Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Honesty Is the Best Policy, But It's Not for Everyone 

E.J. Dionne has been much-praised for pointing out that President Bush, in his rush to war, took advantage of the fact that Democrats are a cowardly, superstitious lot:
There is a great missing element in the argument over whether the administration manipulated the facts. Neither side wants to talk about the context in which Bush won a blank check from Congress to invade Iraq. He doesn't want us to remember that he injected the war debate into the 2002 midterm election campaign for partisan purposes, and he doesn't want to acknowledge that he used the post-Sept. 11 mood to do all he could to intimidate Democrats from raising questions more of them should have raised.

The big difference between our current president and his father is that the first President Bush put off the debate over the Persian Gulf War until after the 1990 midterm elections. The result was one of most substantive and honest foreign policy debates Congress has ever seen, and a unified nation. The first President Bush was scrupulous about keeping petty partisanship out of the discussion.

The current President Bush did the opposite. He pressured Congress for a vote before the 2002 election, and the war resolution passed in October.
All of which is largely true, but we must take issue with the notion that the debate over Gulf War I was paradigmatically "honest." The Senate approved Bush's declaration of war by a narrow five-vote margin. Anyone care to bet that the extremely dramatic, extremely fictitious testimony of the nonexistent "Nurse Nariyah" -- in real life, a Kuwaiti ambassador's daughter coached by the DC PR firm of Hill & Knowlton to sell Congress a cock-and-bull story about Iraqi soldiers dumping babies out of incubators -- didn't sway a couple or three votes?

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