If Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., gets nothing else out of her vote opposing war funding last month, the warm(er) reception she'll receive at this week's "Take Back America" conference will be payoff enough.
It was at last year's conference where her vow to stand against setting a timeline for troop withdrawal was greeted with boos -- a rare sound for any Clinton to hear at a Democratic gathering in the Bush era. And so this year's conference serves as a political bookend for a savvy politician who sensed the political winds and gave the left (for once, at least) what they have long wanted from her on the war.
She'll get some indirect chiding today from Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who plans to remind conference attendees that he -- alone among the top tier of Democratic candidates -- opposed the war from the start. "I've said it before and I'll say it again -- this is a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged," Obama plans to say, per prepared remarks provided to ABC. "So many of us knew this back then, even when it wasn't popular to say so."
The anti-war base may never trust Clinton on the war -- not after she voted for it and still refuses to apologize for that vote. (Don't bet on her winning the liberal conference's straw poll.) But leaving aside the possibility that opposing funding was a vote of conscience (hard to accept given Clinton's commitments not to cut off money for the troops), perhaps she has done just what was needed to soothe sensibilities and maintain her spot atop the Democratic heap.
Yet isn't this the sort of posturing that voters are growing tired of? That's the subtext of Obama's message, with his call for electing a Democrat who can "change our politics." It's also what Mayor Michael Bloomberg's, R-N.Y., is hinting at as he contemplates an independent run for president.
In California yesterday -- he's there again today for a joint event with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif. -- Bloomberg had harsh words for the Ds and the Rs he sees as pandering to the public. "The country is in trouble," Bloomberg said, Josh Gerstein reports in the New York Sun. He also asserted that he'll be a full-time philanthropist when his term is up at the end of 2009, but answered the presidential question in the Al Gore present tense: "I'm not a candidate for president."
As for Clinton, she's about to break out the not-so-secret weapon: the former president himself will campaign by her side in Iowa July 2-4, her campaign announced yesterday. This is far earlier than the campaign had indicated that it would put Bill Clinton to work, and it comes at a time that her Iowa efforts need a boost. "Virtually no one expected him to campaign this early, under the assumption that Bill Clinton would do the most good for his wife's campaign if he helped to reinforce her standing with Democratic base voters late in the game," Marc Ambinder writes in his Atlantic blog.
Most of the rest of the Democratic field gets their turn at "Take Back America" today in Washington, and the whole slate is also speaking to a gathering of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Per ABC News, today's speeches are a chance to chart the Democrats' leftward migration: Iraq, healthcare, taxes, gay rights. . . .
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