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July 19, 2004
Cleland Says President "Flat-Out Lied" About Iraq

Add Max Cleland to the list of lunatic conspiracy theorists. Cleland asserted in a conference call to reporters today that George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld "flat-out lied" when using the intelligence gathered and reviewed over several years by two American administrations and several Western governments in making the case for war against Saddam Hussein:

US Democrats stepped up attacks on George W. Bush's anti-terror policies when an official of White House candidate John Kerry's campaign said the president "flat-out lied" over the Iraq war. ...

Asked whether they were lied to by the intelligence services or the White House, he said emphatically: "By the president, by the vice president and by the secretary of defense."

"Now why did Bush go to war in Iraq? Because he concluded that his daddy was a failed president and one of the ways he failed was that he did not take out Saddam Hussein," Cleland said, referring to the 1991 Gulf war. He added that Kerry, from Massachusetts, agreed with the assessment. "About a year ago John Kerry said,'The president lied, he lied to me personally,'" said Cleland, a badly wounded Vietnam war veteran.

Now that Cleland has decided, along with the nutcase, International-ANSWER leftists, to go into amateur psychology, perhaps Cleland could be so kind as to inform us exactly what lies George Bush told him. Cleland had access to the same intelligence reports given Bush and Bill Clinton while he represented Georgia in the Senate. Did Cleland, like Kerry, never bother to read these assessments? Has Cleland read the SSCI report on intelligence that came to the opposite conclusion, or the Butler report in Britain? I suspect that Cleland has less command of the detail involved in this argument and that any challenge to produce a "flat-out lie" will result in more ad hominem personal attacks on Bush and his staff and absolutely nothing in terms of solid evidence.

It looks to me that the Kerry campaign -- which Cleland co-chairs -- has decided that Joe Wilson is no longer a credible vehicle for the "Bush Lied" meme, since Wilson has been proven quite the prevaricator himself. Instead, Kerry has decided to wheel Cleland onto the stage to push the theme instead and banks on Cleland's sympathetic life story to keep people from responding effectively.

So far, the AP reports, the Kerry campaign has not confirmed its support of Cleland's charges, and here's the problem if it does. Back in March, Kerry himself was caught on tape calling the Bush administration the "most lying, corrupt" group of people. After a hailstorm of criticism fell on his campaign, he claimed he only referred to some Republican "attack machine" and not the President personally. If Kerry flip-flops again, he'll have to explain how that fits in with his denials that his earlier remarks referenced Bush. And if he doesn't, Cleland's position as his campaign's co-chair will look pretty odd if Kerry claims that Cleland doesn't speak for him.

I have all the sympathy in the world for Cleland's sacrifice to our country, but it's becoming clear why the voters of Georgia tossed this guy out on his ear in 2002. Cleland appears to be mentored in his post-office career by Al Gore, which is no compliment.

UPDATE: Byron York files a report from the White House on Cleland's comments, noting that Cleland really missed this week's news:

Cleland also said the presidents famous 16 word contention that Iraq sought uranium in Africa is a lie. When asked if he believes former ambassador Joseph Wilson, the Bush critic whose story was substantially undermined in the new Senate report on pre-war intelligence, Cleland said, I do believe that Joe Wilson is telling the truth. I believe he has tremendous credibility, and Ive met with him personally for hours.

Wow -- he met with Wilson, personally, for hours? While Cleland might think that proves Wilson credible, all it does is to prove Cleland to be gullible. All of which makes this Cleland quote all the more ironic:

The president is living in a world of denial, Cleland said. So is the Vice President, and so is the Secretary of State.
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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 19, 2004 1:21 PM

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Tracked on July 19, 2004 3:10 PM

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