In the Arena

This Won’t Cut It

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It is amazing that the well-oiled Clinton machine, bristling with consultants, could get itself into this kind of mess. I mean, you ask her why she voted for the war and she says:

“If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from,”

Huh? And the reason she has empretzled herself thusly?

She is in a box now on her Iraq vote, but she doesn’t want to be in a different, even worse box — the vacillating, flip-flopping Democratic candidate that went to defeat in 2000 and ‘04,” said one adviser to Mrs. Clinton. “She wants to maintain a firmness, and I think a lot of people around her hope she maintains a firmness. That’s what people will want in 2008.”

This is what’s known in the trade as…fighting the last war. In 2008, the public isn’t as likely to be very concerned about a Democratic candidate who admits mistakes. Why? Because they’re sick to death of a President who refuses to admit mistakes.
In any case, admitting a mistake isn’t the same as flip-flopping. Why? Because flip-flopping implies dishonesty tinged with political convenience. It’s not admitting a mistake: I voted for it before I voted against it. John Edwards, by contrast, can hardly be accused of flip-flopping: He doesn’t fudge his former position at all. He just says he was wrong. I would suspect that simple honesty will trump consultant-driven “firmness” this time around.

And this won’t cut it either.