Jonah Goldberg

Jimmy Carter never used the word "malaise" in his "malaise speech." Abraham Lincoln never said, "God must have loved the common people, he made so many of them."

And George W. Bush never said that the threat from Iraq was "imminent."

He never said it. Seriously. Not once.

Teams of rhetoric inspectors have been pouring over Bush's comments, utterances, speeches and gesticulations for about as long as we've been looking for WMD in Iraq and, to date, nobody has found a shred of proof that the president - or anybody in his Cabinet - ever once said Iraq or Saddam Hussein posed an "imminent" threat to the United States.

In fact, one of the only good finds on this score actually says the complete opposite. In President Bush's State of the Union Address last January, he said:

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late."

This is important because the favorite talking point of Democrats and liberal pundits right now is that the president "lied" when he said that Iraq posed an "imminent threat."

Just the other day Sen. Jay Rockefeller said on Fox News Sunday, "What I keep having to remind myself is that we went to war in Iraq based upon an imminent threat which was being caused by weapons of mass destruction." And New York Times columnist Paul Krugman hyperventilated: "The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history - worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra."

Ted Kennedy offered the most infamous summary: "There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership, that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud."

It would make things so much easier to say that all of the war's critics are as intellectually dishonest as Kennedy or Krugman. Unfortunately for the war's defenders, but fortunately for the republic, not everyone is willing to stoop to their level.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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