What in the world does Bill Richardson want?
MUSCATINE, Iowa — I just got a phone call — unprompted — from Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democratic candidate for president, blasting Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying she would withdraw nearly all American troops from Iraq within a year of beginning redeployment.
“Senator Clinton’s comments are a stunning flip-flop — she’s been saying she would keep troops in Iraq for five years, until 2013, and now she comes up with an inconsistent, incredible turnaround,” Mr. Richardson said.
Mrs. Clinton has maintained that she would leave a residual force behind in Iraq to pursue narrow missions, a position that her spokesman said she still holds. As her aides have done before, the spokesman declined to say how many troops Mrs. Clinton would leave.
Bill Richardson has been pushing for immediate withdrawal all along. Why does he care when his competitors for his party’s nomination for the Presidency come around to his position so long as they do? I have never understood why folks complain that He (or she) stole my policy position! I can only guess that I don’t really understand the lengths to which the urge for power can drive one.
I think that the Democratic aspirants for the Presidency are in an unenviable position. At some point the number of troops stationed in Iraq reaches a level where the only practical mission is force protection and at that point leaving our troops there becomes surreal and absurd. But complete withdrawal without reference to conditions on the ground runs the risk of giving Democrats ownership of the likely carnage that would follow which includes the prospect of regional war. That’s a pretty substantial risk and I’ve believed that a Democratic successor to President Bush would be more likely to leave our troops in Iraq as conditions are now rather than risk a serious deterioration on his or her watch. So Hillary Clinton (or whoever that Democratic successor might be) is caught between the Scylla of continuing the status quo and, not inconsequentially, earning the wrath of a significant part of the Democratic base, and the Charybdis of letting the situation deteriorate even farther. Absurdity may well be seen as the least of evils.