Lincoln Chafee just went there, as only Lincoln Chafee could.
The former Republican senator and independent governor of Rhode Island, who is very seriously exploring the prospect of challenging Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said Iraq should be an issue.
Then Chafee got specific. He brought up the votes that he and Clinton cast in 2002, as members of the US Senate, on whether to authorize President Bush and Vice President Cheney to steer the United States toward war with Iraq.
Chafee, then sitting as a Republican, voted with Senators Russ Feingold, Paul Wellstone, and twenty others to block the rush to war.
Clinton, sitting as a Democrat, voted with Senator John McCain and 75 others to give Bush and Cheney their blank check.
Chafee calls that Clinton’s vote “the biggest mistake of many” on issues of foreign policy by the presumed frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination.
“I don’t think anybody should be president of the United States that made that mistake,” he told The Washington Post. “It’s a huge mistake and we live with broad, broad ramifications today—of instability not only in the Middle East but far beyond and the loss of American credibility. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”
Chafee has raised the Iraq issue as Clinton is preparing to make an earlier-than-expected announcement of her candidacy on Sunday. In so doing, the prospective challenger to Clinton has recalled what was once—and what could still be—the greatest vulnerability of the former secretary of state. Hillary Clinton has a reputation, and a record, as a hawk when it comes to wars and military adventures abroad.
But will that reputation and record be “disqualifying” in 2016?
There is little question that Iraq was an essential issue for Illinois Senator Barack Obama in 2008, when he challenged Clinton for that year’s Democratic presidential nomination. Obama and his backers highlighted the fact that—as an Illinois state senator—he had delivered an anti-war speech in 2002. That went a long way toward distinguishing a relative newcomer to national politics from the former first lady and two-term senator.