Among the biggest news from Hillary Clinton’s largely newsless new book is her blunt apology for voting to authorize war in Iraq. “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had,” she writes “And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong.”
This represents a change. In 2008, her advisors feared that if she called her Iraq vote a mistake, Republicans would savage her for flip-flopping, as they had done to John Kerry four years earlier. So even after John Edwards apologized for his Iraq vote, she refused to. In their book, Her Way, Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. quote Clinton’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, as insisting that, “It’s important for all Democrats to keep the word ‘mistake’ firmly on the Republicans.”
Six years later, with Iraq having receded from public discussion, the flip-flop charge carries less weight. So Clinton is now apologizing prophylactically, before reporters can hector her about it again.
But the apology itself is less interesting than Clinton’s claim about why she voted to authorize war in the first place. “I had acted in good faith,” she writes. That’s likely true. During her race against Barack Obama, Clinton suffered mightily from the perception that she only supported the war because she feared looking weak on national security. As a character playing her on Saturday Night Live quipped in 2007, “I think most Democrats know me. They understand that my support for the war was always insincere.”