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FYI: NYT on How War Already Shaping 2008 Race

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  • Carl Davidson
    The New York Times June 2, 2006 War Handicaps Senators in 08 White House Race By ADAM NAGOURNEY http://tinyurl.com/m5973 With Iraq looming yet again over an
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2006
      The New York Times
      June 2, 2006

      War Handicaps Senators in '08 White House Race
      By ADAM NAGOURNEY

      http://tinyurl.com/m5973

      With Iraq looming yet again over an American presidential campaign,
      senators considering a White House race are at a disadvantage over
      governors who might run, forced to explain their votes -- and in
      some cases, alter their views -- on an increasingly unpopular war.

      Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Senator Hillary
      Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, both prospective 2008
      candidates, have encountered hecklers protesting their support for
      the Iraq war. Both responded with hints of recalibrations in the way
      they discussed the issue, with Mrs. Clinton telling Democrats who
      nominated her on Wednesday for a second term to "stand with me" in
      pressing the White House and Iraqis to develop a plan that would
      permit American troops to come home.

      Two other prospective Democratic presidential candidates, Senator
      John Kerry of Massachusetts and former Senator John Edwards of North
      Carolina, say they regret voting for the war. Both have called for
      setting a deadline to withdraw American troops, a position that
      analysts say enjoys strong support among Democrats who are active in
      primaries and who were wary of both men for their pro-war votes in
      2004.

      "I think I was wrong to vote for the war," Mr. Edwards said in an
      interview. "Bush made this mess that we are in now. My view is what
      America needs to do now is make it clear that we are going to get
      out."

      By contrast, governors are finding considerable maneuvering room when
      it comes to Iraq. And they are taking advantage of it for now, while
      realizing that their lack of foreign policy experience is a
      disadvantage in an election that could focus on international affairs.

      Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, a Democrat, declined to say in an interview
      how he would have voted on the war.

      "I'm not going to get into that; this isn't about what happened in
      the past," Mr. Vilsack said. "If we're looking at the elections of
      2006 and 2008, I think it's important to look to the future and learn
      from whatever mistakes we made in the past."

      Mark Warner, a former Virginia governor and another likely Democratic
      presidential contender, said he did not support setting a deadline
      for troop withdrawal.

      "We have been put in this extraordinarily difficult situation," Mr.
      Warner said. "My sense is going out without a plan is just as bad as
      going in without a plan. So I have not been one of those people who
      say that come heck or high water, we are going to leave by a fixed
      date."

      Mr. Warner spoke empathetically of his potential rivals who as
      senators voted for the war.

      "I don't think any U.S. senator, regardless of party, if they had
      known there weren't W.M.D., that we were going to get selected leaks,
      I don't think anybody would have voted for it," he said. "Second-
      guessing people who made a valiant attempt at judgment is not where
      I am at."

      On the Republican side, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts applauded
      the invasion and said the United States should stay until the
      situation was settled. But he was critical of Bush administration
      management of Iraq, including the lack of sufficient troops to help
      secure the country to and the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.

      "As the president and Tony Blair said, knowing what we know today,
      would we have managed the postconflict effort differently?" Mr.
      Romney said, referring to the British prime minister. "Of course."

      Asked if he had voiced those concerns before public opinion turned
      against the war, and Mr. Bush himself acknowledged the shortcomings,
      Mr. Romney responded: "I haven't spoken out on this topic until
      relatively recently. I can't pull you quotes back from that time."

      The prospective candidates are planning now as if the war will be as
      big an issue in 2008 as it was in 2004. If anything, the politics
      surrounding the war are likely to become more volatile with
      disclosures about alleged killings of Iraqi civilians by marines in
      Haditha, a case that has prompted comparisons with the My Lai
      massacre in the Vietnam War.

      "I think it's going to get worse before it gets better," Mr. Kerry
      said in an interview.

      As Mr. McCain saw when he was hooted down at a speech at the New
      School in New York, this issue could be a problem for candidates
      from both parties. Opposition to the war is no longer confined to
      Democrats; it is also on the rise among independents, who are the
      heart of Mr. McCain's appeal in a general election.

      Both Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton have, to varying degrees, shifted
      their tone in talking about the war as they find themselves on the
      frontier of public opinion. Mr. McCain has given three speeches over
      two weeks affirming his support for the war, but he used conciliatory
      language as he noted its high costs and declared that "Americans
      should argue about this war."

      When Mrs. Clinton was heckled by war protesters last week, she said
      that she stood by her support for the war, but added that she was
      beginning to see circumstances where the United States would be able
      to withdraw.

      An adviser said this could prove to be the start of an evolution that
      would lead to Mrs. Clinton's increasingly distancing herself from the
      conflict.

      Governors have historically had an advantage over members of Congress
      in presidential elections; no sitting member of Congress has been
      elected to the White House since John F. Kennedy in 1960. Some
      officials in both parties suggest that the 2008 contest could break
      that pattern if the debate focuses largely on the candidates'
      credentials to manage difficult foreign policy issues.

      Some of the highest-profile governors and former governors who are
      thinking of running for president, including Mr. Romney and Mr.
      Vilsack, have in recent months made trips to Iraq.

      Mr. Vilsack said in an interview that he thought it was a mistake to
      set a deadline for troop withdrawal, but that the United States had
      to make clear to Iraqis "how they should not rely on the United
      States."

      Democratic analysts said Mr. Warner and Mr. Vilsack had more
      flexibility in resisting party members' pressure for withdrawal
      because they lacked the baggage of having supported the war in the
      first place.

      On this issue, Mr. Warner and Mr. Vilsack are closer to some of the
      probable Republican candidates than to Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards.
      "We should stay in Iraq until the Iraqis are able to maintain their
      own security," Mr. Romney said, rejecting the idea for a deadline.

      In calling for a deadline, Mr. Kerry said that having one would give
      Iraq the impetus to take responsibility for dealing with a war that
      had devolved into an unmanageable civil strife.

      "There's nothing that our troops can do -- nothing -- to resolve the
      fundamental differences between the factions," he said.

      Mr. Kerry derided Mr. McCain for his continued support for the war,
      saying: "He's dead wrong. I think it's the wrong war in the wrong
      place. We've paid a huge price for this in the Middle East."
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