One of Bernie’s central contrast points with Hillary is her 2002 AUMF vote, which gave George W. Bush authority to use military force in Iraq. Bernie’s surrogates and supporters have implicitly and explicitly used that vote to blame Hillary for the death and destruction in Iraq. His campaign manager went so far as to blame her for the creation of ISIS. Now comes a critical admission from Bernie that Hillary “doesn’t bear responsibility.”
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Bernie was confronted with his assertion that Hillary “should apologize for Iraq war deaths.”
When asked by Rose if he really blames her, Bernie conceded that he was simply engaging in a “tit for tat” (quite stunning on an issue of such gravity), and said the following:
“Of course she doesn’t bear responsibility… Do I hold her accountable? No.”
It is difficult to overstate the importance of this statement in the context of the 2016 election. Not a day goes by without Hillary’s detractors directly accusing her of being personally responsible for the carnage in Iraq. With this Charlie Rose interview, Bernie has obliterated that insidious and pervasive talking point.
Those who vigorously protested the Iraq invasion (including many of us at BNR), strongly opposed Hillary’s Iraq Resolution vote and the votes of many of her Democratic colleagues, including John Kerry, Joe Biden and Harry Reid. But like Bernie, we know that the decision to go to war was Bush’s alone.
Hillary has said she regrets her vote, acknowledging it was a mistake. Every politician makes mistakes; very few admit them. There is no perfect candidate, just as there is no perfect human being.
Bernie has a string of votes that are antithetical to his — and our — progressive values, on guns, immigration, and environmental justice. However, that should not be an indictment of his entire career or character.
Similarly, Hillary’s AUMF vote should not be used to suggest that she purposely advocated for the death of any human being or that she is personally accountable for the actions of the Bush-Cheney administration.
Watch the clip:
UPDATE: Here’s what Tad Devine, Bernie’s top adviser, told Meet The Press in August of 2004, when he (and I) worked for John Kerry’s presidential campaign:
John Kerry does not regret his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq. What he deeply regrets is what the president did with that authority. … Tim, again, the authorization was the right vote, it was the right choice.
Hillary no longer believes it was the correct vote, because of what Bush and Cheney did. Still, it’s worth noting Devine’s position when Bernie’s campaign uses Hillary’s vote as an all-purpose hit on her judgment.