- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

Former President Bill Clinton has resisted taking potshots at U.S. foreign policy as war unfolded in Iraq — up until now.

On Monday, Mr. Clinton went on the offensive."Our paradigm now seems to be: Something terrible happened to us on September 11, and that gives us the right to interpret all future events in a way that everyone else in the world must agree with us. And if they don't, they can go straight to hell," he told a symposium sponsored by Conference Board, a New York-based nonpartisan business research group.

"We can't run," Mr. Clinton continued. "If you got an interdependent world, and you cannot kill, jail or occupy all your adversaries, sooner or later you have to make a deal."

He also criticized White House treatment of France and Germany after both opposed U.S. military action in Iraq. Mr. Clinton suggested that President Bush and his administration will spend too heavily on defense to the detriment of domestic issues.

"Since September 11, it looks like we can't hold two guns at the same time," Mr. Clinton said. "If you fight terrorism, you can't make America a better place to be."

His sentiments do not exactly dovetail with the Democratic National Committee, which issued this statement March 21: "Democrats stand shoulder to shoulder with all Americans in total support of our men and women in the Armed Forces."

But just four nights ago, Mr. Clinton was toeing the line like an elder statesman. On Sunday, he told a St. Louis audience, "Mr. Bush has done the right thing in removing Saddam Hussein from power. They now have a fresh chance to do the right thing and rebuild Iraq," according to an account in the Pioneer Press on Monday.

And in an April 3 speech at the University of Florida, Mr. Clinton weighed in on Iraq with hawklike tones.

"We've got the power, we've got the juice," he told the crowd. "We should do the job."

But there was some foreshadowing that night.

"There will be ample time to debate how we got there, and what we should do when it's over," Mr. Clinton said.

Now that the war is essentially over, Mr. Clinton seems to have started his own debate. Though some pundits have questioned whether Mr. Clinton would become a "liability" for the Democrats, he may inspire other Democrats to join the fray.

University of Arkansas political professor and Clinton watcher Margaret Scranton is not surprised. She is teaching a course on Mr. Clinton and his administration, which is videotaped and broadcast on C-SPAN every Friday night.

"Former presidents always keep their fingers on the pulse of these issues. And there is nothing they like better than articulating alternative arguments. It goes with the territory," she said yesterday.

The pulse of the Democrats has not been beating any war rhythms lately. According to an April 11 Pew Research poll, 42 percent of Democrats believe that using military force to remove a dictator is "rarely or never" the right thing to do.

The figure was 16 percent for Republicans.

"Of course, some presidents are more vocal than others," Mrs. Scranton added. "Both Carter and Clinton have been particularly outspoken after they left the White House. Frankly, I'd be surprised if Bill Clinton wasn't out there speaking his mind."

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