July 15, 2010


Oh, look! Karl Rove is admitting a mistake. It seems that he regrets not spinning Iraq better, and is spilling his guts to the Wall Street Journal and anyone else who will publish it in an effort to rewrite the Bush Years to a kinder, gentler age.

His WSJ column title: My Biggest Mistake in The White House. Actually, I can think of other mistakes that were much bigger than failing to lie better to the American people. In classic Rovian spin, he writes:

Thus began a shameful episode in our political life whose poisonous fruits are still with us.

The next morning, Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and John Edwards joined in. Sen. Kerry said, "It is time for a president who will face the truth and tell the truth." Mr. Edwards chimed in, "The administration has a problem with the truth."

The battering would continue, and it was a monument to hypocrisy and cynicism. All these Democrats had said, like Mr. Bush did, that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD. Of the 110 House and Senate Democrats who voted in October 2002 to authorize the use of force against his regime, 67 said in congressional debate that Saddam had these weapons. This didn't keep Democrats from later alleging something they knew was false—that the president had lied America into war.

What someone says and what someone knows are entirely different things. As President, George W. Bush knew in 2002 -- before troops were sent to Iraq -- that Saddam Hussein did NOT possess weapons of mass destruction.


On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Those Democrats Rove is desperately trying to rope into the Bush Boondoggle were never given the correct intelligence, of course:

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD.

But Rove conveniently forgot to say that the Democrats who believed there were WMD in Iraq were relying upon the National Intelligence Estimate of 2002 without any additional information supplied by the CIA.

Rove's timeline proves the cynicism of his "confession":

On July 9, 2004, Mr. Graham's fellow Democrat on Senate Intelligence, Jay Rockefeller, charged that the Bush administration "at all levels . . . used bad information to bolster the case for war." But in his remarks on Oct. 10, 2002, supporting the war resolution, he said that "Saddam's existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose real threats to America."


Then there was Al Gore, who charged on June 24, 2004, that Mr. Bush spent "prodigious amounts of energy convincing people of lies" and accused him of treason, bellowing that Mr. Bush "betrayed his country." Yet just a month before the war resolution debate, the former vice president said, "We know that [Saddam] has stored away secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."

The war resolution passed on October 11, 2002. George W. Bush was briefed on September 18, 2002. George W. Bush and the CIA were the only people who knew the truth. It was willfully and deliberately concealed from the Representatives and Senators debating the war resolution nearly one month later.

In what could possibly be the most cynical and laughable part of Rove's column, he says this:

The damage extended beyond Mr. Bush's presidency. The attacks on Mr. Bush poisoned America's political discourse. Saying the commander-in-chief intentionally lied America into war is about the most serious accusation that can be leveled at a president. The charge was false—and it opened the way for politicians in both parties to move the debate from differences over issues into ad hominem attacks.

SEE? See how that works? All the teabagger nastiness, racism, ramped-up rhetoric, Senate constipation and ugly statements from the likes of half-governor Palin? It's really all Democrats' fault because they poisoned the well of political discourse! In other words, it's all our fault because those accusations are false.

But the accusations are true.

Remember these facts:

  • Bush was briefed on September 18, 2002 by the CIA and was told at that time Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction.
  • That briefing directly contradicted the National Intelligence Estimate Congress relied upon during the debate about the Iraq War.
  • Colin Powell also relied upon the National Intelligence Estimate to argue the case for war to the United Nations. He was not told of the new information conveyed to President Bush either.
  • Because information was deliberately withheld from the Congress which contradicted the National Intelligence Estimate, military action against Iraq was authorized.

Remarkably, Rove seems to be inviting the Obama administration to relitigate crimes committed by the Bush Administration, since he admits that his one mistake was NOT revisiting that accusation and "relitigating" it.

At the time, we in the Bush White House discussed responding but decided not to relitigate the past. That was wrong and my mistake: I should have insisted to the president that this was a dagger aimed at his administration's heart. What Democrats started seven years ago left us less united as a nation to confront foreign challenges and overcome America's enemies.

Perhaps the Obama administration should take that last paragraph to heart, and turn some of the current populist anger back on those who richly deserve it. After all, Mr. Rove has now rung the bell loudly. Let freedom ring in response. We should pull the dagger from the heart of the Bush administration and plunge a sword straight in, cutting out the abscess of lies and spin.

Relitigate, Mr. President. Karl Rove thinks you should. Relitigate now.

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