ABC News’ David Chalian Reports: As Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to assess a possible presidential candidacy and the contours of a Democratic nomination fight, she has taken another step away from her 2002 vote authorizing President Bush to attack Iraq by saying that she "wouldn’t have voted that way" if she knew everything she knows now.
Clinton has often been asked if she regrets her vote authorizing military action and she usually answers that question with an artful dodge, saying that she accepts responsibility for the vote and suggesting that if the Senate had all the information it has today (no WMD, troubled post-war military planning, etc. . .), there would never have been a vote on the Senate floor.
However, she has never gone as far as some of her potential rivals for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination — who also voted for the war — and called her vote a mistake or declared that she would have cast her vote differently with all the facts presently available to her — until now.
This morning on NBC’s "Today" show, Sen. Clinton was asked about her 2002 vote and offered a slightly evolved answer. "Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote," she said in her usual refrain before adding, "and I certainly wouldn’t have voted that way."
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) have both publicly declared regret for their votes for the war and have become advocates for withdrawing American troops from Iraq sooner rather than later.
Sen. Barack Obama, the freshman Senator from Illinois who is considering a presidential run and who may pose the single biggest threat to Clinton’s bid for the nomination, wasn’t in the Senate in 2002, but declared his opposition to the war at that time as a Senate candidate.
Sen. Clinton has long been viewed as potentially vulnerable on her left flank with regards to the war in a Democratic nomination fight where primary voters and caucus-goers tend to represent the more liberal wing of the party. Clinton has made strides over the last year in speeches, committee hearings, letters to her constituents, and television appearances to criticize the Bush administration’s general handling of the war and specifically calling for former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s resignation.
The Senator’s comments on "Today" seem to continue a pattern of further distancing herself from her 2002 vote and an attempt to shore up that potentially vulnerable left flank on the issue that is likely to dominate the 2008 race for the White House as it did in 2004 and 2006.
In a statement to ABC News, Sen. Clinton’s press secretary Philippe Reines didn’t specifically address Clinton’s remarks that she wouldn’t have voted for the war, but instead referred to the Senator’s previous comments about what would have been the likely overall congressional rejection of the war.
"As she has long and often said, Senator Clinton believes that if we knew then what we know now, Congress never would have been asked to give the President authority to use force against Iraq, and if the President still asked Congress despite a lack of evidence, the Congress would not have agreed," said Reines.