Clinton Pounces On "Mission Accomplished"

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton address the California Democratic Convention in San Diego, Saturday, April 28, 2007. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton denounced President George W. Bush on Saturday for his "Mission Accomplished" speech and said his conduct of the Iraq war was "one of the darkest blots on leadership we've ever had."

Addressing delegates at the California State Democratic Party convention, Clinton said that if elected president in 2008, she would end the war. The New York senator also promised to "treat all Americans with dignity and equality no matter who you are and who you love." The pledge was a clear bow to California's politically active and influential gay community.

Taking on Bush's policies, Clinton contended the president has ignored scientific evidence on global warming and stem cell research while also dismissing the concerns of the middle class. She said his administration had "lied" about the effects of toxic dust at the World Trade Center site in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Her voice raspy from days of campaigning, Clinton brought delegates to their feet when she said she wished she could turn the clock back to a different time.

"Somebody said to me that he wished we could just rewind the 21st century and just eliminate the Bush-Cheney administration, with all their mistakes and misjudgments," she said to cheers. "People are ready for leaders who understand it is our votes who put them in power, our tax dollars that pay the bills."

She lambasted the "Mission Accomplished" speech nearly four years ago, in which Bush declared an end to major military actions in Iraq. He made the comment while on the deck of an aircraft carrier off the California coast.

That speech, Clinton said, was "one of the most shameful episodes in American history. ... The only mission he accomplished was the re-election of Republicans."

California is poised to play a greater role in the presidential nominating process, having recently moved its primary to Feb. 5 to join several other large states in holding contests that day.

Most of the top Democratic presidential contenders planned to address the convention during the weekend.

Delegates were to hear Clinton's main rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, later Saturday afternoon, in addition to Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson were on Sunday's schedule.

Clinton's speech was well-received among the generally left-leaning delegates who typically attend this state's Democratic gatherings.

Four years ago, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean — then a little-known figure in the 2004 Democratic field — thrilled convention delegates with his fiery denunciation of the war. His rivals at the time, including Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who eventually won the nomination, were loudly booed for defending their 2002 vote to authorize the war.

Clinton cast the same vote in 2002, but met with only sporadic heckling during her speech.

Some candidates who attended South Carolina's party convention Saturday said they thought the United States has lost its global standing during Bush's presidency. America, they said, needs a Democratic commander in chief to restore its place in the world.

"We are today internationally and domestically a nation that is no longer a leader," Richardson said.

Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee, said the world needs to see that "America can be a force for good."

"What their perception is that America is a bully and we only care about our short-term interests," Edwards said. "The starting place is to end the bleeding sore that is the war in Iraq."

Richardson, Edwards and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said they would make ending the war a priority.

"The American people are looking for us as Democrats," said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "They're looking for someone literally, not figuratively, to restore America's place in the world."