I just recieved a call from David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, who told me that "in no way" was his comment about Hillary Clinton "meant to be an unprovoked, sort of strategic foray."

"It was an answer to the question -- in no way was I implying that she was personally responsible for what happened."

I asked whether Axelrod meant to imply that her vote was in part responsible for creating the conditions that led to an Al Qaeda resurgance.

"All I’m implying is [about] the policy that the war in Iraq that Obama said in 2002 was going to distract us from Afghanistan and Pakistan and Al Qaeda, and that they would regenerate themselves and that they would become more powerful and influential. He exercised good judgment. She’ll have to explain her position."

Axelrod acknowledged it was fair to say that he was pointing out that votes have consequences, and that the Iraq vote Clinton took in 2002 had specific consequences that may have helped lead to an emboldened Al Qaeda.

"Everyone who was there understands the context. There were 20 reporters there and only one who wrote that. I know that [Clinton spokesman] Phil [Singer] and [communications director] Howard Wolfson are ...trying to stoke the meager, flickering embers, but there's just no fire there."

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