Hillary’s “never apologize, never explain” approach to her Iraq vote has confused me for awhile and I agree with Joe that, as far as primary voters go, it will soon become clear that hewing to this line was a mistake on her part. (Though she’ll never admit that, either.)
Her stubbornness is puzzling not just because the vote itself may cause problems for her with anti-war Democrats (hell, anti-war Republicans), but because it signals the kind of verbal hairsplitting that led to “the definition of ‘is’” and “I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it”: Most people, when they say, “If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it,” the next logical sentence is, “I made a mistake.” I know Mark Penn has this weird theory that to even SAY mistake relating to her own position somehow takes responsibility for the war off of the Bush side of the ledger, but, let’s face it, there’s more than enough error (and death and destruction) to go around. She may have been misled, she may have been lied to, but just because someone else gave you the wrong directions doesn’t mean you’re not lost.
As recently as two weeks ago, there was still some debate within Hillaryland about whether the “I won’t admit it” position made her look more like John Kerry, rather than less. Her comments in New Hampshire mean that she definitely can’t change her message now.
Her lead in the polls right now means that she can talk above the heads of primary voters to general election voters, and I know that’s who HRC’s people are thinking about when they worry about the appearance of “flip-flopping” or appearing weak. But this condescension — and, really, that’s what those New Hampshire remarks sounded like — could prevent her from ever talking to general election voters face-to-face.
UPDATE: Commenter Daniel Mayer makes an interesting point:
I think her position makes her look more like Bush and co. in the sense that no one in the present administration has ever admitted to making a mistake. The fact that the Bush administration never admitted making a mistake or an error in judgement has been noted several times by pundits and observers in the media. It makes her look like she has the same over confidence or that she under estimates the voter’s intelligence.
UPDATE: Apparently Krugman said the same thing in his Times column but, eh, Times Select? Not so much.