Regardless of which side of whatever issue she may take, Senator Hillary Clinton still has a slimy-politi cian problem: Does she mean it, or will she do anything for votes—and will the anythings she may do entrap the United States in yet new disasters?
Her Feb. 5 speech at a dinner meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) underlines the subliminal mistrust in which she is held by some. This account in the Internet edition of The Jerusalem Post makes the point. The site quoted her as saying that “US policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. As I have said for a long time, no option should be taken off the table.
“But the United States should first try to engage Iran in dialogue,” she continued. “I’m not sure anything positive would come out of it.” That should have been enough to satisfy AIPAC, but perhaps it wasn’t. The Jerusalem Post went on to opine:
“Observers say Clinton has made strides as a vocal supporter of Israel during her six years as a senator, even though she still may be a tough sell to those who have not forgiven her embrace and kiss with Suha Arafat in November 1999—just after Arafat had accused Israel of poisoning Palestinian babies.”
How far this vocal supporter, once installed in the White House, would go to wipe away the memory of that kiss is anybody’s guess, but a politician’s interest and the national interest can be two very different things. If Senator Clinton may pose a problem for those who will be invited to vote for her, she is hardly the first and not the worst.
Take the example of Dick Armey, the House Republican Majority Leader from 1995 to 2003. When queried by Dave Montgomery of the McClatchy Newspapers on whether he voted to go to war in Iraq, Mr. Armey replied: “I did, and I’m not happy about it. The resolution was a resolution that authorized the president to take that action if he deemed it necessary. Had I been more true to myself and the principles I believed in at the time, I would have openly opposed the whole adventure vocally and aggressively. I had a tough time reconciling doing that against the duties of majority leader in the House. I would have served myself and my party and my country better, though, had I done so.”
This man was no backbencher, some hick Congressman nobody had ever heard of and paid no attention to; he was the Republican Majority Leader. We can speculate that, had Mr. Armey done what he thought was right for America, though perhaps wrong for the Republican Party, his country might have been spared Iraq, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of Iraqi lives lost and the unquantifiable misery endured by millions.
It is entirely possible that if Mr. Armey had “been true” to himself and “opposed the whole adventure vocally and aggressively,” George W. Bush might well not have been able to have his war. Certainly, it would have been politically much more difficult to attack and invade Iraq with his own House Majority Leader against him—not to mention the other Republican members who would have followed Mr. Armey’s lead. They, joined with anti-war Democrats, might have defeated the war resolution.
Mr. Armey has retired from Congress and, it appears, from the slime business in favor of public breast-beating. Senator Clinton is still active, voicing no such regrets as she does the weasel chant of the contrite, formerly pro-war Democrats who, like her, voted for the Iraq invasion: “Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote, and I certainly wouldn’t have voted that way,” she said.
The next big military event may come without the President asking Congress to vote beforehand. This, of course, would be an attack on Iran—but only because we will have been so sorely provoked that nothing less than a month or two of aerial bombardment will do.
Every day brings new accusations against the Iranians from Washington, more unsubstantiated stories of alleged Iranian hostile activities, more effluents pumped out of the think tanks about Iranian plans to take over the Middle East. Here and there, a sensible voice tries to make itself heard to tell us what the probable consequences (all bad) of American armed aggression against Iran would be.
So maybe it is time for another vote in Congress. This might be a binding resolution aimed at preventing George W. Bush from military action against Iran.
It couldn’t be done in the Senate, where Mrs. Clinton has too many like-minded colleagues. It could, however, be done in the House. Nancy Pelosi is no Dick Armey: She does do what she believes in—when she is not doing herself political harm by asking for private jet-airplane service from the Pentagon.
She could and she might lead an effort to pass a resolution which would declare to the President that if, in the next six months, he attacks Iran, his doing so will be considered a “high crime,” as the term appears in Article II, Section 4, of the Constitution. The resolution would state that if the President does commit such a high crime, impeachment proceedings would immediately be started.
Only the House can impeach. It doesn’t need the Senate to concur, so such a threat is a real one. Whether or not the impeachment goes anywhere past the House Judiciary Committee, the proceedings are a nightmare for any President. Everything in the White House must stop in order to deal with the committee. It is no idle threat, and yet a resolution like this one, which takes effect for only six months, is limited and reasonable. If, after six months, the furor over Iran hasn’t died back, the resolution can be renewed.
The question boils down to how many Hillary Clintons and how many Dick Armeys there are in the House. Can a majority be found who will, in Mr. Armey’s phrase, serve their party and their country by doing what they know is right, instead of what is safe and easy?