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The "Everybody does it" defense on Fox News Sunday

Reported by Chrish - November 13, 2005

What appeared to be a balanced debate between Senators pat Roberts (R-KS) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) on Fox News Sunday 11/13/05 was anything but. Note the difference in tone and substance of the questions asked of the guests.

Seeking to diminish the importance of the ongoing debate over the veracity of the statements made by senior officials selling the war, host Chris Wallace asked Rockefeller "Pre-war intelligence was a big issue in the last campaign, widely debated. George Bush won that. Election. There are now 150,000 troops in Iraq. Is it really useful to go back over what Dick Cheney or someone else said in 2002?"

Comment: That is such a right-wing talking point, and typical of the moral/legal relativism we see from Republicans today.

Rockefeller replied in essence that it absolutely is, because if in fact intelligence was shaped or distorted it's a really bad thing that we should not repeat.

Wallace turned to Roberts and said, "Big if, but if there's any indication the Bush administration misled this country into war, isn't that always a legitimate issue?"

To no one's surprise, Roberts said yes. But, he added, there have been reports that state there was no manipulation or pressure. Wallace says that those findings apply to the analysts being coerced; what about what the administration did with the intelligence. Roberts says thay felt national security was at risk and they took us to war. A lot of the current discussion is a rehash which he says will be addressed in Phase II. Wallace interrupts to ask Roberts when that will be completed. Well, "we want to get it right. We started it clear last December February we had a lot of other things that were going on. We kept working on it, we've achieved agreement in the committee, and so we'd hoped thet we would do it, Jay, before we would leave this session, but we all agredd last week, let's get this thing right so that we could put the question that you (points at Wallace) raised to bed."

Wallace is satisfied with that non-answer-cum-excuse and turns to Rockefeller to pose the most important talking point of the week: Democratic critics, like Rockefeller, saw the same intelligence that Bush did and came to the same conclusion. He refers to remarks made by Rockefeller and shows the first clip of Rockefeller. saying he viewed Iraq as an imminent threat.

Wallace says Bush never used those words but Jay did, so isn't Rockefeller guilty of hyping the war? Rockefeller says no and gladly reiterates what he has been saying: he told the heads of state of Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan in January 2002 (on a private trip) that it was his view that Bush had made up his mind to go into Iraq, and that was a predetermined, set course which had taken shape shortly after 9/11. The intelligence that Senators received was "a finished product, a consensual view of the intelligence community". Wallace stipulates that Rockefeller got only the NIE, National Intelligence Estimate, but the Silverman Commission (appointed by Bush) found that the NIE was even more alarmist than the Presidential Daily Briefs and the Senior Executive Intelligence Briefs. Rockefeller rebuts that the commission was expressly forbidden to look at the USE of the intelligence, whether it was massaged to support the already-made decision to attack Iraq, but Wallaces chooses to refocus on whether the NIE was more alarming, less nuanced than the PDBs. Rockefeller replies that he doesn't know as he's never seen the PDBs, but the point is it was wrong, and the question is why was it wrong. No, that's not the question, says Wallace. The question here is, did the president make statements in bad faith, or did, in good faith, or did he hype, did he cherrypick?"

Comment: Another crucial Republican talking point. I have suspected for years now that plausible deniability would be Bush's out. He is a salesman, a cheerleader, a frontman for people making all the decisions behind the scenes. If he misled the American people because he was misled by his advisors he should fire them all and resign in disgrace.

Wallace asks Roberts if it is a legitimate concern, that Senators did not get the same reports and intelligence as Bush.

To no one's surprise, Roberts said yes. But, he added, in his view the intel wasn't that different. He says (for the second time in this segment) that there was a world-wide intelligence failure. Because of this failure, he says "We don't accept this intelligence at face value anymore. We get into pre-emptive oversight and do digging in regards to our hard targets. That's the difference between then and now."

Wallace then puts Rockefeller on the defensive again, playing the second clip from comments made in 2002, these regarding Saddam Hussein's supposedly active nuclear weapons programs. Ascertaining that by then rockefeller had read the NIE, which Wallace says contained disagreements between analysts. Wallace states that Rockefeller still came to the same conclusion as Bush.

Rockefeller restates that he would not have voted for the authorization had he known then what he knows now. He insists that it is Bush who sent the 135,000-150,000 troops in, it was his call, and the Senate only voted to "authorize him (Bush) to continue working with the United Nations, and then, if that failed, authorized him to use force, to enforce the sanctions. We did not send !50,000 troops...it was his decision, made probably 2 days after 9/11, that he was going to invade Iraq. That we did not have a part of."

Wallace says that Rockefeller et al had similar intelligence, including doubts expressed by some analysts, and came to the same conclusion as Bush. He turns to Roberts and says "I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I get the feeling you think this is a waste of time."

Roberts said that after UNSCOM, everybody thought Saddam was going to reconstitute his WMDs. Everybody thought, he reiterates.. But "we did vote for regime change, we did vote to go to war, and we continue to vote on appropriations to conduct that war. So there is responsibility among members of Congress, regardless of what they said back then and the criticism now, and I have to agree with (Bush) that it's 20/20 hindsight through a rearview mirror that's a little cracked and a little partisan along the lines in that mirror."

Wallaces abruptly changes the subject, giving Roberts the last words: partisan and cracked.

Comment: Most of us who have opposed this war since before its inception have no patience for the excuse-making of ANY Senators of either party who voted to authorize Bush to invade Iraq. They have blood on their soft manicured hands. That said, I found the tone of the interview to be softballs for Roberts and a grilling of Rockefeller.

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