By Charles W. Kim
This is a tale of two presidential candidates, both named Hillary Clinton.
“We have to disarm this man (Saddam Hussein),” a confident, almost defiant Sen. Hillary Clinton tells the ant-war group Code Pink in Washington D.C., March 6, 2003.
Clinton explained to representatives from the organization that she voted for a resolution allowing President George W. Bush to use military force in Iraq because “he (Hussein) has an obsession with weapons of mass destruction.”
Those comments and others captured in a video by Kirsten Michel of California, and displayed on YouTube.com, seem all but forgotten now as the Democratic presidential campaign rhetoric between Clinton and nomination rival Sen. Barack Obama heats up.
Michel, a 40-year old videographer and student, accompanied the group to Washington to protest the war and was even in a group of some 20 people arrested in front of the White House during one of the protests.
Clinton and Obama are locked in a tight battle through the Democratic primaries with Clinton enjoying three early victories in Nevada, New Hampshire and Michigan. Obama won a major victory in South Carolina Jan. 26, beating the former First Lady by a 2-1 margin.
Obama, who has staunchly opposed the war in Iraq, also won the Iowa caucuses, but has finished a close second in the three other polls.
A key issue between these contenders is the war and the record of votes each have cast while representing their respective states in the nation’s capital.
During this war of words, Clinton has questioned Obama’s intention of bringing troops home while supporting bills that fund the war.
Even Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton called Obama’s record on the war “a fairy tale” compared to his campaign speeches.
Sen. Clinton, however, talked a much different game in 2003 when confronted by the Code Pink group.
“I (voted for the resolution) based on my own assessment and understanding of the situation,” Clinton said in the 15-minute video which can be seen on YouTube.com. “I relied on the opinion of people I trusted, regardless of their political background.”
Clinton compared the United States role in Iraq to the unilateral use of military force used by Bill Clinton in Bosnia to end ethnic cleansing.
“The US had to do it alone,” Clinton said.
Videographer Michel, 40, said she was just in the right place at the right time and now realizes the importance of what her camera captured during that meeting.
Michel placed the video on the fledgling Internet site in January 2007. After several people misused her video, she disabled its download to protect her copyright. She, however, removed the restrictions on YouTube recently because she feels voters should see it and know Clinton’s reasoning for her 2003 vote.
Watching and listening to the video some five years later, it seems like a tale of two different candidates.
Clinton is now very vocal opposing the conflict as polls show the war becoming increasingly unpopular.
The question that bears asking from these two seemingly divergent messages is where the New York Senator really stands on Iraq and why.
If she was duped during her total time in Washington as First Lady and later as a U.S. Senator by people she said she “trusted,” then where will that leave the nation with her as president?
Much of what she said in 2003 sounds like what Bush told the country time and again during the same period.
Clinton’s video did criticize the administration harshly for several things, but the reasoning to use military force in disarming the Iraqi dictator was not among them.
If we, as a nation, are to believe that the war was “Bush’s lie,” how do we reconcile the explanation of the Democratic Senator as being different philosophically?
The Clinton and Obama campaigns would not respond to several attempts seeking comment on the video.
While more than 100,000 people have viewed the video on YouTube, millions will likely never see this candid discussion and the honest questions it raises during this campaign.
It is not a Democratic or Republican issue, but an issue of sincerity, honesty and integrity. It is an issue about character and how a possible future president may handle foreign affairs.
The bottom line, it seems, is that politicians speak not from the heart, but from the latest poll results. It seems votes are more important than standing by one’s convictions and judgments’.
Maybe we are seeking someone perfect for the job and have expectations that no person can live up to consistently.
Perhaps videographer Michel sums it up the best.
“Clinton is a politician like everyone else,” Michel said. “They say anything to get elected.”