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In a June 19 appearance on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes to promote his book, Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Little, Brown & Co., June 2007), co-authored with Jeff Gerth, Don Van Natta Jr. asserted that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) provided no explanation for her vote against an amendment to the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq that would have required President Bush to obtain approval from the United Nations Security Council before launching a military attack. The amendment (S.A. 4862), offered by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), also provided that if Bush was unable to secure the support of the United Nations, an additional congressional vote would be required before military action could be taken. In fact, the same day Clinton voted on Levin's amendment, she gave a floor speech that, while not mentioning the Levin amendment by name, included her reason for opposing a resolution that would have required the approval of the United Nations before launching a military attack.
When asked about Clinton's vote on the Levin amendment by co-host Sean Hannity, Van Natta claimed that Clinton "didn't even go on the Senate floor and say anything about it." He added, "She voted against the Levin amendment, yet she keeps saying that she wanted diplomacy."
The Levin amendment states:
SEC. 3. CONGRESSIONAL POLICY FOR UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL ACTION ON IRAQ.
(1) supports the President's call for the United Nations to address the threat to international peace and security posed by Saddam Hussein's continued refusal to meet Iraq's obligations under resolutions of the United Nations Security Council to accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless of its weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons-usable material, ballistic missiles with a range in excess of 150 kilometers, and related facilities, and to cease the development, production, or acquisition of such weapons, materials, and missiles;
(2) urges the United Nations Security Council to adopt promptly a resolution that --
(A) demands that Iraq provide immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access of the United Nations weapons inspectors so that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons-usable material, ballistic missiles with a range in excess of 150 kilometers, and related facilities are destroyed, removed, or rendered harmless; and
(B) authorizes the use of necessary and appropriate military force by member states of the United Nations to enforce such resolution in the event that the Government of Iraq refuses to comply;
(3) affirms that, under international law and the United Nations Charter, the United States has at all times the inherent right to use military force in self-defense; and
(4) will not adjourn sine die this year and will return to session at any time before the next Congress convenes to consider promptly proposals relative to Iraq if in the judgment of the President the United Nations Security
Council fails to adopt or enforce the resolution described in paragraph (2).
SEC. 4. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES PURSUANT TO A NEW UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION.
(a) AUTHORIZATION. -- Pursuant to a resolution of the United Nations Security Council described in section 3(2) that is adopted after the enactment of this joint resolution, and subject to subsection (b), the President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States to destroy, remove, or render harmless Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons-usable material, ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers, and related facilities, if Iraq fails to comply with the terms of the Security Council resolution.
(b) REQUIREMENTS. -- Before the authority granted in subsection (a) is exercised, the President shall make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that the United States has used appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means to obtain compliance by Iraq with a resolution of the United Nations Security Council described in section 3(2) and that those efforts have not been and are not likely to be successful in obtaining such compliance.
In her October 10, 2002, floor speech on the resolution to use military force against Iraq, Clinton specifically explained why she rejected the idea of mandating that the president obtain approval from the UN Security Council before launching a military attack:
CLINTON: Others argue that we should work through the United Nations and should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it. This too has great appeal for different reasons. The UN deserves our support. Whenever possible we should work through it and strengthen it, for it enables the world to share the risks and burdens of global security and when it acts, it confers a legitimacy that increases the likelihood of long-term success. The UN can help lead the world into a new era of global cooperation and the United States should support that goal.
But there are problems with this approach as well. The United Nations is an organization that is still growing and maturing. It often lacks the cohesion to enforce its own mandates. And when Security Council members use the veto, on occasion, for reasons of narrow-minded interests, it cannot act. In Kosovo, the Russians did not approve NATO military action because of political, ethnic, and religious ties to the Serbs. The United States therefore could not obtain a Security Council resolution in favor of the action necessary to stop the dislocation and ethnic cleansing of more than a million Kosovar Albanians. However, most of the world was with us because there was a genuine emergency with thousands dead and a million driven from their homes. As soon as the American-led conflict was over, Russia joined the peacekeeping effort that is still underway.
In the case of Iraq, recent comments indicate that one or two Security Council members might never approve force against Saddam Hussein until he has actually used chemical, biological, or God forbid, nuclear weapons.
If we try and fail to get a resolution that simply, but forcefully, calls for Saddam's compliance with unlimited inspections, those who oppose even that will be in an indefensible position. And we will still have more support and legitimacy than if we insist now on a resolution that includes authorizing military action and other requirements giving some nations superficially legitimate reasons to oppose any Security Council action. They will say we never wanted a resolution at all and that we only support the United Nations when it does exactly what we want.
Similarly, in a June 3 New York Times Magazine cover article adapted from Her Way, Gerth and Van Natta claimed, "Clinton has never publicly explained her vote against the Levin amendment."
From the June 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: But there's even one more little piece to the puzzle that you guys discuss. There was a second vote, because now she is making the claim that, "I really wasn't authorizing the president to use force, but I was hoping he would use that authorization for diplomatic purposes," when, in fact, the Levin amendment -- you may want to explain --
VAN NATTA: The Levin amendment was an opportunity for her to vote for diplomacy, to hold the president's feet to the fire on diplomacy, and she chose not to do it. She didn't even go on the Senate floor and say anything about it. She voted against the Levin amendment, yet she keeps saying that she wanted diplomacy.
HANNITY: So, she's lying.
VAN NATTA: Well, when she had a chance to vote for it in real time, she passed up that opportunity.
HANNITY: If I had the opportunity to make these campaign ads for whoever the ultimate Republican candidate is for president, I would show her in 2002. I would show her today. I would show her -- she's a bigger flip-flopper on this issue than [Sen.] John Kerry [D-MA] was on, you know -- "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it."
GERTH: Well, she's got her own set of flip-flops. I mean, she --she hasn't apologized for the war like Kerry and others --
HANNITY: [Former Sen. John] Edwards [D-NC].
GERTH: -- and Edwards has, but she has her own set of flip-flops, and the diplomacy one is -- is front and center, where she's maintained all along she was for diplomacy, but didn't vote for it.