Cheney started today's speech by saying that he didn't say that "debate" is reprehensible, or that war critics are dishonest. He even claimed to like debate, and to accept its value even in times of war. Cheney even claimed to value reexamining the reasons that Bush sent America into war in the first place.
Sounds fair, even reasonable. Of course, it's a far departure from the rhetoric of last week, when Cheney said, "The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out." Or when he said, "we're going to continue sending a consistent message to the men and women who are fighting the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other fronts. We can never say enough how much we appreciate them, and how proud they make us."
Cheney's no dummy, so he knows that when the Vice President juxtaposes debate with subjecting soldiers to falsehoods he is sending a powerful message to his opponents: Speak out and we will accuse you of undermining the soldiers. This tactic is ruthless, in that it shuts down debate and that it uses the soldiers as political pawns. It is shameless, and far more divisive that Cheney's tone today.
But Cheney didn't even back down from his original statement in his "toned down" comments today. Instead, he simply narrowed that attack - from Americans that oppose the war to Americans that oppose Bush lying to send Americans into a war of choice.
Here's what Cheney said, right after claiming that he's okay with dissent and debate:
What is not legitimate -- and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible -- is the suggestion by some U. S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence. source
And here lies Bush's weakness. Cheney and Bush are now on the defensive, denying that they did what they so clearly did. They lied. They lied in order to deceive Congress and the American people so that we'd invade a country that posed no immediate threat to the United States. That deception broke the sacred trust between Commander and Chief and his troops, that he'll send them into battle only when absolutely needed.
Recently Bush made the mistake of saying "I lied." Of course, he was saying this to deny that he lied, but that he uttered those words shows how little control Bush's team currently has over the debate. Bush is no longer in control of the questions being asked. Rather than, "should we stay the course and fight terrorism?" the question has become, "can we trust Bush?"
Of course, we cannot trust Bush. And so long as that is what we are talking about, Bush will continue to look bad. He lied about the reasons to go to war. He lied to the Congress. He lied to the United Nations. He lied to the American people.
Representative Murtha was not talking about Bush lying. He was talking about the best course for the war. Murhtha's basic point was simple: There is nothing more that the military can do. Being there keeps the Iraqi government from governing, and does no good. This conversation needs to continue, and it will - given both Bush's low ratings and the terrible situation on the ground in Iraq.
We need both debates: Can we trust Bush? Should we remain in Iraq? The answer to both questions is no. And so long as these are the questions Americans are asking, the sooner Bush's reign of terror will end.
cross posted: Econo Culture's Blog: Political Porn