Robert Steinback in today’s Miami Herald:
Has anyone else noticed that the Bush administration’s primary defense against allegations that it misrepresented the facts to goad America to support an unnecessary war isn’t a defense at all?
The administration and its Republican supporters have parried the charge by saying, in essence, “Well, a whole lot of Democrats saw the same intelligence and supported the war in Iraq, too.”
Think about that. Why would it matter how many Washington politicians were complicit in misleading the American people? Is a lie less of a lie if it has bipartisan support?
Even if the administration’s counter-charge was accurate — and former Florida Sen. Bob Graham’s opinion piece in Tuesday’s editions of The Herald makes a powerful case that it isn’t — it would only mean that the White House had co-conspirators as it spun its bogus case for war.
The Bush-Cheney team is gambling that putting the issue in partisan terms will somehow save them from culpability for their own distortions and misrepresentations.
This is a smoke screen. The issue of Iraq doesn’t divide up as Republican-Democrat. It divides between those who recklessly advocated a war they couldn’t justify and those who showed enough restraint to demand more compelling evidence of an imminent threat — evidence that was never provided and that may never have existed at all. Americans genuinely upset about being hoodwinked into this war by our own leaders couldn’t care less about the party designation of the snake-charmers.
Nevertheless, it has been discouraging that so many Democrats — and probably some Republicans, too — made political calculations to support the Iraq war three years ago rather than courageously leaning into the wind and standing on principle. How much easier it was to coast along with a public eager to equate any military action after 9/11 with patriotism, than to counsel prudence and propriety.
The Democrats’ collective timidity cost them in the 2004 elections. The Bushites skillfully dismissed consistent war critics as unpatriotic and crushed those who were reconsidering their prior war stance as “flip-floppers.”
Ironically, as the public’s patience with a wasteful and pointless war thins, the administration now seeks to duck responsibility by pointing to how many Democrats stood with it three years ago. But the “them, too” tactic is backfiring.
The key question today isn’t so much who did or did not support Bush’s siren call to war in 2002, but which politicians today will acknowledge the truth as it is now emerging. The Democrats, who have been tripping over their own feet for five years, could regain much credibility by returning to principle over expediency. Former vice-presidential candidate Edwards fired a daring first volley Nov. 13 with a plain-talking acknowledgment that his pro-war vote in 2002 had been in error.
Meanwhile, by staking their reputations on continuing to pretend they made no mistakes in judgment at all regarding Iraq and foisting all blame for the mess on the CIA, Bush and Cheney have thrown their party’s faithful into a quandary — side with reality, or maintain loyalty to a veracity-bankrupt administration.
This time, the GOP — so successful for years at politicizing issues of principle — might end up being the ones burned by partisanship.
Or, as Bob pointed out, the GOP is using the teenager’s defense — “everybody else is going” — that no sane parent would buy. Why should we accept it from our president?