator from Arizona would stay the course. In other words, no change, just more of the same: namely, an open-ended commitment to the quagmire in Iraq.

Regardless of Clinton fatigue, it’s hard to see how any supporter of the anti-war agent of change, Obama, could sign on for that nightmare scenario. But like they say, it’s a free country.

Timothy Ledwith

Kevin Guilfoile responds…

I appreciate Mr. Ledwith’s point; however, it assumes that Hillary Clinton’s position on Iraq has been closer to Barack Obama’s than it has been to John McCain’s.

Before April of 2007, when she changed her stance in advance of the Democratic debates, this was Hillary Clinton’s position on Iraq: “It is time for the president to stop serving up platitudes and present us with a plan for finishing this war with success and honor—not a rigid timetable that terrorists can exploit, but a public plan for winning and concluding the war.”

And this was John McCain’s: “Look, this is long and hard and difficult … . But to do what the Democrats want to do, and that’s set a date for withdrawal, even those who opposed the war from the beginning don’t think that that would lead to anything but an enormously challenging situation as a result.”

The main differences between Hillary Clinton and John McCain on Iraq are these:

1. McCain says he voted for the Iraq war resolution because he believed Saddam Hussein to be a threat, and Clinton says she voted for the Iraq war resolution because she hoped a tough stance against Saddam would force him to capitulate. In other words, she voted for the war in order to prevent the war.

2. McCain says, knowing what we know now, he still thinks taking out Saddam was the right thing to do, but that the execution of the war has been botched. Clinton says, knowing what we know now, she isn’t sure how she would have voted on the war resolution. Also the execution of the war has been botched.

Proposed convention chant: “OUR POSITION IS OVERLY NUANCED!”

We’re not electing a president to decide whether or not we should go to war with Iraq. We’re electing a president to clean up a big mess. Whatever Hillary’s supporters say, Clinton and McCain will be using the same mop.

Obama will have that mop as well, actually, but I believe he’ll scrub a little harder.

John Warner responds…

As Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

One of the “known knowns” about Hillary Clinton (as Kevin illustrates
vis a vis Iraq) is that she will adopt a policy position out of political expediency, the famous Clinton gambit of “triangulation.” I actually think her original Iraq vote was closer to a principled act than her subsequent half-speed backpedal since (again, as Kevin illustrates) she appears to be pretty hawkish. However, subsequent events have proven her judgment was and is poor.

The “known unknown” in this case is what shape Iraq is going to be in come November of this year. If the pro-war faction manages to keep selling the “we’re winning” narrative, and if Hillary is the nominee, just watch her twist through an “I was for it before I was against it (maybe) and now I’m for it” formulation. “Overly nuanced” will be the nicest thing anyone has to say about her position.

Another known unknown is whether dating a super model makes up for losing the Super Bowl.

In the end, it seems to me that being president involves dealing with a series of never-ending “unknown unknowns,” once they become known. Hillary has shown herself to be ill suited to the task, be it health care in 1993 or dealing with the rise of the Obama campaign. Sen. McCain, while definitely not my first choice, seems like a better bet than Sen. Clinton when it comes to those eventualities.

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