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History repeats itself: Democrats are arguing about the Iraq War

Former Vice President Joe Biden at his campaign

Former Vice President Joe Biden at his campaign rally Monday in Derry, N.H. Credit: Getty Images / Scott Eisen

Biden's Baghdad bob and weave

Back in 2002, more Democratic senators voted for than against a resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to go to war against Iraq. Ever since, it's come back to bite those who said yes and later went on to run for president.

John Kerry was mocked in 2004 for saying about funding for the war that he "actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Hillary Clinton's vote for the resolution got called out by Barack Obama in 2008 and Bernie Sanders in 2016. Now, it's Joe Biden's turn.

In Iowa on Sunday, a rival from the Democrats' moderate wing, Pete Buttigieg, called Biden’s vote to authorize the Iraq War part of the nation’s “worst foreign policy decision” of the millennial mayor’s lifetime.

“This is an example of why years in Washington is not always the same thing as judgment,” he said of Biden, who became a senator nine years before Buttigieg was born.

Sanders has mounted similar attacks on Biden in debates. Biden's response to the criticism has been to misrepresent his record, according to CNN and NPR.

Biden told an NPR interviewer in September: "Immediately, that moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment." He said in a July debate that he supported the resolution only to build pressure on Saddam Hussein to let UN inspectors investigate his supposed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

But CNN said a review of Biden's public statements show he was never entirely opposed to military action before it started and continued to defend it in the months after it began. "It was the right vote then and would be a correct vote today," Biden said in July 2003, with the war in its fifth month. He did not openly regret his vote until 2005.

Now for Trump's Iraq blowback

President Donald Trump faces an Iraq War problem all his own after nearly three years in office. On Tuesday, the reports and videos looked like scenes from fatal anti-American attacks in Benghazi, Libya, during the last administration.

Local militia men broke into the United States Embassy compound in Baghdad. They lit fires after U.S. airstrikes that killed dozens over the weekend.

Thousands outside chanted “Death to America,” threw rocks, covered the walls with graffiti and demanded that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq. Trump blamed Iran without discussing withdrawal from American involvement in the Middle East and said without explanation that Tehran would be held responsible.

U.S. foreign policy continues to sputter and fail on other fronts as well despite Trump's chatter about renewing respect for America.

Schumer: Let's hear their stories

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called again for acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in the Senate impeachment trial after The New York Times uncovered new details about the withholding of aid to Ukraine.

Schumer, fighting with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over trial rules, said, “In our fight to have key documents and witnesses in a Senate impeachment trial, these new revelations are a game-changer.”

The Times reported on the lengths to which Trump went to freeze U.S. military assistance to Ukraine despite pleas from Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. It also provided new details of Mulvaney's role.

Janison: Word up

Newsday's Dan Janison finds quotes from Trump and Trumpland in 2019 that likely will reverberate as the impeachment drama extends to 2020. Among them:

"Get over it" was Mulvaney's try to depict asking a foreign power for domestic political help as a perfectly normal thing.

"I have to the right to do whatever I want" is Trump's notion that as president, he's untouchable.

"I have insurance" was Rudy Giuliani's enigmatic no-worries comment on why he's confident Trump won't "throw me under the bus."

As seen on TV

Trump still favors choosing White House counsel Pat Cipollone to lead his impeachment trial defense, but wants to fill out the team with lawyers who have TV experience, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Those under consideration are Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers, and Alan Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and a TV commentator.

A complicating factor for the latter is a crossfire of lawsuits between Dershowitz and a woman who says she was forced to have sex with him by pedophile and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

The White House also is considering some of the president’s staunchest defenders from the House impeachment hearings, the Journal said.

A Homeland stretch

Immigration hard-liner and Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli rarely passes up a chance to argue his points. Like when he said the poem on the Statue of Liberty was intended only for Europeans, and he suggested rewriting it to say only immigrants who can "stand on their own two feet" are welcome.

So in a tweet about last week's stabbing attack on five Orthodox Jews in Rockland County, Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of homeland security, saw an angle.

“The attacker is the US Citizen son of an illegal alien who got amnesty under the 1986 amnesty law for illegal immigrants,” Cuccinelli tweeted. “Apparently, American values did not take hold among this entire family, at least this one violent, and apparently bigoted, son.”

It’s not clear where Cuccinelli got that information or whether he is correct. Officials familiar with DHS practices said it was highly unusual to reveal the immigration records of a suspect’s family to the public during the early stages of an investigation, The New York Times reported. In any case, Cuccinelli or someone who got his attention thought better of his tweet, and it was deleted within an hour. The bipartisan 1986 law was signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

No mutual admiration here

The good news for Trump is that an annual Gallup Poll puts him in first place as the most admired man in the United States. The bad news is that he's in a tie with Barack Obama. Each scored 18%.

A consolation prize for Trump is that he has caught up with Obama, who had sole possession of first place last year.

Former first lady Michelle Obama was the most admired woman, at 10%, followed by her successor, Melania Trump, at 5%.

What else is happening:

  • Sanders' doctors say he is in good health three months after his heart attack and is fit to serve in the White House. A cardiologist wrote that the 78-year-old senator suffered "modest heart muscle damage” but “has been doing very well since.”
  • Sanders' staffers have complained about his campaign spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on supplies from Amazon, a frequent target of the socialist's anti-corporate rhetoric, The Washington Post reports.
  • While Trump has stepped up attacks blaming Democratic officials in New York and California for homelessness, he's had nothing to say about Florida, his new home state, which ranks third, Vox reports. Unlike the first two, Florida is Republican-ruled. Trump won it in 2016 and hopes for a repeat in 2020.
  • National security adviser Robert O'Brien is uninformed about a certain foreign leader's name. On a Sunday talk show, O'Brien referred to Kim Jong Un as "Chairman Un." As O'Brien's boss knows, the correct family-name reference for North Korea's leader is "Kim." Pompeo made the same mistake last year.
  • Pompeo will visit Ukraine later this week, his first trip to the country at the center of the Trump impeachment case. 
  • Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 campaign will open a field office in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Axios reports. It's rare for a presidential campaign to open a branch in a U.S. territory, but there will be 11 Democratic convention delegates at stake.

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