Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday she would not support a short-term increase in U.S. troop presence in Iraq unless it was part of a more comprehensive plan to stabilize the country.
Clinton also offered the broadest indication yet that she was close to a decision on whether to enter the 2008 Democratic presidential field.
"I want to make sure the decision is right for me, my family, my party and my country," Clinton said during an interview on NBC’s "The Today Show." She appeared on the show to promote the rerelease of her best-selling book on child rearing, "It Takes a Village."
The former first lady said she knew more than any other potential candidate how hard it was to be president. "I saw it in an up close and personal way for eight years," she said. She reiterated that she would disclose her decision sometime after the first of the year.
Clinton’s comments on the presidential race were her most expansive since winning re-election to the Senate from New York last month. Since then, she has been contacting potential supporters in key early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, but has said very little publicly about her plans.
She also offered praise for Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who has also indicated he may enter the race. Obama drew huge crowds on a visit to New Hampshire earlier this month.
"He’s terrific. He’s a friend and a colleague. I have very high regard for him," she said, while sidestepping a question about whether Obama would make a good president.
"I think he is a really exciting personality and someone who has a lot to contribute to the national dialogue," Clinton said.
Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she was not in favor of a proposed "surge" of some 20,000-40,000 U.S. troops into Baghdad to quell the sectarian violence there. President Bush is reportedly considering such a move as one of many options to improve the situation in Iraq.
Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the incoming Senate Majority Leader, suggested over the weekend he would support a short term troop increase if it would speed up the time frame for pulling troops out of Iraq.
Clinton indicated she was skeptical of such a proposal.
"I am not in favor of doing that unless it’s part of a larger plan," Clinton said. "I am not in favor of sending more troops to continue what our men and women have been told to do with the government of Iraq pulling the rug out from under them when they actually go after some of the bad guys."
Clinton, who voted in 2002 to authorize military intervention in Iraq, said she was wary of increased military presence in the war-torn country.
"I’m not going to believe this president again," Clinton said.
In an commentary published Monday in the Wall Street Journal, Clinton and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., urged the Bush administration to press the Iraqi government to apportion that country’s oil revenues so that "every individual Iraqi would share in the country’s oil wealth."
Clinton has pushed for an "Iraq Oil Trust" modeled on the Alaskan Permanent Fund to give residents a share of the revenues. "A significant percentage of oil revenues would be divided equally among ordinary Iraqis, giving every citizen a stake in the nation’s recovery and political reconciliation and instilling a sense of hope for the promise of democratic values," the senators wrote.
Later Monday, Clinton signed copies of "It Takes a Village" at a Manhattan bookstore as several hundred people waited in line. Clinton batted away questions about 2008, but told reporters that children’s welfare had taken a turn for the worse since President Bush took office.
"We were on the path to providing more health care for our kids, cutting poverty for children, balancing the budget so the debt wouldn’t be on their backs. All that has changed in the last six years," she said.