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Sen. Hillary Clinton Refuses to Acknowledge Making Mistake over Voting for Iraq War & Says No Options Should Be Taken Off the Table on Iran

StoryFebruary 13, 2007
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At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, resident Roger Tilton asked Clinton: “I want to know if right here, right now, once and for all and without nuance, you can say that war authorization was a mistake.” Anne Miller later asked Clinton about her views on Iran. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As Democratic presidential contenders campaign across the nation, the war in Iraq continues to weigh on the minds of potential voters. Over the weekend, Senator Hillary Clinton had to face difficult questions from concerned residents in New Hampshire about her authorization of the Iraq War. During a town hall meeting on Saturday in Berlin, New Hampshire, Roger Tilton, who drove three hours from Nashua to see the senator in person, asked her a question.

ROGER TILTON: I want to know if right here, right now, once and for all, without nuance, you can say that that war authorization vote was a mistake. And the reason I want to ask is because a lot of other senators have already done so, including some Republicans and including one of your competitors, Senator Edwards. And the reason I ask personally is because I, and I think a lot of other Democratic primary voters, until we hear you say that, we’re not going to hear all these other great things you’re saying.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I have said, and I will repeat it, that knowing what I know now, I would never have voted for it. But I also — I mean, obviously, you have to weigh everything as you make your decisions. I have taken responsibility for my vote. The mistakes were made by this president, who misled this country and this Congress into a war that should not have been waged.

AMY GOODMAN: New York senator and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, speaking Saturday in New Hampshire, answering a questions from an audience member, Roger Tilton, who joins us now live from Manchester, New Hampshire. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Roger. It’s good to have you with us. Why don’t you lay out the scene and how you came to ask this question? And were you satisfied with her response?

ROGER TILTON: Well, the scene was Berlin, New Hampshire, up near the Canadian border. I think she chose Berlin, because it’s been hard hit by mill closings, a lot of jobs lost. I did get up at 4:00 a.m., and I did drive three hours. I got there about 7:30. The event started at 8:30, and I was looking for a restaurant to have breakfast, and I couldn’t find one. And that told me a lot about Berlin. It looked like all the old restaurants had been boarded up. A lot of the businesses had been boarded up. There were a lot of holes in the ground, where buildings used to stand. And I found a Dunkin’ Donuts, and I asked the shift supervisor, “What’s going on here?” And she told me about the mill closures and the jobs lost and the people moving out. So that kind of sets the scene.

We met at the Berlin City Hall. About 300 people were there. And it was a very festive, joyful atmosphere. It was Senator Clinton’s first visit to New Hampshire, and I wanted to be at this historic first visit by a female presidential candidate. I have two daughters who now both want to be president, so I wanted to be there and I wanted to just experience it. And it was going very well. It was very cordial, jovial. Everybody was happy. And then I asked that question, and the mood changed pretty rapidly.

AMY GOODMAN: And how did you come up with this question? Is this something that you have wanted to ask her for a long time?

ROGER TILTON: No, actually, I came up with the question while I was sitting there listening to all the other questions. I thought, you know, this is going really well for Senator Clinton. I’m just going to ask her a really easy question. I’m going to ask it in a very slow and deliberate tone, so she gets it, so that, you know, just once and for all and without nuance she can say either “Yes, it was a mistake,” or “No, it wasn’t.” But you’re talking to me on Tuesday, and that was Saturday. So, obviously, it wasn’t the right answer.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about her answer? What do you feel was lacking?

ROGER TILTON: Well, she didn’t answer the question, and she nuanced it. You know, to say that “If I had known then what I know now” is a copout. That’s a political answer. That’s not an answer to the question. I think there was a pundit on one of the Sunday talk shows that said, “Yeah, if we knew then what we know now, we never would have gone to war.” You know, that’s not a good answer. It’s just not a satisfying answer. It’s almost as though she went into her political file and found the right note card and leaned in and glared at me and gave me the answer on the note card. It wasn’t a genuine answer, by any means.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you gotten a lot of response from the press after asking this question?

ROGER TILTON: Well, the joys of having a listed phone number, I guess. Fox News, especially, was hounding me all weekend to appear on one of their programs. I got calls from all the major networks, except NBC. So, I would say, yeah, it’s been pretty overwhelming. The other thing is, a lot of my friends from around the country have either seen an article in the newspaper, heard me on your show yesterday, seen me on television over the weekend, so my phone has been ringing off the hook.

AMY GOODMAN: And are you going to be questioning Barack Obama? He just came to New Hampshire. He spoke last night.

ROGER TILTON: Yeah. Unfortunately, I was not able to get out to his public rally in Durham. But I do plan to talk to him. I plan to question as many of the candidates as I can. I think that’s one of the real joys and benefits of being a voter in New Hampshire, is that we actually get to walk up to these people and ask them questions that either are not being asked by the media or that the candidates refuse to answer when asked by the media. But for some reason, they just can’t refuse to answer the voters.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Roger Tilton, I want to thank you for being with us, as we turn now to another New Hampshire voter. Hillary Clinton has also said she would not rule out attacking Iran. She spoke earlier this month at a dinner organized by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, here in New York.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: The regime’s pro-terrorist, anti-American, anti-Israeli rhetoric only underscores the urgency of our response to the threat we face. U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal. We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. And in dealing with this threat, as I have said for a very long time, no option can be taken off the table.

But Iran is a threat not only because of the hateful rhetoric spewed by its president, not only because of its nuclear ambitions, but because it uses its influence and its revenues in the region to support terrorist elements that are attacking innocent Israelis, and now, we believe, attacking American soldiers.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Hillary Clinton speaking February 1 at a dinner organized by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Anne Miller is the director of New Hampshire Peace Action, also joining us from Manchester. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Anne.

ANNE MILLER: Thank you. Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your involvement now with these town hall meetings of Senator Clinton, of Barack Obama.

ANNE MILLER: Yeah, over the weekend Senator Clinton spoke in Berlin, Concord and Keene, and there were members of our community who were attending obviously all of those events. I went to hear Senator Clinton speak in Concord and was not called on during the meeting, but afterwards approached the senator and asked her about the comments that she had made at the AIPAC meeting earlier in the week and asked her if she really would leave all options on the table and how could she threaten, in effect, other countries’ children with nuclear genocide. She looked me right in the eye, and she said, “No options are off the table. We cannot abide by a nuclear-armed Iran. It would be an existential threat to the United States.”

And what I found really interesting in that comment, in that use of the word “existential,” is that isn’t a word that’s used very much in U.S. political discourse, but it is used in Israel’s political discourse. And that’s of deep concern to me that we have a Democratic presidential candidate who is a militarist of this nature and that she isn’t coming out and saying we need strong diplomatic action with Iran, which is really the only answer. There are no military solutions with respect to Iran that I can see.

AMY GOODMAN: You visited Iran last year?

ANNE MILLER: Yeah, I was in Iran in 2005 and spoke with many citizens from Tehran, from Esfahan and Yazd, and was absolutely impressed by their intelligence and about how much they know about the West and even in how curious they are about the West and about our culture. And they came running —- I mean, it was one after another in Tehran. It was really like being a bit of a rock star, where they come up and ask if you have a Yahoo email account. “Can we stay in contact with you?” They want their borders open. They want to have economic opportunity. And so many of the young people in that country -—

AMY GOODMAN: Before we get to the end of the broadcast, I wanted to ask you about Senator Barack Obama, who made a stopover in New Hampshire Monday, one day after Hillary Clinton campaigned there. It was Obama’s first trip to the influential primary state as an official Democratic presidential candidate. He entered the race Saturday in his home state of Illinois. He spoke at an evening rally at the University of New Hampshire. Obama addressed the issue of Iraq.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: And we understand that in Iraq the only way to solve that bloodshed that’s taking place right now is to arrive at a political accommodation. There is not a military solution to that sectarian civil war. And we need to start a phased redeployment, to start bringing our troops home. We know those things.

AMY GOODMAN: Anne Miller, you got to question Barack Obama?

ANNE MILLER: Yes, I talked with Barack Obama yesterday afternoon in Concord. Actually, he stopped in at a deli, the Eagle Square Deli in Concord, and asked him actually to vote against the supplemental funding even before we sort of look towards more of his presidential aspirations, because if he says he’s against this war, which he says he is, he needs to make his vote count in the Senate and de-fund it. And he did bring up the legislation that he has introduced calling for the redeployment of U.S. troops by March 2008, which is an improvement over other candidates, but at the same time he needs to be voting against the supplemental funding in the Senate, where he currently is.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did he answer you?

ANNE MILLER: He said that he is not sure he’s going to do that. He says that he thinks that legislation has a better shot of passing in the Senate at this point. But, again, I would side with Senator Russ Feingold, who says if you are against this war, you have to stop funding it. And that’s what I suggested to the senator.

AMY GOODMAN: Anne Miller, we have to leave it there, director of New Hampshire Peace Action.

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