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Tue

23

Jan

2007

If I Had a Beer With Hillary I'd Ask Her Not to Triangulate on Torture
Tuesday, 23 January 2007 23:33
by R.J. Eskow

I'm hearing a lot of talk like this, suggesting that Democrats who oppose Hillary Clinton's nomination do so because they "just don't like her" as a result of right-wing attacks on her personality. I guess I don't know those Democrats. The Clinton opponents I know oppose her for policy reasons, not personal ones. In fact, she'd easily pass that journalistic test from the 2000 campaign with me: Sure, I'd have a beer with her.

I think she's a good Senator who's saying things to be President that hurt America. My problem is with her pronouncements, not her personality. So if we ever have that beer (well, I don't drink beer these days, but she could have one) here's what I'd like to ask her:

"Senator, where's that 'responsibility gene' you told us about?"

You see, Sen. Clinton told the New York Times "I am cursed with the responsibility gene," but she has said some irresponsible things in her pursuit of the Presidency.

Take torture, for example. Hillary got off to a strong start in opposing the Administration's record in this most un-American activity. Then - suddenly - she changed, apparently the result of a political calculation of some sort.

As I wrote in October, she was given a simple test on the torture subject by the New York Daily News Editorial Board, and she flunked. Instead of attacking torture - a position our generals would have us take to protect our troops, and one that reflects our American values - she went for the pro-torture position advocated by Alan Dershowitz. That is, she said that some "severity" (waterboarding, etc.) is justified under extreme circumstances (the utterly discredited 'ticking time bomb' scenario), so there should be a "lawful authority" (i.e. a torture court) to provide "checks and balances."

Then Bill Clinton weighed in with the same position, which demonstrated this ploy was no accident. That move delighted Dershowitz, as I reported at the time.

So I would ask Sen. Clinton to speak to America's generals about torture. I'd suggest she speak to the intelligence experts who remind us that the information collected during torture is rarely usable, especially when time is limited. And I'd want her to consider the many leaders who have said America's lost its position as a world influence leader because of its use of torture.

Lastly, I'd ask her whether this vital moral and tactical issue isn't more important than becoming President.

There are other things I'd like to talk about over that beer, too - like Iran. Our current President is eager to attack that country but, as this article makes clear, there are profound differences inside Iran that can be exploited and nurtured to advance our own interests in the region.

For the greater good, I would beg Sen. Clinton (as she sipped a cool frosty one) to stop her inflammatory rhetoric against Iran, and to stand down from advocating sanctions against that country. It's only adding to a climate of war at home and abroad, when we need to be finding peaceful solutions through negotiation.

I'd also ask the Senator not to imply that those patriotic Democrats and Republicans who are trying to end this war (with more political courage than she's showing) are somehow putting troops in danger. You see, right after she told us about that "responsibility gene" she said "You've got to be very careful in how you proceed with any combat situation in which American lives are at stake."

Everything John Murtha, John Edwards, and Chuck Hagel are advocating would be executed with extreme care for the safety of our troops. To suggest otherwise is just a polite way of smearing your opponents. It's serving the interests of the Bush Administration by creating a rhetorical climate in which protecting our troops by getting them out of harm's way is characterized as endangering our troops.

Sen. Clinton, please stop.

As for her proposal to cap troop levels, if she asked me what I thought I'd say it's too little too late. I'd say it's like fighting tsunamis by proposing that waves can't be more than thirty feet high.

Since I'd be in an informal social situation with the Senator, I'd probably also give her my honest reaction to her saying that she wanted to start a "dialog" with the American people. It's the same reaction I have when I get those questionnaires from Democratic organizations in the mail - the ones that ask me what "I think about the issues."

Please, everybody! Don't ask me what I think anymore. Here's a deal: You tell me what you think, and I'll tell you whether or not I'm going to vote for you. How's that?

Let's be clear about a few things. I think the ongoing Republican smear job against the Clintons is despicable, and I think the way the press covers Bill and Hillary is reprehensible and juvenile. I think there's more than a hint of sexism in some of the coverage her campaign has received. I think Hillary's a brilliant woman. And as the father of a daughter, I'm proud and delighted that a woman is a leading candidate for President.

In fact, polls say that Sen. Clinton is the leading candidate right now. So I'd end our beer-drinking time together by congratulating the Senator. I'd remind her that, as the current front-runner, there's no need for her to do or say things that harm the country in order to advance herself.

And if we were still deep in conversation, I'd even buy the last round.

A Night Light

The Sentinel Effect: Healthcare Blog
 
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