Bush Would Have Invaded Even If Saddam Didn't Have WMDs
Look, it seems pretty clear now that the White House has decided that the best way to regain its footing heading into the new year is to do what Rove always does: take your own weakness and attack from that position of weakness, safe in the knowledge that your opponent has no unified position and no consistent access to the levers of power or media. This is behind the White House counteroffensive on Iraq. By fighting back against calls for a withdrawal from parts of the Democratic Party and statements that the war cannot be won, the White House has linked the concepts of “victory” and an eventual withdrawal into a potent argument to throw back against Democrats who are now being tagged as defeatist, soft on national security, and willing to cut and run.
Liddy Dole has stated that the NRSC will run its candidates next year primarily on support for Bush and his Iraq and national security policies. The NRSC plans to re-run the last two elections again in 2006, thinking that Iraq, national security, and terrorism can be used to push aside domestic concerns once again. They may be right, as Bush’s ratings in some polls have gone up as the Iraq pushback effort has taken hold, and as consumer confidence increases over falling gas prices. After all, if the economy is viewed as improving and Iraq can be happy-talked into Nirvana, who knows how well it may work beyond the base next year?
The NRSC, taking its cue from the White House, is already on the attack, and prepared to center its midterm election strategy around the president’s leadership on Iraq, national security and what Republicans call the global war on terrorism.
NRSC officials say strategy will vary depending on the specific race, but say that generally speaking, they will not shy away from associating — by name — with Bush and his policies, explaining they are happy to refight the 2004 presidential election, which Republicans believe was a duel over foreign policy, Iraq and terrorism that was clearly won by the GOP, and is eminently winnable again.
Heading into 2006, and throughout the coming year, if necessary, the White House plans to continue aggressively making the case for prosecuting the Iraq war while simultaneously pushing back against Democratic criticism of Bush.
Republicans hope that today’s vote for a permanent Iraqi government ushers in such a change on the ground that the president’s vigorous defense of his policy is no longer necessary. But in lieu of that, expect the White House, in conjunction with key Republicans on Capitol Hill, to lead a nonstop public relations campaign.
“The White House will be aggressive in making sure the good news about Iraq is out there, and in making sure Democrats are held accountable for the statements they make,” said one Republican official familiar with White House thinking.
Because Republicans generally believe that progress is being made in Iraq, and because GOP Senators generally have not changed their view that it was right to invade Iraq and it remains right to stay until a democratic Iraq is militarily self-sufficient, they feel they have no choice but to vigorously defend that position.
“Republicans don’t just talk Iraq, they talk national security/war on terror. I don’t think Democrats have learned that lesson,” one Republican strategist said. “Democrats shouldn’t think they’re going to regain the majority on the Iraq issue; they won’t because they don’t have an alternative.”
House Republicans for their part may plan to run their 2006 campaigns on the typical GOP attack lines that Democrats are high taxers, big spenders, and soft on terrorism. GOP Representative Tom Cole said this today, according to Hotline on Call. Never mind that the GOP has been in charge for years and cannot sustain a big spender charge against the Democrats given the Medicare drug bill, the runaway deficits caused in part by the Bush tax cuts, or the unaccountable throwing of money by the GOP at the Pentagon, corrupt contractors, and the money pit that Iraq has become. Yet after being in power all these years, the best the GOP can come up with besides bashing the immigrants again next year is to trot out the tired attack lines about taxes, spending, and terrorism.
What can Democrats do? First, be ready to attack the GOP on these issues now, by setting the negatives against the GOP congress and attacking them first on the issues of spending, tax cuts for the wealthy, corporate welfare, and being a rubber stamp for Bush. Don’t sit and wait for the GOP to set the frame in place on these issues next summer. The focus should be on the problems with a GOP congress being a rubber stamp for Bush; make the issue the need for reform and change, the need for Democrats to regain Congress as a check and balance against the White House, and as a brake and overseer of Bush those last two years. The argument needs to be made that next year’s election is about accountability and bringing our concerns and attention homeward.
Second, be ready to jump back onto the issue of Bush’s integrity. There was a reason why Bush quickly wanted to get the issue away from his trustworthiness and onto the safer ground of “victory” in Iraq: he was being seen more and more as someone who was a liar, and once the public had it established in their mind that he may have lied his way into Iraq, it called into question everything else he has done these last five years. Bush doesn’t want to talk anymore about how we got into Iraq; he would rather shift the talk to his “victory” in Iraq and getting out on his terms.
This GOP redefining of the debate cannot be allowed to take root. Bush will give us new arguments to fight that battle, like he did yesterday when he confirmed to Brit Hume what we already knew: that even if he knew that Saddam didn’t have WMDs, he would have invaded anyway.
Of course there is a small problem with that statement: Public Law 107-243 required Bush to affirm to Congress that Saddam was violating UN resolutions on his WMD programs, and to affirm to Congress that everything had been done diplomatically to deal with Saddam’s noncompliance with those UN sanctions, and that as a result Saddam was a threat to provide WMDs to the terrorists as well as assist them. And as we know, Bush sold this whole war of choice on the WMDs. If Bush is now saying openly that even if he knew that Saddam didn’t have WMDs he would have invaded, then he perpetrated a fraud on the Congress of the United States, on the United Nations and the world, and most importantly on the American people, a fraud that thousands have paid for with their lives.
This latest admission from Bush can undermine all of his recent pushback efforts if the Democrats reignite the “Bush lied to Congress and the American people” argument. And the Democrats should not be browbeaten away from pursuing it. The success of their 2006 efforts depends on it.