Clinton Argues Ending Iraq War More Important Than Repudiating Her 2002 Vote

Saturday, February 17th 2007, 2:37 pm
By: News On 6

DOVER, N.H. (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton told New Hampshire voters Saturday that ending the war in Iraq is more important than whether she repudiates her 2002 vote authorizing President Bush to use military force there.

The New York senator and party front-runner repeatedly has faced calls for her to say her vote was a mistake. Democrats pressed her on it last weekend in New Hampshire and again on Saturday at a town hall meeting in the early voting state.

One of her rivals, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, has disavowed his vote. Another, Sen. Barack Obama, has opposed the war from the outset. The Illinois senator was not in Congress at the time of the war vote.

On Saturday, Clinton was asked by a University of New Hampshire professor why she refused to apologize for voting to give Bush the authority for the March 2003 invasion.

``I take responsibility for my vote. It was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances we had at the time. Obviously I would not vote that way again if we knew then what we know now,'' she said, her oft-repeated explanation.

She then added in a clear reference to her rivals: ``I have to say, if the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from. But for me, the most important thing now is trying to end this war.''

Clinton also responded to demands from Edwards and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack for Congress to cut off money for U.S. troops. The two-term senator argued that such calls fails to acknowledge the legislative reality that Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate.

``I understand the politics of this. I could very easily stand up here and say, 'I'm all for cutting off funding,' knowing we don't have the votes,'' Clinton said. ``We have to end this war and we can't do it without Republican votes.''

In the discussion at the town hall meeting, Clinton described her proposed legislation to cap the number of troops at around 130,000, cut off money for Iraqi forces unless they show progress in defending themselves and convene an international conference aimed at stabilizing the region.

``You don't refuse to talk to bad people. I think life is filled with uncomfortable situations where you have to deal with people you might not like,'' she said, pausing when the audience began to laugh. ``I'm sort of an expert on that. I have consistently urged the president to talk to Iran and talk to Syria. I think it's a sign of strength, not weakness.''

Clinton had to cut short her New Hampshire visit for a Senate vote on Iraq. She reminded the crowd that it was in Dover that her husband, the former two-term president, made one of the most famous speeches of his 1992 campaign.

``Some of you might remember that during the 1992 campaign when my husband came to Dover and said, 'If you'll stick with me, I'll stick with you until the last dog dies.' Well, imagine how I felt when I heard on Thursday afternoon that we were going to have this important vote in the Senate on Saturday,'' she said.

``My staff said, 'Well, you're going have to cancel New Hampshire.' I said, 'Cancel Dover?' I said, 'Has the last dog died?' Of course, the last dog has not died, and I thank you for being here this morning.''