Sen. Clinton: I will continue to vote against war funding until the Bush Administration contemplate consideration of a troop withdrawal plan
"Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaeda members...
Any vote that might lead to war should be hard. But I cast it with conviction...So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation..."
--Senator and 2008 Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY), on the U.S. Senate floor, October 10, 2002
"As we sit here this morning," says NBC's Tim Russert to Senator Clinton, "Saddam rebuilding a nuclear weapons program: Just not true. Giving aid and sanctuary to al-Qaeda: Debatable."
Russert asks: "Do you believe that your vote was in the best interest of the nation?"
"Well," replies Clinton, "I cast a sincere vote based on my assessment at the time, and I take responsibility for that vote. I also said on the floor that day that this was not a vote for pre-emptive war. I thought it made sense to put inspectors back in."
The Senator continues: "Now, obviously, if I had known then what I know now about what the President would do with the authority that was given him, I would not have voted the way that I did."
"Obviously, from my perspective, what I'm focused on is what to do now, and I take that as, uh, seriously as I can, which is why I have said I will not vote for additional funding unless it is part of an overall policy to begin to deal with these other, uh, problems that we face in Iraq."
Russert cites three "No" votes made by the Senator the day following her speech, as reported by Congressional Quarterly: One to assert Congress' right to declare war, one to strike on "imminent threat" rather than a vague "continuing threat," and one that would have allowed a Congressional vote to authorize force only after options through the UN had been exhausted.
"You seemed very determined at that time to march to war," Russert adds, matter-of-factly.
"Well," rebuts the Senator, "I also voted, Tim, to limit the President's authority to a year. That was another one of Senator Byrd's amendments which I strongly supported. It was not successful. I have seen, obviously now, what has occurred by this president's use of the authority that he was given, and I regret the way that he used authority."
Continues Clinton: "I don't believe it's in the best interests of our country to give the United Nations what amounts to a veto over presidential action. I think that the Congress and the President should determine what presidential action should be."
"Is it fair to say," asks Russert, "that the most important vote you cast in the Senate, in your own words, on authorizing the war in Iraq, was wrong?"
"It's fair to say," responds Clinton, "that the President misused the authority that he was given, and if I had the opportunity to act now, based on what I know now, I never would have voted that way. But I think it's important to take responsibility, and then to try to deal with the situation that we face today.
You know, we can talk about 2002, or we can look forward to what is a continuing involvement in a sectarian civil war with no end in sight, and I believe it's imperative that we try to create a political consensus to move the President and the Republicans in Congress to extricating us from this civil war. And I've said many times that if the President does not do it before he leaves office, when I am President, I will."
"I have voted against funding this war, and I will vote against funding this war as long as it takes."
--Sen. Clinton, in a recent speech to the Service Employees International Union
Russert brings up the fact that, not only did the Senator vote to give the President the authority to invade Iraq, but she also voted to increase funding for the war at least ten times.
"I try to do what I think is best for my country and for the troops who serve it," responds Clinton. "And I have seen no evidence that this administration is willing to change course in any significant way."
"We're now nearly at 3,800 dead, we have more than 30,000 injured, the Iraqi government has failed to fulfill its part of the bargain to deal with the political issues that all of us know have to be addressed."
"When I am President," says the Senator, "I will immediately ask my Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my security advisers; to tell me exactly what the state of play is."
The entire exchange, from NBC's Meet The Press, broadcast on September 22, 2007, can be watched below: