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Hillary Clinton Is Booed by Anti-War Left
Senator Clinton was met with loud booing, hissing, and protest chants during a speech at a conference of left-leaning Democrats yesterday when she repeated her view that American troops should stay the course in Iraq.
Mrs. Clinton called the Iraq war a "grotesque mistake" before adding "but we cannot bring the troops home until they make sure Iraq has a unified government," a comment that set off a round of raucous booing from all parts of the hall where the Washington conference of Campaign for America's Future, mostly made up of Democrats, was held.
"I do not think it is a smart strategy, either, for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment, which I think does not put enough pressure on the new Iraqi government," said Mrs. Clinton, as protesters stood up and began chanting "Bring the troops home, bring the troops home."
"Nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interests," she said. While some applauded Mrs. Clinton as she left the stage, a group of several dozen continued booing her until she had left the hall.
Mention of the war exposed the widespread disagreement among left Democrats. Ms. Clinton has openly criticized the war and once apologized for voting for it in 2003 - a vote she said was based on faulty intelligence - but has continually backed the retention of American troops in Iraq until the Iraqi government can sustain its own security.
Many at the conference expressed surprise that she would address a convention of liberal Democrats and repeat her support, albeit reluctant, for the war effort. "I was hoping she would come here and at least give us some ground," said Anne Wright, a member of the anti-war group Code Pink for Peace and one of those chanting that the troops should be withdrawn without delay. "Even if you don't have a deadline, maybe talk about setting one. We've bird-dogged her at every event to try to get her to start thinking about the troops and we want her to know that we're here and we're watching her."
Code Pink intends to hold what they has termed a "Flag Day Procession" to protest Mrs. Clinton's support of the war after Senator Obama makes the conference's closing remarks this afternoon.
Mrs. Clinton may have disappointed many, but former presidential candidate Senator Kerry, a Democrat of Massachusetts, found a ready audience for his regretful backing of the war. Though widely condemned by leftist Democrats for his ambiguous stance on his support for the war during the 2004 election, Mr. Kerry received a standing ovation yesterday when he acknowledged that voting for the war, for him, was a misstep.
Invoking his protests against the Vietnam War several times, Mr. Kerry made some of his most robust criticism of the war since he lost the 2004 presidential election. "No American gives up citizenship because they served their country. It is not dissension to say the war was a mistake," he said.
"We were wrong and I was wrong to vote for that Iraqi war resolution," he said."One of the great lessons of life is that we cannot change the future if we are not honest about the past." During his remarks, Mr. Kerry called for an "end to the war in Iraq that weakens the nation each and every day it goes on," and said he has introduced an amendment in the Senate to have the troops returned from Iraq by the end of the year.
However, neither the vocal disapproval for Mrs. Clinton nor the enthusiastic applause for Mr. Kerry means much for which of the two is more like ly to become the Democrats' presidential candidate in 2008, according to Steve Elmendorf, a consultant who ran former Rep. Richard Gephardt's 2004 presidential bid.
The debate over Iraq was likely to divide the party between those who don't want to leave Iraq too soon and those who want to "get out, admit it was a mistake and move on," he said.
He added that he thought the war was an issue that was unlikely to affect how Democrats approached the midterm elections. "The Democrats are pretty unified on the midterms - there's a general sense in the party that Bush screwed this up and among the American people that Bush screwed this up," Mr. Elmendorf said.
"Bush has indicated he's not going to bring anyone home until he leaves, so the situation on the ground in Iraq during the primaries will be a big factor. Hillary has a lot of advantages, though, so I wouldn't write her off yet."