In an exclusive interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Hillary Clinton took issue with the startling allegation in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ memoir that Clinton’s opposition to the 2007 Iraq troop surge was borne of politics.
In Gates’ memoir, “Duty,” released in January, he wrote that he once overheard Clinton telling President Obama that her opposition to the 2007 surge had been “political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary.” In his book Gates writes that Obama conceded that his opposition to the surge was politically motivated too.
“To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying,” Gates wrote.
When asked about this observation, Clinton told Sawyer, “I think he perhaps either missed the context or the meaning because I did oppose the surge.”
“The public had given up,” Clinton said. “This is not politics in electoral, political terms. This is politics in the sense of the American public has to support commitments like this. I opposed the surge.”
When pressed about whether Gates “got it wrong” and if she did indeed say this in front of him, Clinton said she had “no memory” of the conversation.
“I don't in any way doubt what he heard,” she said. “I'm just saying that there was a much broader context than that.”
Clinton offered some kind words for Gates, calling him “someone I admire and really appreciated serving with.”
During the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton was asked several times about her 2002 vote to authorize the war in Iraq and whether it was a mistake.
In the interview and in her new memoir, “Hard Choices,” which comes out on Tuesday, Clinton says she “absolutely” regrets that vote and apologizes for it, adding “I think I should have said sooner and more plainly, more clearly I was wrong.”
“I based my confidence, my vote in the wrong place, and I deeply regret that,” Clinton told Sawyer. “I tried to evaluate and analyze all the different elements. I voted to give the president the authorization. I thought he would use it differently, nevertheless I did cast that vote.”