The Art of the Straddle

The evolution of the Clinton straddle on national security and the war in Iraq continues, and her on-the-one-foot-on-the-other-foot strategy was on full display at Monday’s Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City, Mo. Sen. Hillary Clinton actually credited the surge with improving security in Anbar province, before going on to dismiss a military solution for the war and to call for withdrawal. She faced a silent hall during her remarks on withdrawal, but any jeer-free reception with a crowd like this is considered a victory. Clinton has had few positive things to say about anything happening in Iraq in many months, since she transitioned from war supporter to presidential candidate. But if she was going to cough one up, it was going to be for the VFW convention and not, say, the YearlyKos convention of two weeks ago. 

Transitions and transformations are necessary in politics, and few politicians are as capable at finessing them as Clinton. She has spent several weeks putting Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the Rookie Corner on foreign policy because he ruled out using nuclear weapons in Pakistan where there are large concentrations of civilians. She reminded him and any other candidate who hasn’t been to presidential school that you don’t always tell the world what your plans are, particularly involving nuclear weapons. But apparently Clinton herself ruled out the use of nukes last year in an interview with Bloomberg Television when asked about the Bush administration’s dealings with Iran.

“I have said publicly no option should be off the table, but I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table,” Clinton said in April of 2006. “This administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way that we haven’t seen since the dawn of the nuclear age. I think that’s a terrible mistake.”

For those wanting to try this at home, be aware that the art of the straddle apparently also involves some stagecraft. According to the New York Times account, applause was initiated by “three young people in the middle of the room who were not wearing the trademark blue VFW cap or convention name badges.” I think that ranks up there in the Clintonian Campaign Trick Handbook, and if she gets elected she should use similar plants in the House of Representatives during State of the Union addresses.