In a 1939 radio address, Franklin Roosevelt declared, "Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth." When it comes to Iraq, Hillary Clinton is doing everything in her power to prove him wrong -- repeatedly trying to rewrite history and belatedly catch up with public opinion against the war.
She did it during the first Democratic presidential debate, and she was at it again this morning on the Today show.
The issue was former president Bill Clinton's campaign trail complaints that it's unfair for Barack Obama to be characterized as more antiwar than his wife since they hold essentially the same position on the war.
Matt Lauer quoted Obama"s retort that that was true "if you leave out the fact that she authorized and supported the war there and I said it was a bad idea" and played a clip of him saying "I think it is fair to say that we had a fundamentally different opinion on the wisdom of this war. And I don't think we can revise history when it comes to that."
Lauer then asked Hillary, "Was there a fundamental difference in 2002 between you and him?"
Instead of honestly explaining her transformation from pro-war supporter to cheerleader of the war's progress to tentative opponent of the war to her current incarnation as long-term opponent of the war, Hillary skipped right over the unpleasant past and tried to talk only about the future: "Well, you know, Matt, I think the important thing is for the Democrats to be united in trying to either persuade or require this president to change this direction now -- that's what all of us in the Senate are trying to do." Sure, why answer the question when you can divert attention and blur the differences between you and your opponents?
Hillary also dutifully hit her talking point that she's been "saying for a number of years" that we should bring our troops home -- trying to rhetorically paper-over the fact that for most of those years she was actually trying to have it both ways on Iraq: dipping her toe in the rising anti-war tide by voting for a phased redeployment of troops while steadfastly arguing against setting any kind of deadline for bringing our troops home (for instance, less than a year ago, in June 2006, she said she did not "think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interest of our troops or our country").
This broad-brush, who-cares-about-details approach to Iraq is a favorite of pro-war Democrats desperately trying to align themselves with the majority of the American people, at least until the election. Are we forgetting Joe Lieberman, who claimed during his campaign against Ned Lamont, "No one wants to end the war in Iraq more than I do"? And there he is now, Tweedle-Dee to John McCain's pro-surge Tweedle-Dum.
As the Democrats continue to push for an end to the war, the devil will most certainly be in the details -- and pretending everyone is on the same page will do little to help voters decide which candidate to support. Which is exactly how Hillary wants it.
She's even trying to turn her chronic shape-shifting on Iraq into an asset, telling Matt Lauer that she's "put forth a number of approaches." See, she wasn't trying to cover all her bases -- she was putting forth a number of approaches.
Hillary obviously was paying attention during Bill Clinton's master class on rewriting history. Take his claim, made on a fundraising call with Hillary supporters in March, about the unfairness of the contrasting depiction of Hillary and Obama on the war: "To characterize Hillary and Obama's positions on the war as polar opposite is ludicrous. This dichotomy that's been set up to allow him to become the raging hero of the anti-war crowd on the Internet is just factually inaccurate."
Hmm, let's see... Hillary voted for the war and Obama passionately opposed it. Characterizing that as "polar opposite" hardly seems "factually inaccurate." Indeed, one might say it was "factually accurate." But when Lauer asked Hillary about this, she said, "I think he was referring to the voting records most Democrats have." Which, of course, he absolutely wasn't. He was talking about Obama.
Regarding her husband's claim, Hillary also told Lauer, "You'll have to ask him exactly what he meant..." -- which I have a sick feeling is going to be a phrase we are going to hear over and over and over in the months ahead as Bill Clinton tries to clear Hillary's path to the White House.
In the facts-at-our-fingertips age of the Internet, Hillary's blur-the-past strategy on Iraq takes a lot of chutzpah.