Hillary Clinton is supposed to have some of the most dedicated factions of the Democratic Party in her corner, but there's a new interest group competing for power in addition to minorities, the teachers' unions and feminist activists: the anti-war left.
And by the often tepid and sometimes hostile response she received at the "Take Back America" conference Tuesday -- including booing -- she has a long ways to go to win over liberals outraged over the war. ( Some lefties even speculated that she welcomed the outrage as her "Sister Souljah" moment to build up her credibility with the general public.) The line that drew that strongest negative response was this effort to create the appearance of centrism in her position on Iraq: "I do not think it is a smart strategy either for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment, which I think does not put enough pressure on the new Iraqi government, nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interesets of our troops or our country."
That spurred either mostly silence or booing, some of it led by members of the direct action group Code Pink.
In contrast, Senator John Kerry, offering yet another apology for supporting the war and offering a fiery attack on Bush's failed war policies, won strong applause and some favorable online commentary.
But no new politician-hero of the left has emerged at the conference, even as some progressives hungered for the return of the supposedly new and improved Al Gore, riding a crest of (perhaps deluded) hope in his candidacy from a left that is, as Neil Young sings, "Looking for a Leader." On the final day of the conference, Senators Barack Obama and Russ Feingold, one of the left's favorite candidates, address the crowd.
See and hear for yourself what some of the politicians and activists had to offer by going to this complete list of speakers (scroll down to Tuesday for Clinton, Kerry, Pelosi and others), with some videos and transcripts provided.