TIME 2016 Campaign

Why Presidential Candidates Must Answer Hypothetical Questions

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during an event at the Metropolitan University in San Juan, Puerto Rico on April 28, 2015.
Ricardo Arduengo—AP Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during an event at the Metropolitan University in San Juan, Puerto Rico on April 28, 2015.

One big word hides more than it reveals in presidential politics

Here’s a hypothetical to consider: If presidential candidates don’t want to answer serious policy questions, can they just call the question “hypothetical” and refuse?

Take your time. The answer is important. The functioning of our democratic process may depend upon it. Also, this is not really a hypothetical.

Just take a listen to Sean Hannity’s radio show Tuesday, when the host asked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush a simple question: If he had been president in 2003 with the knowledge that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, would he still have invaded the country? “I don’t know what that decision would have been—that’s a hypothetical.” Never mind that he had just answered another hypothetical question, saying he would have made the same decision to go to war if he was president and was faced with the same intelligence as confronted his brother, George W. Bush.

On Wednesday, during a swing through Nevada, Bush faced similar questions once more, and responded with indignation. “Rewriting history is hypothetical,” he said, before not answering again. To accept the question’s premise, he continued, “does a disservice” to those in the military who died in the war, according to Bloomberg.

Bush is not the only likely presidential candidate who has used the word “hypothetical” as a get out of jail free card. PolitiFact has an long essay devoted to Hillary Clinton’s use of the “hypothetical” dodge while Secretary of State and a Presidential candidate. Recently TIME asked Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal whether he supports any pathway to legal status for those undocumented immigrants. “That’s a hypothetical conversation,” he responded, in an emailed statement. “Any attempt to deal with the millions of people who are currently in this country illegally prior to securing the border is illogical.”

The problem with all of these evasions is they seek to undermine the central—and hypothetical—question of the presidential selection process: If you were to become president, what kind of president would you be? Hypothetical means “of, based on, or serving a hypothesis,” from the ancient Greek “hupothesis,” which means to propose, to suppose, or literally, to put under. For nearly two years, the nation puts its candidates under a microscope of suppositions: How would you react as President to ISIS? What would you do to my taxes? How would you improve the economy?

So the issue is not whether or not candidates need to answer hypothetical questions, as Bush, Clinton and Jindal would suggest. Of course they do, and they do all the time. The question is what counterfactual scenarios they should be presented with, and what counterfactual scenarios are speculative, personal or misleading enough to be out of bounds.

In the past, the boundaries have been drawn rather broadly. Michael Dukakis was famously asked a death penalty question in 1988 about his wife that began, “If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered. . . .” John McCain was asked in 2000 whether he would support an abortion for his hypothetically pregnant 14-year-old daughter. In 2013, Chris Christie was asked in a debate what he would say if one of his children told him they were gay. Clinton eagerly answered a debate question in 2008 that asked what her military response would be to Al Qaeda attacking two more American cities simultaneously.

Maybe those questions were appropriate, and maybe they were not. But the fact that they were “hypothetical” was not the reason they were inappropriate. And in contrast to all of them, asking Jindal his views on his plans for 11 million undocumented immigrants seems rather tame. The question of whether Jeb Bush would support a foreign invasion in the absence of the threat of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons also seems, at least, germane.

Neither Bush or Jindal want to answer the questions because their answers would cost them. In answering on immigration, Jindal must choose between alienating a nativist strands of the Republican Party, and his electability in a hypothetical general election. Bush must choose between entertaining criticism of his brother and reassuring those in both parties still smarting from his brother’s foreign policy missteps.

So they say “hypothetical,” a word that is not enough. Candidates can refuse to answer, but they owe the voters more than a five-syllables in explanation. Is the hypothetical question misleading? Is it fanciful? Is it unfair? Is it inappropriately personal?

Or maybe they just need to answer one follow up question: If we want voters to believe that the presidential selection process works, what is the cost of allowing candidates to hide behind big words?

TIME Campaign Finance

Meet the Man Who Invented the Super PAC

David Keating of the Center for Competitive Politics testifies during a Senate hearing highlighting abuses in the public financing of campaigns on May 7, 2013, in Albany, N.Y.
Mike Groll—AP David Keating of the Center for Competitive Politics testifies during a Senate hearing highlighting abuses in the public financing of campaigns on May 7, 2013, in Albany, N.Y.

The plaintiff in a landmark campaign finance case wants to loosen regulations even further

The mastermind behind the super PAC has no regrets. “My only regret is the backlash,” David Keating says with a wry smile.

Keating is one of the most influential political activists you’ve never heard of. He was the architect of a federal lawsuit that ended in a landmark 2010 court ruling that reshaped the way elections are run. The case, SpeechNow.org vs. FEC, scrapped annual limits on individual contributions to campaign advocacy groups, ushering in the era of super PACs—political-action committees that can raise unlimited sums as long as they don’t coordinate directly with parties or candidates.

Five years later, campaigns are only beginning to harness the power of Keating’s creation. In the 2016 presidential race, virtually all of the candidates will have companion super PACs, many of which will wield more influence than the campaigns themselves. Candidates have leveraged super PACs to supercharge fundraising, pay for staff salaries and trips to primary states and even assume the duties once reserved for the campaigns themselves, from running TV ads and organizing supporters to direct mail campaigns and digital microtargeting.

Many of these innovations have surprised Keating, a soft-spoken man with a graying beard. But he delights in watching how, year by year, political strategists are using super PACs to refine the mechanics of elections. Using a super PAC specifically to promote a candidate “just never entered my mind,” he says. “But it’s totally obvious when you think about it.”

Not everyone is so sanguine about the impact of his creation. Political critics, campaign-finance watchdogs and even some candidates argue that super PACs have invited an avalanche of outside spending that gives the wealthy outsize influence and makes a mockery of the limits established by the FEC.

“We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all,” Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton said recently. But it’s a sign of the super PAC’s power that Clinton has nonetheless embraced a group of her own. Despite her stated objections, she plans to personally court influential donors, according to the New York Times.

Keating celebrates such changes. A longtime conservative activist, he believes in an unfettered right to political speech, and decries caps on campaign donations as an infringement of First Amendment rights. Now the president of the Center for Competitive Politics, an independent group that works to loosen campaign-finance regulations, he says his mission was “to do for the First Amendment what the NRA did for the Second.”

Keating casts super PACs as a better way for ordinary citizens to organize and exercise their First Amendment rights. “It comes down to speech,” he says. “If you don’t like [others’] speech, start your own group and talk to people.” And he argues a system that allows the super-rich to pump a gusher of cash into elections is a testament to a thriving democracy.

“That’s how we elected all our great presidents,” he told TIME in an interview Tuesday in his office in Alexandria, Va., ticking off leaders from Lincoln to Eisenhower who took office after elections held under looser campaign-finance regulations. “Rich people have always had the ability to spend whatever they want.”

SpeechNow came on the heels of Citizens United, its more-celebrated brethren in the annals of campaign-finance deregulation. “After Citizens, our case became a total slam dunk,” he says. Though lesser known, SpeechNow significantly widened the impact of Citizens, making it the arguably the more important of the two landmark cases. The combination paved the way for an election that has already seen significant evolutions in super PAC usage.

The two most interesting innovations in 2016, Keating says, have been the quartet of interlinked super PACs backing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and the approach taken by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has delayed his campaign launch to stockpile his Right to Rise PAC. The group has effectively supplanted Bush’s campaign-in-waiting as the hub of his political operation. “What Jeb is doing takes a lot of discipline” due to the prohibitions on direct coordination, Keating notes, though says he is confident that Bush’s lawyers have kept him on the right side of the law.

Though a staunch conservative—he was formerly an executive at groups like the National Taxpayers Union and the Club for Growth—Keating appears to admire the political innovations of the super PAC era no matter where they come from. He notes that Correct the Record, a research group originally formed to defend Clinton, has relaunched as a pro-Clinton super PAC that says it is able to coordinate with the likely Democratic nominee because it will restrict itself from paid media campaigns.

“Here is another innovation–a Super PAC that can legally coordinate with a candidate,” he wrote in an email Tuesday evening. “The reason why they can do that is because they will not make any public communications, as defined in the regulations. Mass mailings do not include e-mail.

“Clever,” he concluded.

But maybe not. About an hour later he emailed again. “This … issue is actually pretty complicated,” he noted, “and it’s not clear they can do what they say they want to do. There isn’t enough detail about their plans to determine if what they plan to do is OK or not.”

It seemed a fitting testament to the murkiness of this new campaign-finance landscape that even its creator can’t always be sure what’s legal.

TIME celebrity

Bill Clinton Would Move Back Into the White House Under These 3 Conditions

He's hopeful

Bill Clinton joked about his future living arrangements on Tuesday night’s Late Show With David Letterman.The former president said he would move back into the White House on three conditions: The first, his wife, Hillary Clinton, is nominated for president; the second, Hillary wins the election in 2016; the third, he gets asked.

But beyond the stipulations for moving, Clinton was very supportive of his wife. “It would be a good thing for America if she wins,” Clinton said. “I hope she does.”

Late Show With David Letterman airs at 11.35 p.m. ET/10:35 CT on CBS.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME Economy

Here’s the Secret Truth About Economic Inequality in America

Mmmmmoney: Get a grip; it's just paper
KAREN BLEIER; AFP/Getty Images

Once you look at the issue this way, it's hard to think of it any other way

We all know that inequality has grown in America over the last several years. But the conventional wisdom among conservatives and even many liberals has always been that inequality was the price of growth–in order to get more of it, we needed to tolerate a bigger wealth gap. Today, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the Columbia professor and former economic advisor to Bill Clinton, blew a hole in that truism with a new report for the Roosevelt Institute entitled “Rewriting the Rules,” which is basically a roadmap for what many progressives would like to see happen policy wise over the next four years.

There are a number of provocative insights but the key takeaway–inequality isn’t inevitable, and it’s not just a social issue, but also an economic one, because it’s largely responsible for the fact that every economic “recovery” since the 1990s has been slower and longer than the one before. Inequality isn’t the trade-off for economic growth; rather, it’s both the cause and the symptom of slower growth. It’s a fascinating document, particularly when compared to the less radical Center for American Progress policy report on how to strengthen the middle class, authored by another former Clinton advisor, Larry Summers, which was widely considered to set out what may be Hillary Clinton’s economic policy agenda.

While the two have some overlap, the Stiglitz report is bolder and more in-depth. It’s also a much more damning assessment of some of the policy changes made not only during the Bush years, but also during Bill Clinton’s tenure, in particular the continued deregulation of financial markets, changes in corporate pay structures, and tax shifts of the early 1990s. During a presentation and panel discussion on the topic of inequality and how it relates to growth (I moderated the panel, which included other experts like Nobel laureate Bob Solow, labor economist Heather Bouchley, MIT professor Simon Johnson and Cornell’s Lynn Stout, as well as pollster Stan Greenberg), Stiglitz made the point that both Republican and Democratic administrations have been at fault in crafting not only policies that forward inequality, but also a narrative that tells us that we can’t do anything about it. “Inequality isn’t inevitable,” said Stiglitz. “It’s about the choices we make with the rules we create to structure our economy.”

One of the big economic questions in the 2016 presidential campaign will be, “why does inequality matter?” The answer–because it slows growth and thus affects everyone’s livelihood–is simple. But the reasons behind it are complex and systemic. Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio were on hand to help connect the dots on that front, with de Blasio calling for more social action in order to “move to a society that rewards work over wealth,” and Warren re-iterating a hot button point that she made last week about inequality and the trade agenda; she believes that Fast Track trade authority for President Obama would allow big bank lobbyists on both sides of the Atlantic to further water down financial reform that could combat inequality, which led the President to call her ill-informed (he didn’t elaborate much on why). Warren noted that the trade deal was being crafted in conjunction with 500 non-governmental actors, 85 % of whom are either industry lobbyists or from the big business sector.

Warren’s mantra about how America’s economic game “is rigged,” ties directly into two of the key takeaways from the Stiglitz report; first, that inequality is all about the political economy and Washington policy decisions that favor the rich, and secondly, that it’s not one single decision–Dodd Frank, capital gains tax, healthcare, or labor standards–but all of them taken together that are at the root of the problem. “Our economy is a system,” says Stiglitz, and combatting inequality is going to require a systemic approach across multiple areas–financial reform, corporate governance, CEO pay, tax policy, anti-trust law, monetary policy, education, healthcare, and labor law. It might also involve revamping institutions like the Fed; Stiglitz and Solow both agreed that the Fed needs to start tabulating unemployment in a new way, perhaps focusing not on a particular number target, but on when wages actually start to go up, which Stiglitz said is the best sign of when the country’s employment picture is actually improving.

Thinking in these more holistic terms would be a big shift for lawmakers used to tackling each of these issues alone in their respective silos. But as Stiglitz and the other economists on the panel pointed out, they are often interrelated–consider the way in which pension funds work with shareholder “activists” to goad corporations into over-borrowing to make large payouts to investors even as lowered wages and profits kept in offshore tax havens mean that long-term investments aren’t made into the real economy, slowing growth. Or how continuing to tie worker’s healthcare benefits to companies makes them virtual slaves, decreasing their ability to negotiate higher wages, not to mention start their own businesses.

It’s a huge topic, and the Roosevelt discussion was part of the continuing campaign on the far left to try to make sure that presumptive nominee Hilary Clinton doesn’t continue business as usual if and when she’s in the White House. Progressives are looking for her to do more than talk about minimum wage and redistribution; they want her to make fairly radical shifts in the money culture and political economy of our country. That would mean a decided split from the policies of the past, including many concocted by her husband’s own advisors, ghosts that Hilary Clinton has yet to publically reckon with.

TIME Hillary Clinton

How Bill Clinton’s Library Promotes Hillary Too

William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Scott Olson—Getty Images The William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The 1992 presidential campaign was sold as two for the price of one

Hillary Clinton worked to expand health care, improve failing schools and served as “America’s foremost ambassador.” And that was just during her time as First Lady.

That’s the portrait painted by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, which despite the name has no shortage of material on Hillary. Around every corner of the Little Rock museum is another testimonial to Hillary’s role in his administration and a reminder that—as he put it in the 1992 campaign—voters got “two for the price of one.”

These days, Hillary Clinton is running as her own woman, stressing her time as U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. She’s also moving away from her husband’s record on issues as varied as trade deals, gay rights and policing.

(Bill Clinton can hardly take offense. He even does a bit of that in his own library. In one display, the library tries to distance him from the now-scrapped Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that barred gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. “The law was never applied as intended,” reads a placard.)

Throughout the modern and spacious library, Bill Clinton offers nothing but the predictably glowing account of his wife’s skills and experience as a public servant. Even in failure, as was the case in her push to overhaul the nation’s health care system, Clinton’s library pitches success. “The effort to expand coverage, led by the First Lady, set the stage for step-by-step improvements to our health care system over the next seven years,” reads one caption.

Similarly, Hillary Clinton was tapped to “spearhead” education reform. And in describing her landmark address in China, in which she declared women’s rights are human rights, the library’s displays lauded her: “As America’s foremost ambassador, she brought to Beijing a message of hope, empowerment and social development.”

An inquiry to the library about how the former First Lady is represented and how the exhibits might have changed since they opened in 2004 was referred to a public relations adviser, Jordan Johnson. He did not return phone messages.

Yet not all depictions of Clinton are exactly flattering. After all, it isn’t every museum that has depictions of a spouse on needlepoint or on a quilt. Or includes a pair of cream cowboy boots emblazoned with her initials in gold leather, a gift from a Houston admirer. Or a stitched blanket from a California supporter that includes not just the Clintons’ October wedding date but also daughter Chelsea’s birthday.

At the same time, the scandals of the 1990s are obviously whitewashed and political scores are settled, as is the case at most presidential libraries. The Clintons single out House Speaker Newt Gingrich as pushing the “politics of personal destruction.” The museum reminds visitors that in 1994, shortly before becoming Speaker of the House, Gingrich publicly described Clinton Democrats “the enemy of normal Americans.”

In describing the government shutdowns the followed GOP takeover of Congress, the Clinton library describes Republicans as “rejecting compromise” and bringing “an ideological agenda.”

The library’s take on independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who discovered Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky? “A conservative activist who had never before prosecuted a case.” The resulting impeachment had “no constitutional or legal basis.”

And on the failed land deal known as Whitewater that set off the string of scandals that threatened Clinton’s presidency, the library is terse: “No evidence of wrongdoing was ever found.”

But there is no escaping some of the awkwardness that crept into the Clinton presidency amid the tumult. In a 1998 holiday portrait taken in the White House’s formal Blue Room, the pair is not touching or even looking at each other. Bill Clinton admitted to having an affair with Lewinsky during the summer of that year.

By the following year, facing a shared Republican enemy and the threat of impeachment, the Clintons again were embracing and working as political partners, as the library is fond of portraying them.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Why Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Opponents Only Throw Softballs

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks with a group at an event at Rancho High School in Las Vegas on May 5, 2015.
John Locher—AP Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks with a group at an event at Rancho High School in Las Vegas on May 5, 2015.

Republican presidential candidates are already running hard against Hillary Clinton. Hours before she announced her campaign for president, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul released an online video accusing Clinton of “corruption and cover-up, conflicts of interest,” calling her “the worst of the Washington machine.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush challenged her on her use of a personal email account while she was Secretary of State. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz asked a crowd, “How can the American people trust her with another position of power?”

In the Democratic primary, things are very different.

Clinton’s three top likely challengers — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb — have notably refused to criticize Clinton’s ethics. All three have avoided mentioning her private email account, her handling of the Benghazi attacks in 2012 or the controversy surrounding the Clinton Foundation fundraising, among other popular GOP lines of attack. Aides from several of the emerging campaigns told TIME they don’t plan to do so, either.

“We’re not going down that road,” said Tad Devine, a top advisor for Sanders’ campaign. “We’re not going to run a negative campaign.”

“Jim’s the kind of candidate who’s going to focus on what he wants to talk about and let the media make all the contrast and comparison that are to be made,” said Craig Crawford, spokesman for Webb. “He won’t get in this because he wants to run against somebody.”

Instead, Clinton’s Democratic challengers are taking on her positions on trade, income inequality and foreign policy, arguing either that she’s wrong on the policy or that she’s come to the right position late. When they have been asked about the email or conflicts of interest, they have consistently deflected the question.

Asked in March about Clinton’s use of personal email, O’Malley basically ducked the issue. “I’m not an expert on federal requirements or state requirements, and I’m, frankly, a little sick of the email drama,” O’Malley said. When questioned about Clinton, Webb told a scrum of reporters that the email story is “between her and you all.” Sanders has said repeatedly he wants to run a campaign a debate “over serious issues” and not “political gossip.”

Clinton, for her part, has hardly mentioned her likely challengers for the nomination or she’s been charitable when speaking about them. When Sanders announced his candidacy last week, Clinton amicably tweeted her welcome to the race.

Much of the reticence around staging personal attacks on Clinton comes from her relative strength. She is widely admired in the Democratic Party, while her contenders are relatively unknown at the national level. O’Malley has been in Maryland politics for more than two decades as the state’s governor and a city council member and mayor in Baltimore, while Webb was a one-term Virginia senator. A full 69% of Iowa Democratic voters said they weren’t sure whether they rated Webb favorably or not, a good indication that many first-in-the-nation residents don’t yet know who he is, and 65% said the same of O’Malley, according to a Public Policy Polling survey taken last month.

For O’Malley, Sanders and Webb, a presidential bid would be their introduction to many voters across the country. A first impression as a harsh critic against a widely admired candidate would likely be a poor first impression.

“If you’re a lesser-known candidate and your first introduction to Democrats is a vicious attack on Hillary Clinton, it would backfire completely,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist. “But if you’re trying to become the lefty in the party or new fresh ideas person it helps you to get there to pick a policy argument with her.”

On that front, her challengers are happy to fight.

Though not yet officially a candidate, O’Malley has been the most vocal critic of Clinton’s policies, responding to each position she’s taken. He has drawn contrasts with Clinton on issues like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Obama initiative loathed by the Democrats’ progressive wing that Clinton called a “gold standard” when she was Secretary of State.

When Clinton tiptoed carefully around the deal last month, O’Malley sent an email to his supporters with the subject line “Hard choice?” and answered the question in the body: “Nope. To me, opposing bad trade deals like TPP is just common sense,” he wrote.

O’Malley also has painted himself as a more forward thinker on same-sex marriage and immigration, pointing out recently that he came to progressive views on both issues before her. “I’m glad Secretary Clinton’s come around to the right positions on these issues,” O’Malley said last month, referring to Maryland’s 2012 legislative approval of gay marriage. “Leadership is about making the right decision, and the best decision before sometimes it becomes entirely popular.”

His campaign is likely to continue to make Clinton’s credibility on hot-button policy issues a central part of his campaign against her. Hours after Clinton spoke at a roundtable about her support for immigration reform, O’Malley’s campaign reminded reporters that he was in favor of allowing children fleeing violence in Latin America last year to stay in the United States.

Clinton said at the time that the children needed to be sent back in order to “set an example.”

“When most leaders in the Democratic and Republican parties were saying that we should close our border to children fleeing violence in Central America, he defied them and said that we could not send children ‘back to certain death,'” a spokesperson for O’Malley said. “He was criticized for that position, but leadership is about forging public opinion, not following it.”

The other candidates have chimed in on policy occasionally, too. Before he announced his candidacy, Sanders suggested that Clinton isn’t ready to confront the “billionaire class.” Webb said earlier this month after Clinton gave a speech about criminal justice reform that that he had been talking about those issues “for nine years.”

All the same, Clinton’s likely rivals are keeping personal criticism to a minimum, and most policy distinctions have been indirect references. Left unspoken among them is that if the candidates lose to Clinton, any personal vitriol against her will be remembered in the Democratic Party — and possibly replayed in Republican attack ads — and could hurt their chances for public office in the future.

That means, for now, that the sharpest attacks on Clinton will continue to come from the Republican side.

“By the time it gets to Iowa and New Hampshire, the Republicans are going to be jumping over themselves to attack her. For us to get in any way associated is a liability,” said Devine, Sanders’ advisor. “Bernie is going to try to move toward his own strengths at all times.”

TIME Lincoln Chafee

Lincoln Chafee Is Trying to Re-Run Obama’s 2008 Playbook

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Davenport Chafee Interview
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Lincoln Chafee, governor of Rhode Island, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Monday, April 29, 2013.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama when he hammered her on her vote in favor of going to war in Iraq. Now, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee wants Clinton to keep paying for that vote in 2016.

Chafee, a Republican turned Independent turned Democrat, is running against Clinton for the Democratic nomination. He hasn’t officially announced yet, he’s still in the exploratory phase, but making it official is something he “plan[s] to do soon.” And when he does, he’s going to make Clinton’s vote for war his central argument against her.

“I always go back to what I call one of the biggest mistakes in American history, the decision to go to war in Iraq,” he told TIME, “and the judgment call made by Senator Clinton.”

Chafee was a Senator at the time too; he served as a Senator from Rhode Island from 1999 to 2007 before he became governor. He voted against the war, and he says that split between him and Clinton highlights a fundamental difference in their common sense.

“That was a critical time in American history, October of 2002, and I made a different judgment call,” he said, again referring to Clinton’s vote in favor of the war. “I think we should have a debate, not only as the Democratic Party first of all, but also in America about where we’re going on in the world and who can make the correct judgment calls as we go forward.”

Even Clinton has publicly regretted her vote. In her 2014 book Hard Choices, Clinton wrote, “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

Although this linchpin of Chafee’s burgeoning campaign happened over a decade ago and was already used at the center of the 2008 election, Chafee says the so-called “biggest mistake” will resonate just as much with voters today.

“We’re still paying for it,” he said, saying the war will end up costing the country $6 trillion. “We’re paying for it financially in taking care of our brave veterans … but we’re also paying for it overseas … The repair work goes on. It’s relevant to today.”

But polling data shows that voters may not agree. In 2008, a Gallup poll found that Americans cited Iraq as the second most important issue facing the country, behind the economy. In 2015, Gallup separated economic concerns from non-economic issues, but even in the non-economic poll the situation in Iraq came in 15th, after issues like race relations, immigration and education. (No. 1 was dissatisfaction with government.)

Chafee outlined some other policy positions: he supports the Affordable Care Act, he would vote for the Trade Promotion Authority, he supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. But he kept coming back to Iraq.

Chafee faces a steep uphill battle towards the nomination; so far he’s barely even been included in Democratic primary polling.

He said his biggest challenge will be “getting out to every possible potluck supper and gathering in Iowa and New Hampshire and other states.” But, “I look forward to it, meeting the people. I started my career at the local level … by going door to door … It’s going to be no different in this campaign.”

TIME Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton Says His Policies Put Too Many People in Prison

MOROCCO-CONFERENCE-ECONOMY-DEVELOPMENT
Fadel Senna—/Getty Images Former U.S. president and founding chairman of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Bill Clinton, gestures during the opening session of the CGI Middle East and Africa in Marrakesh, Morocco on May 6, 2015

He laments fallout from the "three strikes" provision

Former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday conceded his administration’s role in the overcrowding of U.S. prisons.

In an interview with CNN, Clinton said the “three-strikes” policy passed while he was in office contributed to over-incarceration. The provision, part of a larger 1994 crime bill, mandates life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions.

“The problem is the way it was written and implemented is we cast too wide a net and we had too many people in prison,” Clinton said. “And we wound up… putting so many people in prison that there wasn’t enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives.”

Clinton’s wife Hillary Clinton, who is now running for President, supported the provision in 1994 but has since changed her tune, calling for criminal justice reform and an end to “mass incarceration.”

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