Once again the Democratic leadership is giddy about yet another smoking gun "proving" what a liar President Bush is. This time, the Senate Intelligence Committee has issued two "Phase II" reports concerning pre-war intelligence on Iraq that supposedly cast doubt on the administration's claim there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
This has Democrats dancing in the streets, kind of like they were with news of a delay in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, which they gleefully attributed to Republican racism.
It is not enough for Republicans to answer merely that, "this is old news." They need to respond forcefully and indignantly. The Democrats are claiming, once again, that President Bush lied about a life and death matter: alleging a Saddam/Osama connection to build public support for attacking Iraq. Republicans dare not take this charge lightly.
First, let's not overlook that Republicans don't have a real majority on the committee, as several of the GOP committee members are decidedly antiwar and the staffer for one of them -- Sen. Chuck Hagel -- is reputedly a strong Democrat partisan, having worked on Sen. Kerry's presidential campaign. The Democrats have continually politicized the committee, especially with this latest release. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said, "I have some real concern with the final version of this report. Very simply, the conclusions are misleading and are not supported by the facts." Roberts added, "Overall, I am disappointed that some of my colleagues have twisted the facts to reach conclusions that support other agendas."
Next, let's not forget the Democrats' deception on this issue. They have repeatedly said President Bush claimed not only that there was a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda, but that Saddam was connected to the 9/11 attacks.
Bush did not say that, but exactly the opposite. As I point out in my new book, "Bankrupt," President Bush said, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September 11." I quote Secretary Rice as making the same point. As usual, on the subject of lying about Iraq, the Democratic leadership has much explaining to do.
But what about the relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda? "Fox News Sunday's" Chris Wallace asked Secretary Rice whether she was a aware of a pre-war Defense Intelligence Agency report concluding that "Iraq is unlikely to have provided bin Laden any useful CB -- that's chemical or biological -- knowledge or assistance." Wallace asked, "Didn't you and the president ignore intelligence that contradicted your case?"
While I doubt Rice's answer will get much "mainstream" media play, it is persuasive. She said, "There are intelligence reports and conflicting intelligence reports all the time. That's why we have an intelligence system that brings those together into a unified assessment by the intelligence community ... That particular report I don't remember seeing. But there are often conflicting intelligence reports."
In "Bankrupt," I quote CIA Director George Tenet affirming that intelligence is an inexact science and that there were definitely dissenting opinions on matters contained in the National Intelligence Estimate. But the agencies made the best judgments they could based on the best intelligence information available, and the president not only had a right, but a duty to rely on the considered judgment of our intelligence experts.
Secretary Rice said the best intelligence pointed to strong ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda "going back for a decade." I cite in "Bankrupt" a good deal of that evidence, and it is powerful.
Chairman Roberts said that these latest reports offer little new information, reiterating that our intelligence was flawed.
But to admit our intelligence was flawed is a far cry from saying that those who relied on it were lying.
The Bush administration was not guilty of cherry picking data to support its case for war. It is the Democrats who are now cherry picking information designed to discredit the president who correctly relied on our intelligence agencies concerning the Saddam/Al Qaeda connection and Iraqi WMD. As Chairman Roberts said, "Instead of focusing on the implementation of reforms and on current and future threats, Intelligence Committee Democrats remain obsessed with looking backwards On behalf of national security, the Committee needs to and must extricate itself from what has become a time-consuming and unnecessary effort and return to forward-looking oversight on the nations Intelligence Community.
As we just passed the fifth anniversary of 9/11, it is time for Democrats to put the security interests of their country over the political interests of their party. But all signs are they will do anything to win in November, even if it means continuing to undermine national security and the war.