Here’s what Sen. Hillary Clinton, the odds-on favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, had to say about Iraq last week:

“I do not think it is a smart strategy, either, for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment, which I think does not put enough pressure on the new Iraqi government. Nor do I think it is a smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interests.”

Does that clear up her position for you?

She doesn’t want an open-ended commitment, and she doesn’t want to set a date for withdrawal.

Does everyone understand?

This is called trying to have it both ways. This is called obfuscation. This is called trying to be everything to everybody. This is called sowing the seeds of confusion. It’s also called being a politician in the mold of her husband.

We all know Hillary Clinton is more of an ideologue than her super-ambitious husband, who wanted only the best of all things for himself. Give Hillary credit where credit is due – she believes in something. Because she believes in something, she may be more dangerous in many ways than her husband (to all but vulnerable women under their supervision, perhaps).

But it’s clear what Hillary is trying to pull with this double-talk. She is pulling a Bill. She is trying to sound moderate, reasonable, presidential, responsible.

Remember when Bill Clinton confronted Sista Souljah? This may be Hillary Clinton’s Sista Souljah moment – or at least she hopes it will be. I suspect Hillary believes that by running to the right of John Kerry and other Democratic competitors for the presidential nomination, she can sound almost statesmanlike by comparison.

She probably didn’t mind getting booed by the extremists in the audience who view American troops as war criminals. Maybe she thought that would help boost her appeal in Middle America.

After all, the headlines on the story the next day said: “Activists jeer Clinton over Iraq stance.”

There’s just one problem. What she says makes no sense – at least with regard to Iraq.

How would you like to be fighting for our country in Iraq today and hear a viable presidential candidate talking like this? What does it mean? On the other hand, picture yourself in the place of an al-Qaida operative in Iraq. Would you not be celebrating after hearing this mixed signal being given by Hillary? Would you not be planning to bide your time waiting for the next president in hopes it might be Hillary?

Of course, we also have Kerry, who has changed his mind for about the umpteenth time on Iraq. He was for it before he was against it. But he warned that no one should vote for him if they didn’t believe Saddam Hussein was a threat. But now he’s back to where he was in 1971 with the Vietnam War. He wants a pullout. He wants a date certain. He calls Iraq one of the two biggest foreign policy gaffes in our nation’s history.

Does anyone really believe that?

I don’t think so. And that’s why Hillary is trying to stake out the middle ground. However, the middle of the road can be a dangerous place to walk. Sometimes you turn into political roadkill by walking in the middle.

Maybe Hillary will clarify her position on Iraq. Maybe my colleagues in the press will force her to do so. That would be the right thing to do.

No open-ended commitment, and no cutoff date. Can anyone reconcile these statements? Is there really a position between those two policies? If so, Hillary needs to spell it out.



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