Clinton Defends Iraq Vote: Says "I'm Willing to Be Held Accountable"

From CBS News' Fernando Suarez:

MISSOULA, MONT. -- During a campaign rally in northwest Montana, Hillary Clinton defended her vote for the war in Iraq saying "I'm very comfortable that I made a sincere vote based on my best assessment at the time, and I am more than willing to be held accountable for it."

Clinton, who spoke before a crowd of about 1,500 supporters at an airport hangar in Missoula, was asked about her war vote during the question and answer session. It's the second time in two days that Clinton has been asked to explain her decision.

"I have said on many occasions that if I had known then what I know now, I never would have voted that way." Clinton said stopping short of saying that her vote was a mistake, something that anti-war critics continue to hold against her.

"It seems very self-evident today, all these years later that everybody should have known what wasn't there, but even the Iraqis, their generals and their officials did not know what wasn't there," Clinton said.

Clinton's response to her vote has been the most comprehensive she's had at a rally in quite some time. She went through a laundry list of reasons why she made her decision. Perhaps the most interesting was that Clinton said she took into account Saddam Hussein's fragile state of mind saying that "he was a megalomaniac" and went on to say that Hussein would feel pressured to "do something" given Osama bin Laden's ascent in the world of terrorism.

"We knew that psychologically, the idea that Osama bin Laden would now be given the top spot, so to speak, among extremists would be very hard for Saddam to take and would probably encourage him to do something."

Clinton urged voters to consider both her record and the record of her opponent, Barack Obama. Clinton said, "I had to make a decision. I had to cast a vote. I give credit to my opponent for making a speech, but a speech is not a decision and I had to make a decision."

"You are judged by your actions and actions are a legitimate basis by which to make that decision moving forward," Clinton added.

She also took a swipe at President Bush, virtually accusing him of selling voters a bill of goods during his 2000 presidential campaign.

"President Bush campaigned back in 2000 as a compassionate conservative. People loved it, nobody knew what that meant but people loved it. It was something new; it sounded real good. Compassion is good, being conservative on some things is good. So heck, lets take a chance, compassionate conservative? Ok, let's roll the dice. He was neither. And we have been living with the consequences ever since," she said.

Later, Clinton joked about being the only female presidential candidate, asking the audience, "Do you realize how much longer it takes me to get ready than my two opponents?"

"I think I should get points for working hard as I do plus having to spend so much time to get ready," Clinton quipped.
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