After a month of relatively bad press for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in left-of-center media outlets, there is still no sign of any appetite among Democratic officeholders to mount primary challenge. Some grousing in liberal publications is not translating into a movement to daft a 2016 alternative to Clinton. She must be feeling pretty secure in her position as her party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
How secure, you ask? Secure enough, it seems, to mount a tepid defense of her position on the very issue which cost her the nomination in 2008. Namely, her 2002 vote in support of the Iraq War.
Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Monday, Clinton was asked about her vote in favor of authoring the Iraq campaign. According to Washington Post National Political Correspondent Phillip Rucker, Clinton seemed to admit that she backtracked on that vote only because of its politically problematic nature.
Striking a tone which reads more like defiance than contrition, Clinton refused to admit that her vote in support of the war was a “mistake.”
Hillary on Iraq authorization vote in 08 campaign: "I did a lot of rhetorical distancing, but I didn’t say I made a mistake."
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) June 30, 2014
Writing in Slate, the liberal columnist Jamelle Bouie notes that Clinton does not seem to have learned any lessons from the rebuke she received at the hands of her party’s primary voters:
But a pat answer isn’t the same as understanding, and looking at her time in the Obama administration, it’s clear Clinton hasn’t actually learned anything important from her Iraq war vote, other than I shouldn’t support wars in Iraq. Indeed, when it comes to other interventions in other countries, Clinton is as hawkish as she ever was.
“We can say a few things about Clinton, and if you’re an intervention skeptic, none of them is good,” he added. “She’s done the minimum and disavowed the debacle in Iraq, but she hasn’t learned from it, and if elected president, she stands poised to make the same mistakes that led us to that disaster in the first place.”
There is no question that progressives are largely unimpressed with Clinton, but polls of prospective Democratic primary voters consistently show that she is set to cruise to the nomination. On issues ranging from economic to foreign policy, however, feelings toward Clinton in her party’s activist left-wing ranges from simmering antipathy toward outright hostility.
Clinton’s efforts to maintain the sense that she is inevitably going to emerge as the party’s 2016 nomination have been minimal, even a little careless. Her nascent campaign seems to believe that lightning cannot strike twice. She may be right, but if she ends up being wrong the seeds of an upset are already germinating.