If John Edwards' appearance on Meet the Press was a preview of what's to come, it's going to be a very long presidential campaign for most of the Democratic contenders. Tim Russert spent a good ten minutes (an eternity in TV time) grilling -- and regrilling -- Edwards for his vote on the Iraq war.
To his credit, Edwards strongly renounced his vote, saying no less than eight times that he was wrong to have helped authorized the president to use military action.
But no amount of contrition could mitigate the effect of Russert playing clips of what Edwards had said about Iraq before everything went south, including this bellicose blast from October 2002:
My position is very clear. The time has come for decisive action to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.... Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave threat to America and our allies. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons today, that he's used them in the past, and that he's doing everything he can to build more. Every day he gets closer to his long-term goal of nuclear capability.
So, instead of hammering the president and the GOP for the war, we are facing the grim prospect of candidates like Edwards and Joe Biden and Chris Dodd and especially Hillary Clinton back on their heels, trying to explain and justify their pro-war votes. Hillary has taken so many different positions on the war, her rationalizations are already making "I actually voted for it before I voted against it" sound downright unequivocal.
Does anybody really want to spend the next two years listening to the answer to "Sen. Clinton, here is a clip of you from 2005 explaining an earlier clip of you in 2004 defending your comment in 2003 confirming your 2002 vote for the war. If you had to do it over again, would you give a different explanation in 2004 or 2005 justifying your 2003 defense of your 2002 vote?"
This is one more reason for the attractiveness of Barack Obama's candidacy. Here's the pre-war soundbyte they can roll on him, from a speech he made in October 2002:
I know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors... I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.
How's that for clear and unambiguous? And prescient.
You gotta love Edwards' explanation for why Obama was right and he was wrong: It's because Obama, not yet in the U.S. Senate, wasn't "burdened" with the bad intel Edwards and his fellow Senators were getting. This has to be the first time in history the "I was too much in-the-know" excuse has been used in a presidential race. On the upside, this line of reasoning gives lie to the commonly-heard criticism of Obama for his lack of "seasoning."
And if you want more proof that "seasoning" is overrated, look no further than the lengthy resumes of Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. When it comes to matters of war and peace, I'll take insight, judgment, and wisdom over that kind of years-on-the-job training any day of the week.