Sunday :: Jul 20, 2003

Bush’s Iraq Vulnerability: GOP Criticism, Ongoing Media Attention, and Questions of Competence

by Steve

No matter how hard the White House tries to bury the African uranium claims fiasco, they fail. Not only is the media staying with this story like a sharkpack sensing blood in the water, but now fellow Republicans are speaking out and saying that the White House’s attempts to scapegoat George Tenet are “irresponsible.”

A Republican senator said Sunday it is "irresponsible" for the Bush administration to assign responsibility to CIA Director George Tenet for the State of the Union claim that Iraq tried to obtain uranium in Africa.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNN's "Late Edition" the intelligence flap "is bigger, wider, deeper than just about one person."

"To just throw George Tenet's body from the train and say, 'That takes care of the problem,' I don't think is the way to do this," Hagel said.

Hagel pointed to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney as part of the process that led to Bush including the report in the annual presidential address.

And it is good to see the hopelessly inept Denny Hastert try and mount the usual “blame Clinton” defense for the White House. Hastert tried to say that the reason things went wrong wasn’t because Bush lied and didn’t have any proof, but because Clinton had underfunded the CIA’s ability to have more assets on the ground over the last decade. Hastert also indicated that the same intelligence we had in 1998 was the basis for our recent actions. But this inadvertently makes the case for why Bush was wrong. Bush acted on five-year-old data and started a war that claimed thousands of innocent lives without getting updated data or allowing the IAEA inspectors enough time. Thanks Denny for proving our point, you nimrod.

Moreover, the media has moved on to the infamous “45 minute” claim, and the Post’s relentless Dana Milbank tagged the Administration today in a Page One story by stating that the CIA wasn’t even consulted on the claim in preparing last fall’s speeches by Bush. So Condi, how can George Tenet veto something he was never allowed to see?

And Dana Priest of the Post today shot to hell the Administration’s recent defenses that armed with the knowledge they have now, they wouldn’t have acted back the same in the run up to the war. Priest tags the Administration by basically saying, “you already knew this material was full of holes.” Even the Italian journalist who passed along the forged Niger documents knew the material wasn’t even sound enough to print in an Italian tabloid. But it was good enough for Bush to wage war with.

And the CIA’s best friend at the Post Walter Pincus takes a closer look at the documents that the White House tried to spin out Friday to discredit the Agency and finds a damaging nugget in them. In a Page One Post story for tomorrow, Pincus reports that the Agency clearly said that a defeated Saddam would be more of a threat to turn over his weapons to terrorists than he would to form an alliance with terrorists prior to an invasion, as Bush was claiming in his many justifications for immediate invasion. So that rationale given by Bush was garbage also, and they knew it was garbage when the October NIE was given to Bush. Isn’t it great how the Agency can contact their guy at the Post and retaliate like this after the White House hatchet job from Friday?

And apparently all the talk about how a Department of Homeland Security would do a better job of coordinating domestic intelligence was garbage too: the Post is reporting Monday that the intelligence unit under Tom Ridge is “understaffed, unorganized and weak-willed in bureaucratic struggles with other government agencies, diminishing its role in pursuing terrorists.” Plus, “a vast majority of the department's intelligence analysts lack computers that are able to receive data classified "top secret" and above. The department has only three experts on biological terrorism,” which is way too few “according to some members of Congress and independent national security experts.”

Yet, while the Bushies seemingly act on the slightest garbage information to make Iraq an imminent threat requiring immediate invasion, they don’t apply that same standard to what is happening in North Korea, where the Administration says the evidence isn’t conclusive enough to warrant any additional action at this time.

Well, as you might expect, Bush’s trustworthiness advantage has finally disappeared, with new poll numbers now showing a majority no longer having faith in Bush’s integrity. And his approval rating has finally fallen back to pre-9/11 levels. But the Time Magazine story including the poll results not only takes up the issue of Bush’s credibility problem, but also a problem of Bush’s competence.

And the DNC is rolling out ads in Wisconsin attacking Bush’s credibility over Iraq.

So even though some of the polls show that the Democrats still haven’t caught fire nationally, the opening is finally there for one or two of them to demonstrate they are ready and capable to challenge Bush, with the issues of integrity and competence front and center.

Steve :: 11:12 PM :: Comments (10) :: Digg It!