Finally Fighting Back

The Bush Administration has finally decided to get off its ass and call out the Democrats by name when they make irresponsible statements about the war and try to rewrite history.

It’s about time. The White House has allowed these stupid attacks to continue and has done almost nothing to fight back. In public opinion, you cannot let a lie go un-countered, and the fact that Bush has waited until that lie has been repeated ad nauseam before striking it down is inexcusable.

However, the Democrats are exceptionally stupid to pursue this line of attack, and it seems to me that the only reason they are is because the radical antiwar left has seized control of the Democratic Party. First of all, these attacks unite the Republican base. After the Miers debacle, a smart party would have sought to further the divides in the Republican party – and as Bob Krumm finds, when you take national security away, the Republicans are very divided – but the Democrats are playing right to Bush’s key issue.

Secondly, even if the Democrats win, they lose. The Democrats can’t get a mulligan on their vote for war. They voted to approve force in Iraq – and that’s a matter of record. Furthermore, they’re own statements make it quite clear that they believed that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and was a threat. They can’t escape their own records, and the Democrats are on record as saying things that not even the Bush Administration was willing to say. They can jump up and down and talk about how they were “misled”, but all that gets them is the tacit acknowledgment that they didn’t do their homework.

The argument that Bush “lied” about WMDs is a deeply stupid one – and yet that’s the argument that the American people keep hearing.

Finally, the Democrats are once again putting themselves as the party that is totally out of alignment with American values. According to the whining about their “patriotism” being attacked – while at the same time viciously attacking anyone who doesn’t drink their particular brand of Kool-Aid. However, even John McCain is going after the revisionists and the “Bush Lied!” crowd. It’s one thing to try and impugn the President – it’s another thing when John McCain is calling the Democrats’ bluff.

I think Glenn Reynolds hits it right on the head when he notes:

…this illustrates that the “Bush lied” issue has more to do with anti-Bush sentiment than with anything having to do with the merits of the war.

But it’s not “dissent” that’s unpatriotic, something I’ve been at pains to note in the past. It’s putting one’s own political positions first, even if doing so encourages our enemies, as this sort of talk is sure to do. And that’s what I think is going on with the sudden surge of “Bush Lied” stuff from Congressional Democrats.

Of course, outrage over questioning of patriotism is kind of one-sided. You can say that Bush and Cheney started the war with a bunch of lies to enrich their buddies at Halliburton, and that their supporters are all a bunch of chickenhawks on the White House payroll. But that’s different because — because Bush is anti-evolution, and doesn’t support gay marriage! Or something.

That’s precisely it. The debate over the war in Iraq has little to do with war, Iraq, or anything else. It’s all about attacking George W. Bush. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to talk about the war in Iraq with an anti-war activist without it turning into a litany of reasons why George W. Bush is an evil person.

The problem with all this is that in the long run, talking about the man rather than the policies is stupid. The Democrats are trying to indulge an increasingly fanatical side of their base whose dripping hatred for the President outweighs anything else – and the whole rhetoric of the Iraq War has been shifted to a substantive discussion about politics, strategy, tactics, and the Middle East into a referendum solely on one individual. All this debate has generated a lot of heat, but no light. The fact is that the Democrats are behaving in a profoundly irresponsible way, and they deserve to have that behavior criticized.

As the old saying goes, “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels” and the fact that the Democrats are trying to simultaneously say that any criticism of their position is impugning their patriotism while viciously attacking the patriotism of their attackers isn’t going to work. The GOP is finally willing to stand up and fight, and the Democrats’ arguments just aren’t going to fly.

What will happen is that the vast majority of Americans are simply going to do what any responsible citizen would do – tune the whole stupid pissing match out. And who can blame them? Neither party is particularly adept at advancing anything other than partisanship. Saying that Congress spends money like drunken sailors would be an insult to the fiscal habits of drunken sailors. The American people are quite rightly fed up with the state of American politics and both parties are going to suffer because of it.

The Democrats are embracing a losing strategy of debating the issues of 2002 rather than 2005. The Republicans are pissing off their base with their fiscal irresponsibility and a sense of institutional arrogance. President Bush would do well to appear above the fray, but for too long he’s abrogated the bully pulpit to do that now.

It’s good that President Bush is fighting back against the baseless charges of an increasingly irresponsible Democratic Party. It’s bad that he’s waited so long to do it. It’s horrendous that he has to do it all.

14 thoughts on “Finally Fighting Back

  1. Public opinion polls concur with the feelings of Congressional Democrats who voted for the war. Just as most Congressional Democrats now have misgivings from enabling Bush to go to war with Iraq, an increasing super-majority of American voters also have misgivings about waging war against Iraq. There is a danger of the Dems living 2002 over again at the expense of any forward agenda, but I suspect the American people (who poll after poll indicate they felt deceived about the case for war in Iraq) are at this point closer to Harry Reid’s position of wanting to take a hard look at pre-war intelligence failures than they are to George Bush’s don’t-question-me “stay the course” idiocy.

    And speaking of idiocy, the Republicans are ultimately gonna be the ones with egg on their face for repeatedly insisting that every Senate Democrat saw the same intelligence that the administration did. This isn’t exactly a complex situation and if spelled out, perhaps EVEN REPUBLICANS might be able to understand it! The administration saw all the intelligence. The stuff they liked, they forwarded to Congress. The stuff they didn’t stayed in the White House and has yet to see the light of day since.

    I know it’s complex! I highly recommend any Republican who just read that lay their heads back, close their eyes and allow that six-dimensional statement to process. You’d be wise to before further embarrassing yourselves by suggesting that Maria Cantwell knew as much information about Saddam Hussein’s weapons program as Dick Cheney did.

  2. Except the majority of Americans do want to “stay the course” – and it’s been consistently that way despite Bush’s slipping numbers.

    And as for Congress not having the intelligence they needed – the Washington Post makes it quite clear:

    The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.

    The Democrats are trying this last-ditch effort to try and take a mulligan on their own choices. Not only is it politically stupid, but it does nothing to win the war.

  3. “Baseless charges”? How do you know they are baseless? Have you seen all the intelligence the White House saw? If you’re so confident the administration didn’t manipulate intelligence to support a predetermined war, as our allies in Britain claim, why not support further investigation into pre-war intelligence? If the war cabal did nothing wrong–something you seem very confident of–then the Democrats trying to finally get the second half of that investigation done will pay a heavy price, and the right-wingers will gain from it. But if your “baseless charges” do in fact have merit, and the White House did lie us into war, well, then I’ll be very curious to hear your next excuse for this administration.

  4. How do you know they are baseless?

    Because every investigation into them has shown them to be so.

    If you’re so confident the administration didn’t manipulate intelligence to support a predetermined war, as our allies in Britain claim…

    Not more of that Downing Street Memo crap again… the British also thought that Iraq had WMDs. In fact, had you actually read the Downing Street Memos, you would have quickly found out that they said the exact opposite of what the left kept trumpeting them as saying.

    why not support further investigation into pre-war intelligence?

    The SSCI and Robb-Silberman panels already did so.

    If the war cabal did nothing wrong–something you seem very confident of–then the Democrats trying to finally get the second half of that investigation done will pay a heavy price, and the right-wingers will gain from it.

    The Robb-Silberman Commission was the second half.

    And the Democrats will pay a political price for their revisionist history.

    But if your “baseless charges” do in fact have merit, and the White House did lie us into war, well, then I’ll be very curious to hear your next excuse for this administration.

    Given that no such thing happened, it’s a pointless argument. Anyone dumb enough to believe that the White House intentionally “lied” about Iraq and WMDs can only do so by ignoring the mountains of evidence that says that such an argument is pure and unadulterated bull.

  5. So, your defense of Bush was that it was really easy to lie to Democrats?

    Yes, it is really easy to lie to someone who trusts you. Only on Planet Republican does that make it right, I guess.

  6. Here is Bill Clinton himself, speaking in 1998:

    If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction program.
    Here is his Secretary of State Madeline Albright, also speaking in 1998:
    Iraq is a long way from [the USA], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.
    Here is Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, who chimed in at the same time with this flat-out assertion about Saddam:

    He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.
    Finally, Mr. Clinton’s secretary of defense, William Cohen, was so sure Saddam had stockpiles of WMD that he remained “absolutely convinced” of it even after our failure to find them in the wake of the invasion in March 2003.
    Nor did leading Democrats in Congress entertain any doubts on this score. A few months after Mr. Clinton and his people made the statements I have just quoted, a group of Democratic senators, including such liberals as Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, and John Kerry, urged the President “to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.”

    Nancy Pelosi, the future leader of the Democrats in the House, and then a member of the House Intelligence Committee, added her voice to the chorus:
    Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons-of-mass-destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.

    This Democratic drumbeat continued and even intensified when Mr. Bush succeeded Mr. Clinton in 2001, and it featured many who would later pretend to have been deceived by the Bush White House. In a letter to the new president, a group of senators led by Bob Graham declared:

    There is no doubt that . . . Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical, and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf war status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.

    Sen. Carl Levin also reaffirmed for Mr. Bush’s benefit what he had told Mr. Clinton some years earlier:
    Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations, and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.

    Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton agreed, speaking in October 2002:
    In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical- and biological-weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaeda members.
    Senator Jay Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, agreed as well:

    There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. . . . We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.
    Even more striking were the sentiments of Bush’s opponents in his two campaigns for the presidency. Thus Al Gore in September 2002:

    We know that [Saddam] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.
    And here is Mr. Gore again, in that same year:

    Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.
    Now to John Kerry, also speaking in 2002:

    I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force–if necessary–to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.
    Perhaps most startling of all, given the rhetoric that they would later employ against Mr. Bush after the invasion of Iraq, are statements made by Sens. Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, also in 2002:
    Kennedy: “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.”

    Byrd: “The last U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical- and biological-warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons.”

    Though to go and now want a mulligan, “I voted for it before I voted against it.

  7. You really should cite materials when you copy them, Ray M. What your article doesn’t say is the most important thing: the Democrats didn’t pull the trigger, Bush did. He has to take responsibility for the consequences, not the Democrats.

    I’m the last person to defend Clinton’s foreign policies, but at least he knew enough to stop short of an invasion. The pre-Bush policy of containment and inspection proved effective in that Saddam really didn’t have WMD, just as Hans Blix and the UN Inspectors said all along. Saddam may have wanted nukes, but so do Iran and N. Korea, and we’re not invading those countries. Military invasion should always be the last option, and the two previous administrations had enough sense to know that.

    How the Democrats voted or what the Clinton administration said or did previously isn’t terribly relevant today because they didn’t invade and get us in this mess. Bush did. Why don’t you conservatives try to take responsibility for something rather than wasting time smearing critics, delaying legitimate investigations or pulling out 7 year old quotes from a president who didn’t invade Iraq?

  8. The Democrats DID pull the trigger though–Operation Desert Fox.

    What the previous administration and Congress did is extremely relevent–because there was no W to lie them into doing and saying all these things BEFORE Bush was president.

    If both administrations act in the same manner, and one came first. The second cannot be said to have instigated the actions and belief of the first.

    Investingationg this is utterly insane. Bush and his people cannot be held as the originators of this situation because they are continuing the policies of the previous administraion. Hell, the act to remove HGussein was passed–unanimously–on Clinton’s watch. Case closed.

  9. Oh, I see, Bush had no choice but to send in the 150,000 US troops that weren’t in Iraq before. He was compelled to do this because of what Clinton said years earlier. I’m guessing the Somalia invasion is just around the corner too, more of Clinton’s unfinished business…

  10. The Robb-Silberman Commission was the second half.

    Jay, I’m surprised that you would say something so easily refuted by the facts. Even Silberman himself has directly stated that his commission had not the power nor the mandate to investigate the misuse of intelligence for political purposes. The scope of their investigation was only potential misuse by the intelligence organizations themselves; nothing further.

    Of course the Robb-Silberman commission didn’t find any evidence that the Bush Administration cooked the books; they had neither the mandate to perform that investigation nor the power to do so.

    What is it with you, exactly? It’s like you get the RNC talking points a day late, after the refutations are already bouncing around the internet.

  11. Refutations?

    I can’t believe anyone on the left has the nerve to use the term. This ridiculous ‘Bush lied’ meme has been refuted so thoroughly, so often–by investigation AND the words and actions of the Democrats that this whole thing seems almost sisyphusean.

    The thing gets trashed by the simple fact that EVERYONE though Saddam had WMDs–before and after Bush’s election and 9/11. Why, before the invasion the left was screaming that if we invaded he’d USE his WMDs–not that he didn’t have any.

    It gets refuted, soundly…and then it comes creeping back out, full and intact, as if nothing had ever been said.

    But you know what? You guys keep harping on this, on how Bush lied, okay? You’re sure to keep him out of the White House this time. But let’s not let the American people forget thatBush Lied! Let’s keep focused on running against George Bush.

  12. Funny, but do you know who didn’t think that Saddam had WMD’s?

    The weapon inspectors that he let back into Iraq and allowed total access. You know, the weapon inspectors we pulled out in April before they had completed their jobs. In other words the only people who were actually in a position to know, and were actually saying so. Maybe you all forgot about those guys. I know I always hear people on the right talk about Saddam not letting the inspectors back in, and so we had to invade. Guess that fell right down the conservative memory hole.


    “It would appear from our experience so far that Iraq has decided in principle to provide cooperation on process, notably access. A similar decision is indispensable to provide cooperation on substance in order to bring the disarmament task to completion, through the peaceful process of inspection, and to bring the monitoring task on a firm course”, Mr. Blix said.

    He brought out a series of gaps or unresolved issues on Iraqi disarmament that included unanswered questions about the deadly nerve gas, VX, nutrients for biological agents such as anthrax, artillery shells filled with mustard gas and the 6,500 chemical bombs. The environment in Iraq may be “workable” but Mr. Blix touched on several problems including the use of U-2 surveillance planes and harassment.

    At the outset, he argued that three questions remained unanswered: the extent of illicit weapons that might remain undeclared and intact from even before the 1991 Gulf War; what, if anything, was illegally produced or procured; and how the world could prevent weapons of mass destruction to be produced or procured in the future.


    “Saddam Hussein intended to retain a strategic deterrent capability, not only to take care of Iran, but also to focus on Israel. What he didn’t count on was the tenacity of the inspectors. And very rapidly by June 1991 we had compelled him into acknowledging that he had a nuclear weapons program, and we pushed him so hard that by the summer of 1991, in the same way that a drug dealer who has police knocking at his door flushes drugs down a toilet to get rid of his stash so that he can tell the cops, “I don’t have any drugs,” the Iraqis, not wanting to admit that they lied, flushed their stash down the toilet. They blew up all of their weapons and buried it in the desert, and then tried to maintain the fiction that they had told the truth.

    “And by 1992 they were compelled again because of the tenacity of inspectors to come clean. People say why didn’t Saddam Hussein admit being disarmed? In 1992 they submitted a declaration that said everything’s been destroyed, we have nothing left. In 1995 they turned over the totality of their document cache. Again, not willingly, it took years of inspections to pressure them. But the bottom line is by 1995 there were no more weapons in Iraq, there were no more documents in Iraq, there was no more production capability in Iraq, because we were monitoring the totality of Iraq’s industrial infrastructure with the most technologically advanced, the most intrusive arms control regime in the history of arms control.

    “And we knew that while we couldn’t account for everything that the Iraqis said they had destroyed, we could only account for ninety to ninety-five percent, we knew that: (a) we had no evidence of a retained capability and, (b) no evidence that Iraq was reconstituting. And furthermore, the C.I.A. knew this. The British intelligence knew this; Israeli intelligence knew this; German intelligence. The whole world knew this. They weren’t going to say that Iraq was disarmed, because nobody could say that. But they definitely knew that the Iraqi capability regarding W.M.D. had been reduced to as near to zero as you could bring it and that Iraq represented a threat to no one when it came to weapons of mass destruction. “

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