The one word answer is Iraq. As much as Hillary will try to spin the issue, the simple fact of the matter is that she like John Kerry voted to give George W. Bush authorization to invade Iraq in October of 2002, a decision which has proven to be the equivalent of tossing a stammering drunk man the keys to drive the country over a cliff. Here is a text of the floor speech she gave in the Senate on October 10, 2002, the day the vote was taken.
In the 2008 Democratic primaries, Mrs. Clinton more than likely will be facing Al Gore, a candidate with equal name recognition and financing, broader international experience, and proven national appeal. Her Iraq vote in 2002 will prove to be the key differentiator between the two, serving as the decisive nail in the coffin of her presidential ambitions.
Al Gore wasn't in the Senate in October 2002, having 'lost' the previous presidential election less than two years earlier by 537 votes in Florida, although he got 543,895 more votes than Bush in the popular vote. This no doubt saved him from making a tough decision regarding the Iraq authorization vote, but the evidence shows that even if he were in the Senate , he would have joined the 23 other Senators who voted no. Here is the transcript of a speech Gore gave in San Francisco on September 23, 2002, some 17 days before Mrs. Clinton gave her talk on the Senate floor:
"The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold-blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized... I do not believe that we should allow ourselves to be distracted from this urgent task simply because it is proving to be more difficult and lengthy than predicted....Nevertheless, President Bush is telling us that the most urgent requirement of the moment - right now - is not to redouble our efforts against Al Qaeda, not to stabilize the nation of Afghanistan after driving his host government from power, but instead to shift our focus and concentrate on immediately launching a new war against Saddam Hussein. And he is proclaiming a new, uniquely American right to pre-emptively attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat."Sounds eerily prescient, doesn't it? Al Gore was spot on regarding this critically important issue and Hillary Clinton was catastrophically wrong. It is doubtful that either will have a more important decision to make for the remainder of their lives. Over four years later America is still paying an incredibly high price for this foreign policy blunder, an error that Gore said in an interview last month was the “worst strategic mistake in the history of the United States.” Hillary on the other hand has steadfastly refused to apologize for her vote, instead trying to muddy the issue by doing things like grilling Don Rumsfeld at Senate hearings, trying to make it seem like she didn't vote to give Bush authorization. Nice try Hillary but it won't work; when it comes to the issue of Iraq, Democratic primary voters have proven to have long memories and to not be very unforgiving. Witness Joe Lieberman's experience with them in Connecticut last summer.
It has been said that the only cure to the desire to be president for a person who has run unsuccessfully before is an autopsy. However if one were to believe what Al Gore has been saying over the past six years, it would seem that he is about as likely to run for president in 2008 as George W. Bush is to be the next presidential bust placed on Mount Rushmore. He has said about a billion times that he is a 'recovering politician', and that he 'has no interest' in running again. Keep in mind Mr. Gore not only has run before, but has run and won by over a half million votes. It is unfathomable that he doesn't harbor a serious desire to run again. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. just to name a recent few are all men who failed in their first try at the White House only to run again and win at a later date. Indeed Gore's coyness on the subject only feeds into the buzz and mania that will occur when he finally does toss his hat into the ring. He has sat on the board of directors of Apple Computer for almost four years now, along with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Do you think those two know a thing or two about marketing or brand management?
Time is on Al Gore's side. All of the recent bluster over Barack Obama, and Hillary's status for the past two years as the anointed nominee actually mean very little. One need only look back to Howard Dean and the last Democratic nominating process to witness a candidate who was hot early on and a shoe-in to win, only to flame out when it actually came time for the actual voters to vote. Expect a formal announcement of Gore's running to come in or around May of 2007, roughly coinciding with the release of his next book "The Assault on Reason".
The seminal moment in the campaign will occur in a debate among the Democratic contenders in the winter of 2008. The surviving field by then will most likely consist of Hillary, Gore and perhaps John Edwards. With Iraq engulfed in worsening bloodshed and flames, the dialogue will go something like this, with Al Gore turning to face Hillary and saying, "With all due respect Senator Clinton, you voted to give President Bush authorization to invade Iraq. Faced with a critical decision vital to our nation's security, you chose wrong."
In addition to being the only serious candidate who has been consistently right on Iraq, Gore has been riding a seemingly endless wave of good press after the release of his hugely successful global warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth". He's even made strides to lighten up his stiff demeanor, with well received performances recently on Saturday Night Live and Jay Leno. His candidacy in 2008 will no doubt be cathartic for Democratic primary voters who will leap at the chance to right the wrong (Bush v. Gore) that happened in 2000. And last but not least, Americans love a good comeback story.