ASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday she would not have
attacked Iraq if she were president in 2002 and would end the war if elected, as
she tried to blunt rivals like John Edwards who are stoking anti-war passions in
the Democratic Party.
Clinton, raising her voice at one point
to be heard above anti-war hecklers, suggested that calls from Edwards and
others to cut off funding for President Bush's troop increase are unlikely to
win approval in a narrowly divided Senate.
Democratic Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton,
D-N.Y. gestures while speaking at the Democratic National Committee Winter
Meetings in Washington Feb. 2, 2007. [AP]
"Believe me, I understand the frustration and the outrage," Clinton said in a
speech to the Democratic National Committee meeting that brought the party's
nine White House hopefuls together for the first time. "You have to have 60
votes to cap troops, to limit funding to do anything. If we in Congress don't
end this war before January 2009, as president, I will."
The New York senator's comments were her strongest against the war and signal
an effort to confront one of the biggest threats to her front-runner status. As
the conflict nears the four-year mark, she has been on the opposite side of the
most outspoken anti-war activists who are a force in the Democratic primaries.
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois reminded
the party's rank-and-file - twice - that he was against the Iraq invasion from the
"But whether you were for it or against it then, we all have a responsibility
now to put forth a plan that offers the best chance of ending the bloodshed and
bringing the troops home," Obama told the audience.
Edwards voted with Clinton in 2002 to authorize Bush's war against Iraq, a
vote he defended during his 2004 presidential race but has since said was a
mistake. The former North Carolina senator has gone from being a war apologist
to one of the most outspoken critics of the invasion in this campaign.
"Silence is a betrayal," Edwards said, one of 11 times he used the word
betrayal in his 18-minute speech. "It is a betrayal not to stop this president's
plan to escalate the war when we have the responsibility, the power and the
ability to stop it. We cannot be satisfied with passing nonbinding resolutions
that we know this president will ignore."
Edwards was referring to a measure being debated in the
Senate that would say lawmakers disagree with the president's decision to
increase troop levels in an effort to stabilize Baghdad. Connecticut Sen. Chris
Dodd, another 2008 candidate, also criticized the effort as meaningless.