January 30, 2004
POLITICS: That's Debatable!
The Washington Post offers a partial transcript from last night's Democratic debate. Let's have a little fun with some choice quotes, focusing mainly on the two principal candidates and that wacky funster, The Most General Wesley Clark:
BROKAW: You saw the defense -- you saw the National Intelligence Estimate, Senator Edwards, as a member of the Intelligence Committee. Did you believe it when you saw it? And was that the basis for your vote, which you enthusiastically talked about when you made the vote to authorize war against Iraq?
EDWARDS: Well, it wasn't just the National Intelligence Estimate, it was a whole -- it was actually two or three years of sitting in briefings and receiving information from the Intelligence Committee, not only about the weapons issue, which is what Howard just talked about, but also about the atrocities that Saddam was committing against his own people, gassing Kurdish children in northern Iraq.
Nice dodge. But Edwards was very emphatic at the time that WMD was his main reason for supporting the war.
KERRY: I will tell you, and I think General Clark will share this, that those who've been to war know that the words "last resort" are important. And I intend to hold him accountable in this election, because the American people's pockets are being picked to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, and our troops are at greater risk than they needed to be.
Hmm, pockets being picked . . . by our troops in the field? If he's talking about Halliburton, hundreds of billions?
CLARK: We need an international organization. We need to be able to bring every nation in that wants to help. . . . But I want to go back to the question you raised a minute ago about Iraq, because I heard from the Pentagon two weeks after 9/11 that the administration was determined to go into Iraq, whether or not there was any connection with 9/11; that they were going to use it as a pretext for invading Iraq.
And that was common knowledge in Washington. There should never have been a congressional authorization for the president to have a blank check to take this country to war, because everybody knew that's what he intended to do. And they knew what the timetable was. It was a politically motivated timetable to go in the 30th of March, just like this 30th of June date.
We've got to change this government.
And I thought he was just trying to change this Administration. This is a lot of foolishness crammed into a short space: Isn't the point to get help from nations who currently don't want to help? Is he ever going to stop peddling these vague conspiracy theories? And didn't the war start on March 19?
BROKAW: Senator Kerry, let me ask you a question. Robert Kagan, who writes about these issues a great deal from the Carnegie Institute for Peace, has written recently that Europeans believe that the Bush administration has exaggerated the threat of terrorism, and the Bush administration believes that the Europeans simply don't get it.
Who is right?
KERRY: I think it's somewhere in between. I think that there has been an exaggeration and there has been a refocusing...
BROKAW: Where has the exaggeration been in the threat on terrorism?
KERRY: Well, 45 minutes deployment of weapons of mass destruction, number one.
Aerial vehicles to be able to deliver materials of mass destruction, number two.
I mean, I -- nuclear weapons, number three.
I could run a long list of clear misleading, clear exaggeration. The linkage to Al Qaida, number four.
That said, they are really misleading all of America, Tom, in a profound way. The war on terror is less -- it is occasionally military, and it will be, and it will continue to be for a long time. And we will need the best-trained and the most well-equipped and the most capable military, such as we have today.
But it's primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world -- the very thing this administration is worst at. And most importantly, the war on terror is also an engagement in the Middle East economically, socially, culturally, in a way that we haven't embraced, because otherwise we're inviting a clash of civilizations.
He's a slippery one, that Kerry - he's playing the "it's a law enforcement issue" card, but leaving himself an out, as always.
BROKAW: Was there an inadequate response to terrorism during President Clinton's term?
* * *
CLARK: I will tell you this, Tom. Here's what we did. We always recognized that there was a threat of terrorism. And we began in 1996, with Khobar Towers, to really work on the defensive, the anti-terrorism measures. And as the commander in Europe, we really strengthened our security. And that was my focus, the security of the military forces over there.
In '98, when Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa against the United States, there should have been, at that point, measures to go and get Osama bin Laden. I'm told that there were such measures that were attempted to be undertaken. Why they didn't work, what they are, and so forth, I don't know.
Doesn't that just say it all? Clark has no idea why giving up after lobbing a few missiles at bin Laden and missing didn't work. For a guy who blames Bush for not preventing September 11, that's an awfully agnostic response.
EDWARDS: Can I just go back a moment ago -- to a question you asked just a moment ago? You asked, I believe, Senator Kerry earlier whether there's an exaggeration of the threat of the war on terrorism.
It's just hard for me to see how you can say there's an exaggeration when thousands of people lost their lives on September the 11th.
I think the problem here is the administration is not doing the things, number one, that need to be done to keep this country safe, both here and abroad.
And number two, the president actually has to be able to do two things at once. This president thinks his presidency is only about the war on terrorism, only about national security. Those things are critical for a commander in chief. The president of the United States has to actually be able to walk and chew chewing gum at the same time, has to be able to do two things at the same time.
Maybe Kerry's not so slippery after all. Edwards nailed him but good on that one. Now, if he can teach President Bush to walk and chew gum at the same time . . .
DEAN: You know, I think in some ways, unfortunately, the terrorists have already won. We have an act that allows American citizens to be held without knowing what they're charged with and without seeing a lawyer. To my knowledge, that hasn't happened since 1798, with the Alien and Sedition Acts.
We can't do that, Tom. We can't -- I think none of us mind being searched and have our shaving kits rummaged through in the airlines and all that. But if we start giving up our fundamental liberties as Americans because terrorists attacked us, then we have a big problem.
I honestly don't believe that John Ashcroft and George Bush and the members of the Federalist Society view the Constitution the way mainstream American attorneys or the way most American citizens do.
Mmm, there's an optimistic campaign slogan: "the terrorists have already won"! And that crack about the Federalists . . . you talkin' to me, Howard?
KERRY: I will be a president who's on the side of workers in this country to provide the American worker with a fair playing field, to provide the American worker with a fair shot to be able to compete. Because that's not what they have today.
They have a president who's selling their jobs out to large corporations, whether it's the drug companies or the oil industry, who's not fighting for real people and the lives they lead on a daily basis. . . .
We need a president who's going to fight for trade that's fair. We need a president who's going to close the loopholes of these corporations that have a reward, Tom, to take the jobs overseas.
I'm going to go to the tax code that's gone from 14 pages to 17,000 pages, and we're going to take out any benefit, any reward, any incentive, for any Benedict Arnold company or CEO to take American jobs overseas and stick the American people with the bill. And that's what we need to do.
Yup, we don't want large corporations, um, buying jobs from the president?
Funny to see Howard Dean, who after September 11, said that we would have to "rethink Civil Liberties" and discussed things like limiting the ability to speak against the government criticizing the Patriot Act and John Kerry, who with Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Sandy Berger, Nancy Pelosi and everyone else who saw the intelligence. said that we had to deal with Iraq's WMDs criticizing a president who agrees with their (then) position.
Dean's PATRIOT Act comment was also wrong as a statement of law.