Kathleen Parker

Between polls and pols, it's hard to keep a firm grip on reality.

Polls, for instance, show that the majority of Americans consider the war against Iraq to have been justified without clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

A majority (64 percent) don't believe that the Bush administration deliberately misled the country, according to the latest Gallup figures. Also, a more recent Harris poll found that "a majority of Americans feel good about the war" and 55 percent believe what they were told about WMD prior to the war.

Bush opponents, meanwhile -a majority of whom seem to be running for president -have ramped up speculation that the Bush administration may have cooked the data and purposely misled the public.

Notably, on Wednesday, presidential candidate John Kerry threw down his hair blower and more or less called Bush a liar.

"He misled every one of us," said Kerry. "I will not let him off the hook throughout this campaign with respect to America's credibility and credibility to me because if he lied, he lied to me personally."

I'm all for credibility and exposing liars, but let's whoa-down just a minute and try to remember that until 30 seconds ago, most everybody -including Kerry, the previous administration, the U.N. Security Council and even apparently Saddam himself -believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. For a collection of relevant quotes, read National Review Editor Rich Lowry's June 3rd column on Townhall.com.

Today's absence of WMD is matched only by an absence of memory.

Kerry's own remarks to the U.S. Senate on Feb. 12, 1998, and recorded in the Congressional Record plainly reflect his belief that Saddam was committed to developing WMD, was in defiance of U.N. demands to disarm and posed a threat to his neighbors.

Yet, suddenly, to judge by the political rhetoric, Bush made the whole thing up. The truth, which falls short of riveting sound byte, is that we don't know what happened to the weapons. We may find them in Iraq or stashed elsewhere; we may discover that our intelligence was flawed. Either case demands our urgent attention. Bring on the congressional investigation.

In the meantime, however, turning WMD into a political rallying point is a dangerous strategy for Bush challengers. Here's why: Americans who live in the real world -and who will vote come 2004 -are smarter than politicians in love with their own spin.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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