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Which Way War?

Campaigning for his wife this afternoon in Iowa, Bill Clinton threw an asterisk over his position on the Iraq war:

"Even though I approved of Afghanistan and opposed Iraq from the beginning," said Clinton, "I still resent that I was not asked or given the opportunity to support those soldiers."

Bill still has it going on. Support the wife? Check. Support the troops? Check. Throw an arm’s length up between your team and the war administration? Check. This ‘two-for one’ bit sure has legs. But as much as Clinton may wish it otherwise, these days Bill's extra-credit work cannot go unchecked. Reporters soon rustled up a speech at the war's outset in which Clinton said:

"I supported the President when he asked the Congress for authority to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

Not this old trick. Never to be “gotcha-ed”, HillaryHub blasted back with a series of Bill’s prior statements on Iraq. Their point: that timing is everything. Bill now says he wanted more of it before the war. And when he gave that speech, the war was going well--WMD-talk was still in. (This is not too different politically from today’s so-bad-it’s-good news from Iraq.) In summer 2004, he sorrowfully joined President Bush’s “wrap it up” chorus:

"I would not have done it until after Hans Blix finished his job. Having said that, over 600 of our people have died since the conflict was over. We've got a big stake now in making it work. I want it to have been worth it, even though I didn't agree with the timing of the attack."

The additional statements in the Clinton retort show that, from then until now, Bill has walked beside Hillary on Iraq. Which means today's revisionist history is more than a verbal diddle—but doesn't matter. Cynicists and both Clintons know voters' hindsight is blurry here. Bill can therefore speak of this war’s beginning as though the grim phases since--and progress now--eclipse the judgments (of many pols like Hillary) that led there.

Update: Beinart with more on forgetfulness. Patrick Healy on Bill's shifting stance here.

--Dayo Olopade