Senate Majority Project

Friday, November 11, 2005

Still Misleading America (Part 1): Bush and the RNC Keep Distorting Democrats Iraq Comments

The Bush Administration has launched yet another P.R. offensive to salvage public support on Iraq. With polls saying that Bush is simply not trustworthy, and that he lied about intelligence before Iraq, Republicans are left stammering that Democrats made similar pre-war statements. While both parties recognized the obvious -- nuclear weapons in Saddam Hussein’s hands would be bad – Bush alone had access to superior intelligence, the ability to weigh separate claims and release them selectively and the responsibility as commander-in-chief to make the decision whether to send Americans into Iraq.

For the record, here is what Bush said:
  • Bush raised threat of “mushroom clouds
    ”“Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” [Remarks by the President on Iraq, 10/7/2002]

  • Bush said Iraq had WMD
    “[Iraq] possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons…Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction.” [Remarks by the President on Iraq, 10/7/2002]

  • Bush said Iraq and Al Qaida were connected
    “We know that Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network share a common enemy: the United States of America. We know that Iraq and Al Qaida have had high-level contacts that go back a decade.” [Remarks by the President on Iraq, 10/7/2002]

  • Bush said Saddam was connected to 9-11
    “Some citizens wonder, ‘After 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now?’ And there’s a reason. We have experienced the horror of September the 11th.” [Remarks by the President on Iraq, 10/7/2002]

  • Bush said Iraq sought uranium from Africa and attempted to purchase aluminum tubes“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” [Remarks on the State of the Union, 1/28/2003]
This week the RNC has been in front of distributing segments of remarks from Democratic leaders that would seem to suggest that Democrats made the same judgments the administration did and only recently have questioned Bush’s policy. Even worse, Bush himself has suggested that those questioning the decision are being disloyal to the troops that are there.

Trouble is … every example the Republicans use is either wrong, out of context, specifically based on Administration-released reports that were wrong, or all three. Here are just a few examples:
  1. Sen. Reid said Iraq did not have nuclear weapons
    Pointing to a 1992 Senate floor speech, the RNC suggests Reid agreed that Hussein had WMD. But nowhere in the quote that Republicans use did Reid agree that Hussein has WMD, nuclear weapons, OR ties to Al-Qaeda. In fact, he left Iraq out of a list of countries that were believed to have nuclear weapons. Reid didn’t say that Hussein HAD nuclear weapons, rather he specifically said he did NOT.

    Furthermore, the speech used was in 1992, shortly after the first Gulf War, and long before the Bush Administration began its march to war. In fact, in 1992, George W. Bush may not have had been able to tell whether Raphael Palmiero was stockpiling steroids.

    Sen. Reid’s full quote: "The problem is not nuclear testing; it is nuclear weapons: There are too many of them, and there are too many of them in the wrong hands. The number of third world countries with nuclear capabilities seems to grow daily. Saddam Hussein's near success with developing a nuclear weapon should be an eye-opener for us all. In addition to the United States, three Republics of the former Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and China, four countries are believed to have nuclear weapons, or have the ability to assemble them in short order; namely, Israel, India, Pakistan, and South Africa."

  2. Sen. Schumer asked for better intelligence in 2002
    Schumer did say that the threat of giving nuclear weapons to a suicide bomber was a threat. However, he did not say that Iraq had or was imminently about to obtain a nuclear weapon. Far from endorsing the Bush Adminsitration’s intelligence, Schumer complained that Bush had not yet made his case, saying

    "You know, the president and the secretary of defense, in a briefing to the senators last week, said, "We have good evidence that shows why this is a necessity, and we will be sharing it with you and, in a non- classified way, with the American people and the people of the world." That hasn't happened yet. It's interesting, Wolf, I think there's more of a -- there's very little partisanship on this issue, Wolf. From what I've heard from Democrats and Republicans, the stand is virtually the same, which is, basically, show us the money, show us the evidence that, A, Iraq is going to be a real danger, which, if it has nuclear weapons or could have them in a short time, would be, and B, that invasion is the only resort, or maybe the last but only remaining resort. And you'll find -- I think the president will get generalized support. But thus far, he hasn't done that to either the Congress or the American people or, for that matter, to the people of the world, so that even leaders like Blair who want to go along with him are being pulled by their populace in another direction."

  3. President Clinton actually said Bush’s top priority should be pursuit of Al Qaeda, not invasion of Iraq
    While Bill Clinton was President, the U.S. and the world community disarmed Iraq. While president, Clinton repeatedly warned of what could occur if the weapons inspectors were not allowed to do their work in the country. Hussein removed weapons inspectors, but backed down and allowed them back into the country in February 1998; days after the speech the RNC cites. In the speech cited, Clinton also notes:

    [The UN] inspectors, the eyes and ears of the civilized world, have uncovered and destroyed more weapons of mass destruction capacity than was destroyed during the Gulf War. This includes nearly 40,000 chemical weapons, more than 100,000 gallons of chemical weapons agents, 48 operational missiles, 30 warheads specifically fitted for chemical and biological weapons, and a massive biological weapons facility at Al-Hakim, equipped to produce anthrax and other deadly agents.

    Later, after September 11th, Clinton warned that:

    "Saddam Hussein didn't kill 3,100 people on Sept. 11, Osama bin Laden did, and as far as we know he's still alive. … I also believe we might do more good for American security in the short run at far less cost by beefing up our efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere to flush out the entire network ... We know they still have a terrorist network around the world, and we're already kind of changing the subject, looking at Saddam Hussein. We know he's not going anywhere." [Associated Press, 9/6/2002]
More to come …

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Where's the Bird Flu When You Need It?

Some poor Republican donor’s kid had to show up this morning at the DNC dressed as a Turkey. Maybe they lost a bet on Tuesday night … It’s really not entirely clear why. Regardless, Democrats had some fun pointing out that after weeks of bad polls, a stalled agenda and brutal election losses, there isn’t much left to strut about …

Go here for the pictures…

Of course they could have just as easily sent chickens, because they’ve got plenty of those these days:

Hayworth Doesn't Want Bush Campaigning For Him

Bush to appear in Pa. minus Santorum

Maybe it was the "Zell-tinis"

Just when you thought the long sad story of Zell Miller couldn’t get any weirder… the Washington Post reports today that the former Democrat, who bashed lobbyists, adamantly insisted that he would not be a lobbyist, and railed that special interests have destroyed the Senate, has now (wait for it) .... registered as a lobbyist.

Even before he left the Senate, Miller signed up with the government relations practice of McKenna Long & Aldridge, a firm with more than 20 lobbyists representing defense contractors, pharmaceutical makers, and insurance companies. However, Miller adamantly denied he would be a lobbyist:
“one thing he won't be is a lobbyist, he insisted. ‘I'm not going to be walking any halls of the Capitol or taking any folks out for a steak dinner,’ [AP, 12/8/2004]
While McKenna didn't greet Miller with a steak dinner, they did throw him a fancy cocktail party that let him schmooze with other defense lobbyists and Pentagon brass over “Zell-tinis” made from vodka, peach schnapps, and mint leaves.

During his one term in the Senate, Miller complained that "elected officials are beholden to these special interest groups." His answer to the problem was to propose eliminating the 17th Amendment to the Constitution which instituted the direct election of senators:
The Senate has become just one big, bad, ongoing joke, held hostage by special interests, and so impotent an 18-wheeler truck loaded with Viagra would do no good. … Today State governments have to stand in line because they are just another one of the many special interests that try to get Senators to listen to them, and they are at an extreme disadvantage because they have no PAC. … It is the Senate's sorriest of times in its long, checkered, and once glorious history.
Now, according to Senate filings, Miller is a full-fledged, federal lobbyist, registering to lobby for Hercules Inc in September 2005. The Post also reported that Miller will have another lobby disclosure filed soon for luxury transatlantic air carrier Eos Airlines.

(Maybe because he is so ashamed about the role of special interests in the Senate, Miller failed to disclose that he even served in the Senate, as he is required to by federal lobbyist disclosure law.)

Miller is legally barred from contacting Senators until January 2006. But even then, don’t expect too many of his former colleagues to roll out the welcome mat for the senator who betrayed his party as easy as he betrayed his promise not to be a lobbyist.

Then again, when it comes to Zell Miller, things can always change.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Its Not THAT Kind of Handicap

Roll Call reminds us that Golf Digest recently named Senator Saxby Chambliss the second best golfer in the U.S. Senate and the 33rd best golfer in Washington, D.C. It seems that while the Senate was debating Iraq intelligence in closed session, Sen. Chambliss, who serves on the Senate Select Intelligence and Armed Services committees, missed the session because he was golfing at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

Instead of being forced to talk about the uncomfortable issue of pre-Iraq war intelligence (or the lack thereof), Chambliss was “the envy of golfers everywhere,” as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution put it. At least until he stepped up to what the newspaper called the club’s “unenviable first tee.”
“That was one of the more intimidating shots I have ever had,” the paper quoted Chambliss saying. “Thank goodness it worked out.”
And thank goodness Chambliss, who sits on the Senate Select Intelligence and Armed Services committees, didn’t have to suffer through the Democrats’ tortuous questions about those elusive weapons of mass destruction and whether the Bush administration manipulated the truth and misled Congress into supporting the war.

No mention of whether Chambliss’ golf handicap suffers from the old knee injury that kept him out of Vietnam. Chambliss received four draft deferments, one because of a knee injury. He then went on to accuse Max Cleland, who won a Silver Star in Vietnam before losing both legs and one arm in a grenade explosion, of being weak on defense. One Republican ad even compared Cleland to Osama bin Laden.

Needless to say, Cleland had seen a number of more "intimidating shots" than those at East Lake.

Also no word as to how many deferments Chambliss will seek of a real investigation into whether the Bush Administration knowingly misled the country in the lead-up to war.

Swift Boat Veterans for Republicans

It took more than a year, but the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth finally admitted it. They were an organization founded and designed to defeat fellow Vietnam combat veteran Senator John Kerry and reelect George Bush.

In an e-mail to subscribers SBVT founder John O’Neill wrote:
“As you know, I helped start the 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' during the 2004 election for one reason...;I knew from three decades of personal experience that John Kerry was a liar and a fraud who had betrayed the men he served with. And there was no way I was going sit idly by as John Kerry tried to become our "Commander-in-Chief". … But just like I knew I had to act when John Kerry was running for President, now we all must act to stop Bernie Sanders.”
Surprise! … John O’Neill wanted to elect George Bush.

It has been well-documented that O’Neill was a committed and long-time partisan with a personal grudge against Kerry. O’Neill and his allies made repeated allegations that were treated as credible by the mains€tream news media, despite the fact that they failed to provide a single scrap of documentary evidence for their claims. The United States Navy investigated and determined that there was no basis for their charges. Even after Kerry released his entire military record during the campaign, and re-released after the campaign, they stuck to their warped version of reality.

Incredibly, both the Bush campaign and O’Neill denied that they were a front for the president’s election campaign. O’Neill hired Republican consultants with ties to Bush and Rove, funded their organization with huge contributions from long-time Bush allies and leading Republican donors and even shared lawyers with the Bush campaign. However, O’Neill steadfastly insisted that he merely wanted to “get the truth out.” Like so much else about their organization, it was a lie, and now they’ve admitted it. In O’Neill’s own words, it was founded for “one reason” to stop John Kerry from becoming Commander in Chief.

“Duh!” should be the initial reaction. However, this has serious potential legal problems for O’Neill and company:

This means that the entire operation was illegal from the start, and that they raised and spent over $20 million illegally in support of George W. Bush. Since 1974, any group whose “major purpose” is to influence federal elections, and spends $1,000 or more to do so, must register with the FEC as a political committee and be subject to the contribution limits, source prohibitions and reporting requirements that apply to all political committees.

O'Neill still has complaints pending before the FEC, so maybe his frank admission will lead to a serious look at this group and exactly how involved the Bush White House and Republican party were in setting up, supporting and running this Bush front group.

Monday, November 07, 2005

What do Republicans say now?

Today we know that when Bush told the Congress, the Country and the World that we had to invade Iraq in order to prevent it from using weapons of mass destruction that it either had or was producing, he was wrong. And a growing number of accounts suggest that the administration either knew, or should have known that these claims were false.
Democrats are frequently asked whether they were misled by the Bush Administration. But few Republicans who aided and abetted the administration in making the case for war have been asked the same question. Here are just a few statements made by Republican Senators in the lead-up to the vote on authorizing the use of force in Iraq that repeated these claims, vouched for the Administrations bad conclusions and sometimes even went further than even the Bush Administration did. If these senators independently evaluated the intelligence available, then they should answer for their statements. And if they blindly relied on the Bush Administration, then they may wish to address whether they feel that they were misled into making the statements they did.
Senator Bill Frist (R-Tennessee): Iraq has chemical and biological weapons
"I personally don't feel weapons inspectors will make a difference," said Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). He said there is "growing evidence" pointing to Iraq's possession of biological and chemical arms. (The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, 9/5/02)
Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.): Endorsed Bush Intelligence
Roberts said the committee was getting "good analysis" from the CIA. (The Philadelphia Inquirer 10/5/02)

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona): Convinced that Saddam has WMD
Well, I've been convinced of that for a long period of time, as the evidence continues to mount, that Saddam Hussein is acquiring these weapons and is refusing ... ... to allow the weapons inspectors back in, which, by the way, is a Security Council resolution and part of the cease-fire agreement that brought about the end of the Gulf War in 1991. (CNN 9/12/02)
Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minnesota): Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destruction and Must Surrender Them
Pronouncing that "history will judge" the United States based on how it confronts Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Coleman said he supports a Congressional resolution giving Bush the authority to strike first against Iraq - unilaterally if necessary - if it does not relinquish weapons of mass destruction. (St. Cloud Times 9/25/02)
Senator James Inhofe (R- Oklahoma): Iraq has Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons
Let's look at this, Wolf. If it is true, and I believe it is, that Saddam Hussein has all three of the types, classes of weapons of mass destruction and if he is very, very close to having a missile that would deliver those to an American city, the president has to do something. So that's my feeling. (CNN 8/25/02)
Senator Richard Shelby (R- Alabama): Al Qaeda is in Iraq
There are some [Al Qaede] there, there are some in Baghdad. Lot of stuff we don't know, but we know there has been some affiliation in the past and some help in the past, and some of them are there. Some have gone to the north where the Kurds are, but there are some as we speak in Baghdad. (CNN Capital Gang 9/28/02)

Tom Coburn: A Five Letter Word for The Sound A Duck Makes

Last we heard from Senator Coburn, he was spending the confirmation hearing for Chief Justice John Roberts attempting to complete a crossword puzzle (and apparently, not doing very well).

He’s back. This time its comforting to know that Coburn will be lending his medical skills to read the mind of Judge Sam Alito. Here’s the exchange from Meet the Press yesterday:
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe as a physician you can tell whether a candidate for the Supreme Court is telling the truth?
SEN. COBURN: I think you can certainly tell when they're ill at ease with a subject and sometimes telling the truth or not. I think you can do that. I think you can do that--anybody can be trained to do that--by body language, respiratory avoidance responses. Yeah, I think you can.
MR. RUSSERT: And have you used those skills to make judgments like that?
SEN. COBURN: Mm-hm, I certainly have.
MR. RUSSERT: Has any--have you ever detected someone lying?
SEN. COBURN: Uh-huh, lots of times.
MR. RUSSERT: In your hearings.
MR. RUSSERT: Such as?
SEN. COBURN: Well , I'm not going to say that. You know, I'm--in lots of hearings that I've had on federal financial management where we're looking at the $100 billion that we found wasted far this year from 2004, I found lots of times when people were not truthful. Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: Based on your skills as a physician.
SEN. COBURN: Yeah. And then what you do is you go then look it up and see where the problem is and all of a sudden you find, wait, this isn't truthful.
If only he had used his special powers to tell us that Iraq really didn’t have WMD or that these guys were lying…