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Daily Howler: 'Even Clinton said there were WMD!' The claim is irrelevant, but it persists--because of our liberal elites
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WHY IT PERSISTS! Even Clinton said there were WMD! The claim is irrelevant, but it persists—because of our liberal elites: // link // print // previous // next //

WHY IT PERSISTS: How inept is our current liberal elite? How hapless are modern liberals at handling even basic information—at framing even the most obvious message? To get an idea, let’s go back to John McCain’s statement on Thursday night’s Larry King Live:
KING (11/3/05): With Senator John McCain, author of Character is Destiny. Is the Senate going to have a full investigation of what led up to Iraq?

MCCAIN: Well, Larry, I think that we have investigations going on and we have had investigations. I was on a commission of weapons of mass destruction where we reached several conclusions, including the obvious one that there was a colossal intelligence failure but also that every intelligence agency in the world believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he did a pretty good job of convincing his own generals that he had them.

Other countries thought there were WMD! Why, even President Clinton said it! These ubiquitous talking-points drove David Brooks’ appalling New York Times column last Thursday. And yet, this talking-point—Even Clinton said there were weapons!—is completely irrelevant to the question of whether the Bush Admin lied us to war. The fact that this talking-point still exists—no, the fact that it’s seen and heard almost everywhere—helps us see how hopeless we have been at handling even basic info and framing even bone-simple messages. How inept are our liberal elites? The persistence of this irrelevant (but effective) talking-point surely lets us see.

Even Clinton said there were WMD! This claim, while accurate, is completely irrelevant to the question of whether Bush lied us to war. What follows are a few of the things Clinton and Democrats didn’t say in the run-up to war. Yet these are claims—starting in the fall of 02—which took us to war in Iraq:

1) President Clinton didn’t say: That Saddam could have a nuke within six months. That was the statement of Vice President Cheney—and it contradicted the state of the intelligence.

2) President Clinton didn’t say: That there was only one use for those aluminum tubes—that the tubes could only be used in nukes. That statement was made by Condoleezza Rice. It contradicted the state of the intelligence.

3) President Clinton didn’t say: That Iraq had unmanned aerial vehicles which it “could deliver biological weapons to its neighbors or, if transported, to other countries including the United States.” That clownish claim was made by Colin Powell in his presentation before the UN—the presentation which ended debate about the war. (In Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward drew a devastating picture of the way Powell assembled this report. Liberal elites ignored it, though. Reading books is just too gosh-darn hard.)

4) President Clinton didn’t say: That Iraq could fire up its chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes. That was President Bush, in September 2002—making the statement which George Tenet derided as “the 45-minute shit.” President Clinton wasn’t talking this “shit;” it was Bush who was talking it. (In Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward describes Tenet ridiculing Bush’s statement this way. Liberal elites ignored it.)

5) President Clinton didn’t say: That Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa. Whatever you’ve decided about this claim—we’d say it played an extremely small role in the run-up to war—it wasn’t Bill Clinton who made it.

6) And, of course, President Clinton didn’t say: That Iraq was involved in September 11. That was the Bush team, over and over. The claim was made to build the impression that Saddam was inclined to attack us. With those UAVs, for example. In as little as forty-five minutes.

The concept here isn’t all that tough. Yes, most people did believe that Iraq would have chemical or biological weapons. We’d assume that the Bush Admin actually thought this too.

But chemical and biological weapons weren’t a threat to the United States—so the Bush Admin began to pimp the idea that Saddam might also have nukes. The heavy pimping of the nukes began in August 2002—driven by blatant misstatements by Cheney, Rice and Bush, not by Clinton. At the same time, we heard that Saddam’s UAVs could deliver chem and bio to this country—and we heard that Saddam would surely do so if he could. (Just look at his role in September 11!) Bill Clinton didn’t say these things—these things were said by Bush/Cheney/Rice. And these were the claims, in the fall of 02, which actually took the nation to war. The claim that Saddam had WMD was not the claim which took us to war. It was the claims we’ve listed above—claims which were not made by Clinton.

The distinction here is unbelievably simple. A bright fourth-grader could probably make it. But Democratic and liberal elites have repeatedly failed to offer this point. In fact, Dems and libs have repeatedly gone on TV and gotten their brains beaten out on this topic. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/24/05. Prepare to avert your gaze in embarrassment.) Result? This utterly worthless, irrelevant point still helps drive the American discourse. Even the French thought Saddam had weapons! Even Clinton said there were WMD! These claims are irrelevant (if highly effective). But so what? Three years later, they persist—and drive our lives—because of our broken-down liberal elites. Empty, incapable, lazy, inept, stupid: These are just a few of the traits which have kept this worthless point in our lives, unrebutted on TV every dang night of the week..

HUMANS CAN’T GET DUMBER: Over the course of the past few years, we’ve charted the bloodshed when liberal spokesmen have gone on TV and made the following claim: Bush lied when he said there were WMD. We’ve linked you above to a three-part discussion, but the sheer stupidity reached its heights when Howard Dean did Meet the Press last May. Believe it or not, this did happen:

DEAN (5/22/05): I hate what the Republicans are doing to this country, I really do...I hate the dishonesty, you know, the idea that you'd put a program through Congress without telling people what it costs, I think that's wrong. Some of the things that the president said on our way into Iraq, they just weren't true, and I don't think that's right. So—

RUSSERT: Such as?

DEAN: Such as weapons of mass destruction, which we have all known about, but the—

RUSSERT: Well, you said there were weapons of mass destruction!

DEAN: I said I wasn't sure, but I said I thought there probably were. But the thing that really bothered me the most, which the 9-11 Commission said also wasn't true, is the insinuation that the president continues to make to this day that Osama bin Laden [sic] had something to do with supporting terrorists that attacked the United States...

Is there any earthly way to be dumber? Forget Clinton; Dean himself had said there were weapons. But then he criticized Bush’s “dishonesty” because the president had said the same thing! (Again, we’ll bet you dollars to donuts that Bush believed there would be chem and bio.) And when he was challenged on this obvious point, he simply changed the subject! In part, this is why the public has the low opinion of Dems we read about in today’s Post. (“One bright spot for the Republicans is the low regard in which many Americans hold the Democrats. The public sees the Democrats as disorganized, lacking in clear ideas or a positive alternative to the GOP agenda, and bereft of appealing leaders.” For once, the public is right.)

How can our spokesmen be so inept? That’s a question for the gods. But if you want to know why this talking-point persists, just look back at Howard Dean fumbling on Meet the Press just this May. He could have mentioned the aluminum tubes. He could have mentioned Cheney’s time-table. He could have laughed at the “45-minute shit.” Instead, he criticized Bush—for saying what he himself had said—and he looked like a hack in the process.

The distinction we have drawn above is the simplest f*cking distinction on earth. But for three years now, the distinction has proven much too hard for our liberal/Democrat spokesmen to handle. President Clinton said there were weapons! Even the French thought there were WMD! The irrelevant talking-point persists to this day because of our feckless tribe’s unending failures. On the other side, message machines churn out winning points. Our message machine? It lies silent.

IT NEVER STOPS: To hear Mark Shields bungle this point, just click here, then click on “RealAudio.” (We’ll post the transcript of this NewsHour exchange when it becomes available.) Even Clinton said there were WMD! This irrelevant point persists because our “spokesmen”—spokesmen like Shields—are lazy, inept, worthless, feckless.

VISIT OUR IRRELEVANT ARCHIVES: We’ve made these points many times in the past (see, for example, the link above). But then, nothing on earth is more pointless than trying to inform our liberal elites—a group of people who still won’t discuss how Bush got into the White House to begin with. (They know. They just don’t want to discuss it. After all, their social friends were involved.) And yes, that would be one of the reasons we’re moving on to other subjects. In the future, we’ll discuss the interests of low-income kids—safe in the knowledge that no elite “liberal” would waste his time on such a subject.