Reading Bob Hebert's column
and the Letters to the Editor
in today's NY Times
reminded me once again (in a way both painful and angering) why our Party has ceded one of the critical arguments of this campaign to the liars currently in charge of our executive branch.
Sure, we can all point fingers over what could have been done, pre-9/11. But in the end, it will be "Clinton did _" and "We did __." Yes, the who-did-what-when argument may undercut Bush's national security credentials to a degree, but what is left on the table in such a discussion is the bigger question of our response to 9/11, the critical allocation of our resources, post-9/11, and the invasion of Iraq.
We are left with being unable to attack Bush on these three critical questions:
- Given that our resources (military, intelligence, law enforcement) are limited, has spending a billion dollars a week in Iraq been the right way to spend these precious resources in a post-9/11 world?
- If we, instead, had devoted that billion dollars a week to rooting out Al Qaeda all around the globe, would we be safer now than we are currently having (mis)directed these resources to Iraq?
- Will (or "has," if one looks at Spain) this diverting of critical resources from our primary goal make us more vulnerable to a new terrorist attack(s)?
A letter in today's Times
illustrates the framing Republicans are likely to use to offset Clarke's criticisms and any Democratic response that is limited to who-knew-what prior
To the Editor:
It was a particularly cynical ploy for Richard A. Clarke to apologize to the families of the 9/11 victims, a small proportion of whom were present (front page, March 25). Exploiting their misery was a theatrical ploy beyond decency.
The simple fact is that the 9/11 attack on America was the most audacious terrorist action since the Trojan horse. No one of either political party could have been expected to anticipate it.
All the finger-pointing in the world will not change that fact. Let's get on with the war on terrorism, and base our votes in the coming election on which party is more apt to succeed in protecting us.
JACK B. SHAPIRO
Beachwood, Ohio, March 25, 2004
That's a page right out of Carl Rove's handbook. Also today, I read that James Carville has offered a free copy of his upcoming book to anyone who can find Bush, Cheney, Rice or Rumsfeld mentioning Al Qaeda before 9/11.
While humorous, I also found his comments sickening and representative of the bind we find ourselves in because of the cynical policy decisions of our Party leaders and folks like the DLC at the time of the Iraqi war vote. Again, Carville cedes the central argument on what Bush and his wrongheaded cohorts did after 9/11.
Kerry's war vote will be used against him over and over and over in any discussion of this administration's reaction to 9/11. Thus, he will be forced to utter his typical mealy-mouthed response, "I was misled." (I wrote this diary on the subject shortly after Hussein was captured and Kerry and Gephardt were busy bashing Dean for saying -- accurately -- that the U.S. is no safer with Saddam behind bars.)
Unfortunately for Kerry, Senator Robert Byrd and a few others knew the game that was being played and demanded that the administration produce hard evidence of all that they claimed ("... a mushroom cloud," said Condaleezza Rice) prior to going to war.
Kerry knew it was game, as well, only he demanded no such proof before voting for the war.
I have noted with increasing disappointment the absence of a simple, critical question from the 9/11 panel when speaking with Bush administration officials:
After 9/11 would you say you devoted more meeting/discussion time to Al Qaeda or Iraq?
That gets to the heart of the matter of why Bush's misplaced emphasis on Iraq has, indeed, left us far more vulnerable to a devastating terrorist attack.
Unfortunately, we are unable to use that line of argument because nearly all of our Party leaders, including our standard bearer, have been compromised on the war in Iraq. We're handicapped by our own cynical, political actions that have cost the lives of hundreds of Americans, thousands of Iraqis, Polish, Italian, British and Spanish soldiers, as well as (arguably) the citizens of Spain whose deaths may have been prevented had we been spending a billion dollars a week chasing down Al Qaeda cells rather than flushing money down the sewer that has become Iraq.
And that both angers and saddens me. Many of us saw it coming. And we were badmouthed by many in our own Party, from the DLC to Kerry, Gephardt and Lieberman.
I will vote for Kerry. I will continue to send moeny to Kerry. And I will work to get Kerry elected.
But I think our chances of beating Bush are considerably lessened because of our inability to cleanly and clearly criticize the decision to go to war in Iraq.
An "I-was-misled" defense is nowhere near as compelling as the argument those who stood on the Senate floor and argued against the war could make to Bush, face-to-face:
"I asked and asked and asked for answers... for proof... for hard evidence. And yet no one stood with me and asked the hard questions. And in the end, isn't that our job? And isn't that our most critical job when asking our sons and daughters and fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters to go off and possibly lay down their lives for a cause?"
Who, among our Party leadership, has the standing to make such a case to Bush?