Monday :: Jun 9, 2003

Graham Keeps After Bush on Integrity

by Steve

Bob Graham continues to take the most aggressive line in questioning Bush’s credibility and integrity on the Iraq WMD issue. At a picnic over the weekend in Iowa for Governor Tom Vilsack, Graham was alone in accusing the Bush Administration of dishonesty. Not surprisingly, Joe Lieberman was the mildest of the four in his criticisms.

Democrats campaigning Sunday in Iowa agreed that the Bush administration faces questions about credibility over whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction last year. But few were willing to join rival U.S. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida in accusing the president of misleading Americans before the war.

Of the four candidates at Gov. Tom Vilsack's annual picnic in Mount Pleasant, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut was the most reluctant to side with Graham. Graham said Saturday that Bush knew intelligence agencies had doubts about banned weapons in Iraq but kept them secret.

"Very serious questions are being raised now, whether our intelligence community had it right, whether the administration was overstating the case," Lieberman said. "Those questions ought to be answered because America's credibility is on the line." Lieberman, who was among the strongest Democratic supporters of the war, said congressional inquiries into what intelligence sources knew about Iraq's weapons capability ought to "go forward aggressively." But the inquiries should not diminish the view "that our military did what was right" in overthrowing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, he said.

Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Saturday in Council Bluffs that Bush failed to disclose intelligence that questioned Iraq's chemical and biological weapons-making capability. Graham, who opposed the war, went even further Sunday, accusing the Bush administration of dishonesty. "It lied in the sense that it didn't tell the whole truth," Graham said at the picnic.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean also attended the picnic at the Old Threshers Grounds, along with more than 500 Iowa Democratic activists. Dean, who also opposed the war, was among the most critical of Bush on Sunday, but he would not say the president skewed the intelligence about Iraq's weapons. "I don't know if the president did or not, but I think we have a real problem in this country now. We have a problem because the president's credibility is in question, the intelligence services' ability is in question," he said.

On the previous day, Graham said that Bush had manipulated intelligence, which drew a nondenial denial from the Republican National Committee.

And on a related note, and in line with what I discussed last week about the need for Democrats to lay out an alternate national security policy in order to gain credibility with voters, this Los Angeles Times opinion piece plows some of the same ground, only better.

(I)n a post-9/11 world, Democrats will never have an adequate chance to debate those issues — on which they can campaign and win — if they can't overcome public skepticism about how they would handle the nation's defense. It's not the economy, stupid, any longer — and asking whether voters are better off today than they were four years ago will mean are they safer and more secure, not richer and better employed. Whether Democrats like it or not, the road to the White House in 2004 runs through national security.

I think Bob Graham is off to a good start in these areas, but he will need to raise the money necessary to hang around for a while. At least he is stepping out there on this issue of Bush dishonesty by himself, armed with knowledge that he alone of the current candidate pool may have. Like Howard Dean on domestic issues, sometimes it pays to be considered a second-tier candidate under the radar screen with fire in the belly and an issue or two that you keep hammering. It is a great substitute for being a front-runner who either seems to disappear at times (Kerry and Gephardt) or who seems unwilling to wage war against the true enemy (Lieberman).

Steve :: 5:40 PM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!