Monday, May 07, 2007

Exactly how dumb would a Democrat have to be to believe George Bush? Let's ask one.

As the Democratic candidates for president wander from state to state speaking and debating, there is one question I would like to stand up and ask each candidate who voted to authorize the Iraq war: Are you a liar or are you an idiot?

It’s a fair question. Because the explanations the candidates have given are hopelessly inadequate.
There seem to be two basic excuses for voting for the authorization. “I was misled by the administration into believing Saddam had weapons of mass destruction” and “I voted for the authorization in order to give the president a stronger position from which to negotiate.” John Kerry used both explanations, and it worked out just great for him.

I’ll take the second explanation first, because it’s the most absurd. Very simply, anyone with an I.Q. of over a hundred who was paying attention knew that Bush was going to invade Iraq the moment he had the authority to do so. I knew this, and I was getting most of my news from the Daily Show and from talking to my news-junky mom. Bush was jonesing for a war. Everything he did, every action he took, every speech he gave made it abundantly clear that he was determined to go to war at any cost. About the only way that wouldn’t have happened is if Saddam resigned and left the country, and there was zero chance of that.

Now, if I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Bush would use that authorization for war the moment he got it, is it possible that canny Washington insiders could not figure that out? Am I really that much smarter than Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden? It is a terrifying thought, because honestly, I am not all that smart. And it raises the frightening possibility that Bush isn’t the only borderline moron in office.

Dennis Kucinich, my favorite not-a-snowball’s-chance-in-hell candidate knew it. He voted against the war, and has been quoted as saying “It must be really tough for Presidential candidates to come before the American people and claim that they were tricked, deceived, misled…by George Bush?”
Perhaps they are that stupid though. Kerry, for one, seemed to believe Bush’s lies at the time. Was the president taking senators into the oval office and hypnotizing them?

The argument that candidates simply believed Bush’s lies about WMDs is arguably slightly more credible. They certainly sounded convinced at the time; in Hillary Clinton’s floor speech on the authorization she even declared intelligence about Saddam and WMDs “undisputed.”

Of course, the WMD story was disputed at the time. And I myself was pretty sure the whole thing was a lie (once again I’ll mention that I was just barely following the news and am not especially brilliant or insightful). If you accept the basic premise that Bush wanted war at any cost it’s not hard to deduce that he was fudging information. And there were congressmen at the time, such as Kucinich and Jim Jeffords, who had enough sense to see through the charade.

Some people were even in a better position to see the lies, as recently indicated by Dick Durbin, who said that as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee he could see how Bush was lying to the public. John Edwards was also on that committee, but that didn’t stop him from voting for the authorization, possibly because his political advisers told him to.

Sure, they all regret the vote now, and Edwards has at least apologized for it (and put out a nifty ad telling congress to resend the vetoed Iraq funding bill), but the question is, why do they regret it? Is it because they have now realized that a preemptive strike against Iraq just to feel better about 9/11 is fundamentally immoral? I doubt it. Unless you believe that these seasoned politicians really did take Bush at his word, you have to accept the idea that they wanted to go to war.

They just wanted it to be a quick, well-run war that would boost their popularity. The only thing I believe from these people are comments like Joe Biden’s “The thing that I regret [is believing] that this administration had any competence” or Clinton’s “"How could they have been so poorly prepared for the aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein?"

These politicians don’t regret voting for a war; they regret voting for a bungled war. Their only mistake, in their own minds, is that they misjudged the administration’s level of competence. (Not to blow my own horn, but once again poorly-informed, less-than-gifted me believed that Iraq was going to be a huge disaster along the lines of Vietnam.)

All of which makes me think that people like Clinton and Edwards, when asked if their vote to authorize war was a cynical ploy to curry favor with the voters or a sign of their utter stupidity, should answer, “both.” They probably believed more than they should have of Bush’s lies, but they also probably knew this was a mistake and decided that the political fallout from voting against the authorization was worse than the possibility of tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians.

I will consider the possibility that if they had crystal balls and realized exactly how much damage their vote would cause that they might have voted the other way, but this may be too generous of me.

Of course, this makes Barack Obama look pretty good to the anti-war crowd, since he was at anti-war rallies in 2002. I give him points for that, although it does not actually guarantee that he would have voted against the war. In that bizarre, panicky post-9/11 period politicians were gutless and pandering, and who’s to say that with the hot and heavy breath of public opinion down his neck Obama might not have caved. Still, I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt since he spoke so forcefully at the time.

But the only two candidates I totally trust on the issue are Kucinich, because he did vote against the authorization, and Mike Gravel, because the guy’s as old-school liberal as they come. But the press has decided these two are joke candidates. I suppose Kucinich is hoping that his anti-war stance will seem prescient and get him some support, but being right when everyone else is wrong never gets you anything; all people really remember is you disagreed with them. Anyway, Kucinich will lose because he’s my favorite, putting him in the illustrious company of progressive losers like Paul Simon and Mo Udall.

The only thing in Kucinich’s favor right now is Gravel’s candidacy. I like Gravel, but his abrasive, take-no-prisoners style and justifiable fury at the mendacity of the major candidates has the press pretty much writing him off as the “crazy uncle” candidate. This means the press has someone more fun to pick on than Kucinich, but since the press has decided there are only four (or perhaps three) real candidates it seems unlikely the public is just going to go out and decide for itself.

Which means I’m going to have to vote for one of the other guys. Right now I’m leaning towards Obama if Kucinich and Gravel have dropped out by the time of the New York Democratic primary, but the election is long way off and the other candidates can still persuade me that they are the best choice. All they have to do is give a really thoughtful, well-reasoned answer to my question:
Are you a liar or are you an idiot?

No comments:

Post a Comment