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November 13, 2005
The Counter-Offensive Turns Into A Team Sport

The pushback against the ridiculous "Bush lied!" campaign taken up by Democrats in 2005 after they lost an entire electoral cycle on it in 2004 has broadened out past the White House to even the President's fair-weather friends in the GOP. Glenn Reynolds points to this exchange on Face The Nation, the CBS entry on the Sunday morning talking-head shows. Bob Schieffer tried to twist Bush's words into a complaint about criticism of war policy, and John McCain would not allow him to get away with it:

SCHIEFFER: President Bush accused his critics of rewriting history last week.

Sen. McCAIN: Yeah.

SCHIEFFER: And in--he said in doing so, the criticisms they were making of his war policy was endangering our troops in Iraq. Do you believe it is unpatriotic to criticize the Iraq policy?

Sen. McCAIN: No, I think it's a very legitimate aspect of American life to criticize and to disagree and to debate. But I want to say I think it's a lie to say that the president lied to the American people. I sat on the Robb-Silverman Commission. I saw many, many analysts that came before that committee. I asked every one of them--I said, `Did--were you ever pressured politically or any other way to change your analysis of the situation as you saw?' Every one of them said no.

Having McCain on national television backing up George Bush on his counterattack against this tired allegation signals that even the man who loves to have the press love him has his limits. When McCain slaps down Schieffer on FTN, McCain watchers sit up and take notice. Normally, the Arizona "maverick" uses his national-media time to pump himself, not protect Bush or promote his party's agenda. Even more rare is the attack on members of the Senate; after all, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, and Jay Rockefeller are among those promoting the "Bush lied!" theme that Democrats want to keep on life support.

Speaking of Rockefeller, he doesn't need McCain's help in looking like an idiot or a liar. As Power Line noted today, Rockefeller unwittingly shows the idiocy of the meme and of Senators trying to push it in an interview with Fox's Chris Wallace:

WALLACE: Senator Rockefeller, the President says that Democratic critics, like you, looked at pre-war intelligence and came to the same conclusion that he did. In fact, looking back at the speech that you gave in October of 2002 in which you authorized the use of force, you went further than the President ever did. Let's watch. SEN. ROCKEFELLER (October 10, 2002): "I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat, but I also believe that after September 11th, that question is increasingly outdated."

WALLACE: Now, the President never said that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat. As you saw, you did say that. If anyone hyped the intelligence, isn't it Jay Rockefeller?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No. The – I mean, this question is asked a thousand times and I'll be happy to answer it a thousand times. I took a trip by myself in January of 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and I told each of the heads of state that it was my view that George Bush had already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq – that that was a predetermined set course which had taken shape shortly after 9/11. Now, the intelligence that they had and the intelligence that we had were probably different. We didn't get the Presidential Daily Briefs. We got only a finished product, a finished product, a consensual view of the intelligence community, which does not allow for agencies like in the case of the aluminum tubes, the Department of Energy said these aren't thick enough to handle nuclear power. They left that out and went ahead with they have aluminum tubes and they're going to develop nuclear power.

WALLACE: Senator, you're quite right. You didn't get the Presidential Daily Brief or the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief. You got the National Intelligence Estimate. But the Silberman Commission, a Presidential commission that looked into this, did get copies of those briefs, and they say that they were, if anything, even more alarmist, even less nuanced than the intelligence you saw, and yet you, not the President, said that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat. ...

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Chris, there's always the same conversation. You know it was not the Congress that sent 135,000 or 150,000 troops.

WALLACE: But you voted, sir, and aren't you responsible for your vote?


WALLACE: You're not?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No. I'm responsible for my vote, but I'd appreciate it if you'd get serious about this subject, with all due respect. We authorized him to continue working with the United Nations, and then if that failed, authorized him to use force to enforce the sanctions. We did not send 150,000 troops or 135,000 troops. It was his decision made probably two days after 9/11 that he was going to invade Iraq. That we did not have a part of, and, yes, we had bad intelligence, and when we learned about it, I went down to the floor and said I would never have voted for this thing.

WALLACE: My only point sir, and I am trying to be serious about it, is as I understand Phase Two, the question is based on the intelligence you had, what were the statements you made? You had the National Intelligence Estimate which expressed doubts about Saddam's nuclear program, and yet you said he had a nuclear program. The President did the same thing.

This is the conundrum in which the Democrats have stuck themselves. They want to put all of the rhetoric on Bush on determining that Iraq presented a long-term threat to the US. Bush carefully avoided using the term "imminent"; indeed, he argued against waiting for threats to become imminent, post-9/11, as that would put Americans in danger of surprise attacks just as we had experienced. Saddam's development of portable WMD would have found terrorist hands eventually, which is why Bush proposed military action before the threat reached that stage. Rockefeller instead used the "imminent" term and now wants to shove it off onto George Bush.

At the time, the Democrats did not want to give the Republicans an edge on national security, with the first national elections since 9/11 coming in four weeks. Democrats wanted to look tough and use tough rhetoric. Only after the election (where they lost the Senate) did they start ankle-biting their vote -- even after George Bush allowed the UN to restart the useless UNSCOM weapons inspections and waited five months to take the military action that Congress authorized.

How empty are the Democrats of ideas and long-term plans for national security? Three years later, they're still lying about their own statements on national TV to smear George Bush -- even though he can't run for election again! Rockefeller shows how lame this meme has become. It should embarrass every Democrat in the country and start a demand for new party leadership. Unfortunately, it won't, but it may finally convince the rational moderates that the Democrats have led the party over a cliff.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 13, 2005 5:10 PM

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