WASHINGTON - Anti-war activists booed Sen. Hillary Clinton on Wednesday as she reached out to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party with a blistering critique of the Bush administration.
Although Clinton has become an increasingly vocal opponent of the Iraq war in recent months, some anti-war Democrats won’t forgive her for voting to authorize the 2003 U.S. invasion. For the second year in a row, the New York senator drew boos at the annual gathering here of liberal activists, hosted by Campaign for America’s Future.
Clinton has been working hard to win over anti-war Democrats, an energized voting bloc that could play a decisive role in picking the party’s next presidential nominee. A year ago, activists at the conference, called Take Back America, booed her for opposing a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
Since then, Clinton has voted to cut off war funding and sponsored legislation that would revoke congressional authorization for the war. She got a much better reception at the liberals’ convention this year, but her refusal to apologize for her previous support for military action still rankles some anti-war Democrats.
“She seems to be a little bit better, but she voted for the war and she won’t talk about it,” said Larry Engman, a retired CIA officer. “I don’t want her to be president. ... I want left-wing liberals.”
Clinton seemed to take the smattering of boos in stride, and her supporters tried to drown out dissenters with cheers.
“I love coming here every year,” she joked. She assured the sign-waving protesters that she shares their goal of bringing the troops home.
“I see the signs - ‘Lead us out of Iraq now.’ That is what we are trying to do,” she said. “I have joined with one of the most skilled leaders in the Senate, Sen. (Robert) Byrd from West Virginia, to sponsor legislation to de-authorize this war.”
Anti-war activist Jane Dugdale of suburban Philadelphia said she’d like to see Clinton apologize for supporting the war authorization that the New York senator now wants to revoke.
“She won’t because, apparently, she really feels like she did the right thing,” Dugdale said. “There were plenty of people who knew that it was not the right thing to do at the time.”
Despite the disagreement on Iraq, Clinton generally gave the crowd what it came to hear - a ripping denunciation of President Bush and his administration.
“Our Constitution is being shredded,” she said. “It is a stunning record of secrecy and corruption, of cronyism run amok. It is everything our founders were afraid of, everything our Constitution was designed to prevent.”
When Clinton vowed to “send them packing,” one audience member shouted, “Impeach him!”
The two-day conference at a Washington hotel drew 3,000 activists from the far left of the political spectrum for sessions on “The Crimes of Bush & Cheney,” “How Conservatism Has Failed,” “Combating the Right Wing Attack on Our Constitution” and “Our Time Has Come.”