Feeling the heat?
First the White House lashed out at the Washington Post article that recounted the half-truths and untruths in the president's last speech on Iraq. Now the White House plays push back against Sen. Levin with this 'fact-sheet' on Iraq.
Let me comment briefly on the particular claims the White House makes in this fact sheet before proceeding to a more general point because their argument here shows yet more examples of the White House pattern of cherry-picking and misdirection.
The White House fact sheet picks up on this statement that Levin made today on CNN ...
But before the war, the President was saying that you cannot distinguish between Saddam Hussein and Iraq. As a matter of fact, he said that so often that he tried to connect Saddam Hussein with the attackers on us, on 9/11, so often, so frequently and so successfully, even though it was wrong, that the American people overwhelmingly thought, because of the President's misstatements that as a matter of fact, Saddam Hussein had participated in the attack on us on 9/11. That was a deception. That was clearly misinformation. It had a huge effect on the American people.
The White House press release then goes on to say that contrary to this statement, Levin and others Dems have said that "Iraq Was A Part Of The War On Terror ..."
Here are the two statements they adduce from Levin ...
Sen. Levin: "The War Against Terrorism Will Not Be Finished As Long As [Saddam Hussein] Is In Power." (CNN's "Late Edition," 12/16/01)
Sen. Levin: "We Begin With The Common Belief That Saddam Hussein Is A Tyrant And A Threat To The Peace And Stability Of The Region." (Committee On Armed Services, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 9/19/02)
Now, let's unpack this. Levin's point is muddled because he clearly misspoke when he criticized the president for "saying that you cannot distinguish between Saddam Hussein and Iraq." (Presumeably, identifying Saddam with Iraq ain't too much of a stretch.) If you look at the statement in its entirety, it's quite clear that Levin is talking about connecting Saddam Hussein and al Qaida
. Here's the entirety of what Levin said (with key points in italics) ...
S. O'BRIEN: You heard what Dan Bartlett had to say, which was essentially, in a nutshell, it's unfair for Democrats who supported the war to now say that the president or the administration misled the public. The information was wrong. Everybody was misled.
LEVIN: Actually, some of the information in the intelligence community was very right and what the administration is doing is trying to, they are continuing a pattern here of deception of the American people.
He just said that the Democrats don't have the facts or the critics don't have the facts and rather than attacking the critics they should be responding to the questions which have been raised. For instance, the intelligence community, the Defense Intelligence Agency, said before the war -- and I'm now reading the unclassified statement of the Defense Intelligence Agency prior to the war -- "that Saddam's regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements."
But before the war, the president was saying that you cannot distinguish between Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
As a matter of fact, he said that so often they tried to connect Saddam Hussein with the attackers on us on 9/11, so often, so frequently and so successfully, even though it was wrong, that the American people overwhelmingly thought, because of the president's misstatements that, as a matter of fact, Saddam Hussein had participated in the attack on us on 9/11.
That is -- that was a deception. That was clearly misinformation.
The issue here is the White House attempt to connect Saddam Hussein with al Qaida and 9/11. Levin can answer for himself why he made some hot-headed statements about Iraq a few months after 9/11. And there are plenty of stupid things cowardly Democrats said in the first couple years about Iraq, and especially the first couple months.
But he's quite right about this. It was "deception" and it was "misinformation". And most Americans now understand that.
I went through this stuff at admittedly tedious length to make a point: this is just more of the same word-games, misdirection and mendacity. More of the same, more leopards that can't change their spots.
President Bush and his administration spent 18 months trying to convince the American people that there was a tie between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida and even to the 9/11 attacks. There wasn't. There was never any evidence for that. But they knew the charge would be effective
. And, for them, that was more than enough.
They can't wash out the taint of that cynicism and infamy no matter how much they try and no matter how loud they yell.
As I said above, many Democrats ran scared in the face of this once-popular president's onslaught and said many things they probably now wish they hadn't. Let's catalog those statements and let them answer for their cowardice and wobbliness. But the president was president
-- a fact of accountability he never seems to grasp. He drove the train
. He and his advisors cynically worked to convince the public that Saddam was tied to 9/11 -- an explosive claim in the aftermath of the 9/11 horror. That's something they knew wasn't true and which none of the president's critics, to be the best of my knowledge, ever
agreed with or argued for. President Bush and his administration are on the line for that.
Now they want to go back and try to wriggle out from under the past we all remember. So to use his words, bring it on. The facts indict him. And his White House's ferocious desperation in response shows they know it.
Let them dig through the transcripts. And if there's collateral damage among today's accusers, so be it. Let the facts get hashed out and the chips fall. There's only one side of this argument running scared from the truth. We know what happened. We were there. We all remember.