Sen. Hillary Clinton says Democrats "struggling" with Iraq

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded Friday that her political party is "openly struggling with a lot of the difficult issues," but said that was better than the Republicans' "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil."

Clinton, a potential 2008 presidential candidate and wife of former President Bill Clinton, said the Democrats' Thursday debate about Iraq war policy was actually a sign of party strength, not weakness.

"Although unity is important it is not the most important value. It is, I think, a tribute to the Democratic Party at this moment in time that we are honestly and openly struggling with a lot of the difficult issues facing our country," Clinton told the New Democrat Network, an independent group that raises money in support of moderate Democrats.

On the issue of Iraq, Clinton has been buffeted by competing forces within her party. Many elements of the party's liberal base want an immediate or timed withdrawal of troops from Iraq, while others feel such a position may weaken the party's electoral chances this year and in 2008.

Clinton is up for re-election this year, and repeatedly insists she is not thinking ahead to 2008 presidential politics.

Last week, many in the audience of a more liberal group booed Clinton when she said she opposed setting a fixed date for troop withdrawal.

On Thursday, four of the six Democrats flirting with a possible White House bid in 2008, including Clinton, chose a middle-of-the-road approach, voting for a nonbinding resolution that would have urged the administration to start withdrawing troops by year's end.

But they opposed a rival proposal that would have carried the force of law and set a firm date by which all combat forces must be out of Iraq.

In her speech Friday, Clinton accused the Republican-controlled Congress of being "supine" to the goals of the administration of President George W. Bush, foregoing their oversight role.

After the speech, she told reporters that the Democrats' public disagreements were a better alternative than the Republicans' unified front.

"I think we come out more united," said Clinton. "We're not blindly united like the other side is, where they are like the three monkeys, Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak no Evil. They're not going to say anything negative about the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense or anybody else."

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said while Clinton "is right in admitting her party has no clear plan for the central front in the war on terror, the bottom line is that the Democrats' different approaches all mean the same thing, a surrender to the terrorists," reports AP.