SAME OLD SAME OLD! Cheney used Zarqawi to justify the war. And Russert gave Cheney a pass: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2006
SAME OLD SAME OLD: Dick Cheney surrendered a lot of old ground in yesterdays session with Tim Russert. In the following sequence, for example, Cheney largely walked away from two time-honored claims:
RUSSERT (9/10/06): All right. Now the president has been asked, "What did Iraq have to do with the attack on the World Trade Center?" and he said, Nothing." Do you agree with that?To the maximum extent—no, not completely—Cheney agreed: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. And the alleged meeting between Mohamed Atta and Iraqi officials in Prague really didnt occur.
But Cheney kept making one potent claim—largely because Russert let him. As the conversation continued, Cheney argued that there had been an historic relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda—a relationship which justified the war:
RUSSERT (continuing directly): Then why, in the lead-up to the war, was there the constant linkage between Iraq and al-Qaeda?From that point on, Cheney argued that this historic relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda justified the war in Iraq. Lets make two points about this claim.
First, the claim is exceptionally amorphous. At the present time, for example, the United States and North Korea have a relationship. But that relationship is antagonistic—and so was the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, according to the high-profile Senate Intelligence Committee report which was released just this Friday. Heres the start of Jonathan Weismans report in Saturdays Post—a report which topped the papers front page:
WEISMAN (9/9/06): A declassified report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence revealed that U.S. intelligence analysts were strongly disputing the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda while senior Bush administration officials were publicly asserting those links to justify invading Iraq.Yes, you can call that a relationship. But according to the Senate report, it was a hostile relationship—the kind of the relationship which exists between potential captive and potential captor. As described in the Senate report, it wasnt the kind of relationship that would have led to attacks on this country. It wasnt the kind of relationship that would have justified war.
Saddam was trying to capture Zarqawi, the Senate report said. But look at what Cheney went on to argue, rather convincingly, without any specific challenge from Russert. More specifically, just look at whose name he kept citing:
CHENEY: You've got Iraq and al-Qaeda, testimony from the director of CIA that there was indeed a relationship, Zarqawi in Baghdad, etc. Then the third—For the rest of the interview, Cheney was allowed to argue that Zarqawis presence in Baghdad still helps explain the need for the war. The previous day, that claim had been batted aside in the Post—in paragraphs 1 and 2, at the top of page one. But Russert never challenged Cheney about Zarqawi. What would Cheney have said if challenged? Who knows? Five years from now, Russert will get around to asking about this matter, and well find out what Cheney says then.
In his modest book, Big Russ & Me, Russert admitted that hes always exceptionally well prepared for his interviews. According to Russert, its just one part of the superior values instilled in him by his superior, working-class Buffalo background. (These days, he jets to Nantucket to write about it.) Yesterday, with Cheneys numbers in the tank, Russert challenged the veep on many past statements. But here was a new apparent howler, contradicting a new, high-profile report. If you read page one of Saturdays Post, you saw the apparent problem with Cheneys remarks. But in a bit of that same old same old, Russert gave Cheney a pass on this point—and let Cheney make a strong argument.
THIS TIME WE MEAN IT: Did Virginia clear up all those bogus test scores? Our series on educational experts continues tomorrow. For Parts 1 and 2, just click here. And dont forget—click here as well.