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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Getting Past Who Voted How, Said What, When And Why

It’s not hard to find lengthy discusssions about how which candidates voted and/or what they said about the decision to invade and occupy Iraq and how important it is — just throw a dart over your shoulder at your favorite bloglist. It’s just something Democrats have to go through at this early, winnowing stage of the ’08 campaign. The presidential primaries will help resolve the discussion, and in time all good Dems will unify behind the nominee. On the road to that glorious day, we suggest the following to put the discussion in perspective:
In his American Prospect article, “Their Vote Counts,” Michael Tomasky says “apology, schmapology,” those candidates who supported the war early on (Clinton and Edwards) should not get a free ride:

Readers, and voters, will decide for themselves who’s being more honest. For my part, I’ve decided: Neither is, and if only for the sake of remembering things accurately, we should look back at the infamous October 2002 vote in some detail and tell the plain truth about why most Senate Democrats voted to authorize war. It’s one of the most important and fateful votes Congress has cast in recent American history, and it’s very much worth remembering.

One of Tomasky’s American Prospect stablemates, Garance Franke-Ruta, agrees in her article “The Ethics of Apology”:

So, sure, America could use someone who’s able to admit mistakes, and, yes, apologies only count for so much. What America could really use, though, is someone who had the courage to stand up for truth-telling when it really mattered, as it did in 2002 — and who now uses his high-ranking political post to take action to end the war. Obama’s test — his trap — will be whether or not he can do more than introduce well-written and well-intentioned legislation which dies without a vote.

Yet another American Prospect writer, Ezra Klein, makes a more flexible assessment in his piece “Honest Stupidity”:

Had Democrats been thinking more clearly, they would have considered Bush’s record, his competence, his instincts, and just said no. The moment, however, was not one conducive to clear thought. And the question was never framed or explained quite like that. Rather, an array of foreign policy wisemen and self-styled Iraq experts fanned out to speak to those politicians they were closest with and convinced them to vote for the resolution as a way of voting for their personal wars.

And no doubt New Donkey Ed Kilgore speaks for legions with this take, from his “Kos, Vilsack, the War and the DLC”:

Look, I don’t personally mind antiwar Democrats pointing out again and again they were right and others, including the DLC, were wrong on the original decision to go into Iraq…If we are going to go back and examine everyone’s position at every stage of the nightmare in Iraq, it’s not unfair to point out that Howard Dean, during his presidential campaign, said repeatedly that America had a responsibility to stay in Iraq, perhaps for a long time, given our unfortunate decision to go to war.
All this endless recrimination over who said what when after the war started, and who moved as fast or faster than Murtha or Kos in the maximum antiwar direction, is IMHO a big waste of time, and far more divisive than anything emanating from the DLC, much less Tom Vilsack.

Do read the pro and con comments following these articles for more insight and join the fray. But know that first Tuesday in November ’08, nearly all of the candidates’ harshest progressive critics will cast their ballots for the Democratic nominee, regardless of their earlier positions — and that’s a good thing..