Iraq Inconsistencies: Are the Clintons Flip-Flopping on the War?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," November 28, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: You just watched video of what conservatives are calling yet another example of a Clinton flip-flop on Iraq. But according to [former President Bill] Clinton's aides, his words are being taken out of context. Joining us now, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer; and author of "Scandal," former special counsel to the president — to President Clinton, Democratic strategist Lanny Davis.

Let me go to Ari here first. And welcome back to our show, Ari.


COLMES: This idea, once again, and we played those clips of Hillary Clinton in the first block of the show, she said, this is not a rush to go to war. That's how it was interpreted by members of Congress who trusted the president when he said, I will use every diplomatic means and war only as a last resort, but I need your permission and support ahead of time. And many people feel they were misled.

FLEISCHER: Well, and she also said in that same clip you showed, it was the hardest decision of her life because she knew it involved war.

COLMES: Could involve war.

FLEISCHER: So it wasn't a rush. That was in October. The war didn't begin until March. That was five months later. Look, I think what this is a sorry reminder of is an era in which the Clintons get a little too slick, try to have things a little too much both ways, and that's what's going to hurt in the general election. I don't think in the primary. A bank shot against Bill Clinton by Barack Obama is hard to pull off, he's running against Hillary. But in the general, yes, Republicans are going to use this.

COLMES: Here's what Bill Clinton said — before we get to Lanny Davis, here's what Bill Clinton said as far as back as March of 2003. I'll put it on the screen here. He said: "I hope the United States would agree to this amount of time" in giving Hans Blix time to get the inspectors to do their job, "whatever it is, the question is, do they want the support bad enough to let Mr. Blix" — meaning the United States, "to let Mr. Blix finish his work and give him enough time to do that so we have enough time to get an international coalition together and not rush to war."

That's what President Clinton said in 2003.

FLEISCHER: And he also said a few months later that good-bye Saddam Hussein, good riddance. And that he's glad that Bush did this Iraq thing. So again, Bill Clinton is trying to have it every which way.

And one of the things I think we're seeing in this presidential election is there's a premium on authenticity. Which candidate is the most real? Which one isn't part of this Washington game? That's what Obama is hoping he can pick up on and use against Hillary, but I think that is a legitimate issue with both Clintons.

COLMES: Lanny Davis, is this a problem for the Clintons, as Ari suggests, is this a legitimate issue that has to be addressed so the American public understands truly what the position is?

LANNY DAVIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's good to be on with my friend Ari Fleischer, who is as good as it gets in at least arguing a political case. But that's what he is doing. The facts speak for themselves.

What that very biased set of clips that led into this segment didn't mention is that on March 15th, '03, President Clinton said that he opposed preemptive striking into Iraq until as the United Kingdom introduced in the Security Council, we give Hans Blix more time to find weapons of mass destruction.

Had we done that, guess what, he was right, we would not have had the reason that President Bush said, which we all believed, there were no weapons of mass destruction. His position has not changed, and Hillary Clinton did say — and, Ari, you read a few words in there, she didn't mention this is going to war, she said this should not be a rush to war, we need to use diplomacy, get allies, and give them more time to look for weapons of mass destruction. Now those are the facts.

FLEISCHER: Five months was hardly a rush. Five months from when she said that was hardly a rush. It was a lot of time if you think about it.

DAVIS: Well, look, we can disagree on what is a rush or what isn't, but the fact is if Hans Blix had been given more time, you'd agree with me there were no weapons of mass destruction, President Bush genuinely believe there had were, so did President Clinton, so did I, and so did you.

If Blix had been given more time, we might not have lost the 3,500 lives, and we might not be now in Iraq where I believe we ought to be in Afghanistan and we ought to be Pakistan taking out Al Qaeda rather than being in Iraq.

FLEISCHER: Frankly, I think if Hans Blix was given more time, Saddam would still be in power today.

But that's not —the issue here, is the Clintons' slickness and what this represents going forward in the future. We can all debate what happened of course in the 2003 time period.

But this is 2008, it's about the future, it's about who we want in the Oval. Do we want the Clintons to return?

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Lanny, my good friend, let me just tell you, and I was reminded of this by Ari Fleischer and I mentioned it on my radio show today, there was in 2004 an interview with Bill Clinton, and let me read it to you. He said: "That's why I supported the Iraq thing." He said it specifically in his own words.

On the day before the bombing he wrote an op-ed in The Guardian in London, and in that piece he supported Tony Blair's decision to support the president. There was no ambiguity as to his position, Lanny.

DAVIS: All right. Well, I'm reading an article, June 24th, '04, where he said: "I would not have done it until after Hans Blix finished the job." On December 1st, '05, he said: "I don't agree with what was done when it was done," and Hillary Clinton said the same thing.

HANNITY: You're actually validating our position, Lanny. And that's that the guy, like his wife, and I'll throw this to Ari, is all over the map, which is the problem there.


HANNITY: Well, I'm giving you direct quotes too, and he said just the opposite. But the problem is if Hillary gives five separate positions on the question of driver's licenses for illegals, if she gives 17 different positions on the Iraq War, when it's — the polls are up, she has one position, the polls are down, she has another position, it creates the image in the minds of the American people that she doesn't have core values, core principles, and that "it all depends what 'is' is" is the law of the land when they're in office.

FLEISCHER: It's this authenticity issue which people are thirsty and starving for. And my problem with the Clintons is they say so often "on the one hand, on the other hand," and then they never take a stand. And this is the problem. We need people, whether they're right or wrong, but we know they believe it, it's in their heart, it's their conviction, they believe it's and they will act on it on principle.

HANNITY: And I think that's what George Bush has done well, although he's been criticized for that.


HANNITY: We continue now with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer; and the author of "Scandal," former special counsel to President Clinton, Democratic strategist Lanny Davis.

You know, Lanny, I saw you had all of those compliments for my friend Ari, not me. But that is all right. I'm not going to take it personally.

All right. Lanny, here's the essence of what we're saying as conservatives — and I love you, you're a great Clinton defender, they ought to put you on the payroll if you're not already, because you're really good at what you do. Here's what you're not going to be able to overcome.

Hillary Clinton, in a debate, is asked a simple question about driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. She can't answer. She says, it makes sense to me. She says, I never said it made sense to me. The next day she issues a statement saying, yes, I support Eliot Spitzer. That evolves a week later and then that becomes, well, let the states decide.

And then when Spitzer drops it, she said, I'd never implement this as president, and by the way, the only reason they're attacking me is because I'm a woman.

Lanny, I'm telling you, you can spin all you want, those ads, I could make them and make a fortune. This is priceless material as a conservative.

DAVIS: You know, I get the impression that you don't like Hillary Clinton.


HANNITY: No, no, stop. That's shallow. I'm saying she has no convictions.

DAVIS: Let me answer. Let me answer. Let me answer. For 30 years Hillary Clinton has been fighting for progressive causes.

HANNITY: Oh, no.

DAVIS: Let me finish.

HANNITY: Please stop.

COLMES: Let the man talk.

DAVIS: And the Republicans, conservatives have criticized her for her progressive views.

HANNITY: I know, she loves children.

DAVIS: Now she's inauthentic. Unlike Ari, who I do greatly respect, I don't use adjectives, I just talk facts. She said, let's not rush to war, President Clinton said, let's not rush to war, Democrats voted for the resolution saying, let's have allies and let's make sure that there are weapons of mass destruction.


And those are facts. Those are facts, Sean.

HANNITY: Lanny, here is the problem in what you're saying here. I'm going to tell you something. You can spin this, and the Clintons can give you, well, he said this, but the problem is you're reinforcing my point that he has no values, and that she doesn't have any core convictions.

I'm telling you what you're not going to be able to overcome. You said it was a biased setup to this piece. All we did was play Hillary Clinton...

DAVIS: No you didn't.

HANNITY: her own words contradicting her own self.

DAVIS: May I respond?

HANNITY: ...and that's what bothers you, that's what you can't stand.

DAVIS: May I respond? What Carl Cameron and you and the nice, cute little noisy spot did.

HANNITY: Cute little noisy who?

DAVIS: Was selectively take out quotes.

HANNITY: Selectively.

DAVIS: . and didn't say that she and President Clinton and most Democrats who voted for the resolution.


COLMES: ...and she said it was not a rush to war, she made — we had that little clip as well, which we seem to have forgotten. Also, by the way, she did say, I'm not being attacked because I'm a woman, they're coming after me because I'm the front-runner in this race.


COLMES: She did say that, she didn't use the woman thing.

DAVIS: Could I add one thing for my friend, Ari? When Bill Clinton said, now that we're there, we have to try to support and hope this thing is successful, I know that President Bush was appreciative of President Clinton saying that, and he still says we can't just pick up and leave without looking over our shoulder.


COLMES: Let me pick up on that. If a former president had criticized his successor at a time of war, you would have rightfully jumped all over him. He was clearly biting his tongue and not going, as his camp said, full-throated criticism of a war that his successor began.

FLEISCHER: In 2004, one year after the war, President Clinton said to Time magazine, " support the Iraq thing." And I guess it depends on the definition of the word "thing" now for Bill Clinton. The problem still remains that with the Clintons, they take every side of every issue, and it's so hard to divine where they really stand and where they come out.


COLMES: If he pulled and Al Gore and spoke out against the war to the extent Al Gore did, wouldn't you have been highly critical of a former president attacking his successor when he went to war? You would have been — the conservatives would have gone crazy if he had done that.

FLEISCHER: Listen, Al Gore at least took stands. The problem with Bill Clinton is he took every side of every issue and then he tried to come back afterwards and argue every side. The problem, Alan, with the phrase "rush to war," it's a meaningless sentence. It can be whatever you descide it...


COLMES: It was supposed to be using every diplomatic aspect before you go to war.

FLEISCHER: No. When they say it, it means they support the war if the war went well. If the war didn't go well, they call it a rush.

COLMES: No, it means you give every opportunity.

FLEISCHER: That's the problem when you don't have conviction.

COLMES: Lanny, I know you want to respond, we've got about 20 seconds.

DAVIS: Well, real quick, Ari cannot disagree that we went in being told that we're doing it because of the weapons of mass destruction. Hans Blix six months later said there are none. We didn't have to make this war. We could've waited.

FLEISCHER: But they why did Bill Clinton in 2004 say, "I support the Iraq thing?"

DAVIS: ...and that is a fact.

FLEISCHER: He said that in 2004.

DAVIS: Because without being cute about the word "thing," he was supporting a president. We were already there, and he hoped that we would be successful.


COLMES: All right. Lanny, we thank you. Ari, we thank you both very much for being with us.

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