Clinton won't commit on Iraq deadline

Clinton 2008
Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., has long opposed imposing a specific deadline on troop withdrawal in Iraq, but her vote Wednesday has confused some.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton voted Wednesday to advance legislation cutting off money for the Iraq war, then refused to pledge to support the measure if it came to a vote, then said she would.

At lunchtime, the New York senator and presidential candidate was asked repeatedly by reporters whether she favored the troop withdrawal legislation that had just come up for a procedural vote on the Senate floor.

Her answer: "I'm not going to speculate on what I'm going to be voting on in the future. I voted in favor of cloture to have a debate."

By supper time, she had a different answer.

"I support the underlying bill," she said. "That's what this vote on cloture was all about."

Competitor comments
A rival Democratic camp quickly criticized Clinton's evolving - and possibly revolving - statements.

"We're as confused as anyone on Senator Clinton's position," said Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd's campaign spokeswoman, Christy Setzer.

"Frankly, it's hard to know whether it's indecision, miscommunication or simple word games and political gamesmanship we're dealing with. Our troops in Iraq don't have time for poll-tested word games," Setzer said.

Clinton sided with 28 other senators who lost a procedural vote on the measure offered by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. The amendment would have cut off money for combat operations after March 2008.

Clinton long has resisted calls from those within her own party to impose a specific deadline on troop withdrawal in Iraq, a position that has at times resulted in her being booed by anti-war activists.

At the noontime news conference, Clinton insisted she had not changed her position on a specific withdrawal date.

"This is consistent with what I've been saying for several years," she said.

Even as she denied there were any mixed signals in her votes and statements on a troop withdrawal, she criticized what she called growing confusion caused by President Bush's Iraq policy, including the appointment this week of a "war czar."

Clinton said she wants her vote to send a message to Iraqi leaders that they have to do more to stabilize their country before the United States will commit to a longer troop presence there.