KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: "Had Hillary Clinton’s vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq proved uncontroversial, or had she provided a compelling explanation for it, she might now be the Democratic nominee."
Interestingly, this explanation for Clinton's loss to Obama is not one widely embraced by journalist-pundits. Of the 12 worthies invited by the New York Times to give brief post-mortems, Ms. Jamieson, one was the only one to offer it. Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, sponsor of FactCheck.org, Ms. Jamieson appears sometimes on Bill Moyer's PBS program, where she offers well-informed critiques of the campaigns. In contrast to the narcissistic impressionism of most journalist-pundits, Jamieson actually seems to work at her critiques, applying systematic frameworks to the analysis and (gasp!) looking for evidence, pro and con.
In this case, she has obviously gone back to look at statements at the time. I've read the speech Clinton gave on the Senate floor, justifying her vote, and, in it, she made a very good case against war, even as she voted for the threat of war.
Jamieson doesn't offer an explanation for why Senator Clinton was unable to convince anyone that she didn't mean it as support for Bush's invasion and occupation. The obvious answer is that she did not have the courage or foresight to stand up in protest against the decision to invade. She could have led the critics and opponents of Bush's Occupation in the Senate, using her star power to unite opposition to the war. Then, her campaign would have become a movement.
And, there's the rub.
The country needs a perfect political storm, to cleanse away the sins and tragic errors of the Bush years. The country needs a movement in opposition, a movement for, in a word, change. Clinton, for whatever reasons of political blindness or caution, made herself unavailable to be the vehicle of that movement. It is easily forgotten now, but much earlier, when Clinton seemed more certain to be the nominee the Republican message machine was actually working to make her the virtual incumbent. "Virtual-incumbent" was also a potent attack from the Obama people.
Not entirely unavailable, as some certainly embraced her, but too late, and without a convincing argument for those, who had already turned to Obama. Notably, her base of support was strongest among those late to get the message, late to cop to the trend: the working classes, the old, and those stuck in Appalachia.