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November 14, 2005

Jay Rockefeller: I'm Not Responsible For How I Voted On The Iraq War

Chris Wallace politely posed some very hard questions to Jay Rockefeller yesterday, and Rockefeller came off looking pretty badly.

WALLACE: Senator Rockefeller, the President says that Democratic critics, like you, looked at pre-war intelligence and came to the same conclusion that he did. In fact, looking back at the speech that you gave in October of 2002 in which you authorized the use of force, you went further than the President ever did. Let's watch.

SEN. ROCKEFELLER (October 10, 2002): "I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat, but I also believe that after September 11th, that question is increasingly outdated."

WALLACE: Now, the President never said that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat. As you saw, you did say that. If anyone hyped the intelligence, isn't it Jay Rockefeller?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No. The – I mean, this question is asked a thousand times and I'll be happy to answer it a thousand times.... Now, the intelligence that they had and the intelligence that we had were probably different. We didn't get the Presidential Daily Briefs. We got only a finished product, a finished product, a consensual view of the intelligence community, which does not allow for agencies like in the case of the aluminum tubes, the Department of Energy said these aren't thick enough to handle nuclear power. They left that out and went ahead with they have aluminum tubes and they're going to develop nuclear power.

WALLACE: Senator, you're quite right. You didn't get the Presidential Daily Brief or the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief. You got the National Intelligence Estimate. But the Silberman Commission, a Presidential commission that looked into this, did get copies of those briefs, and they say that they were, if anything, even more alarmist, even less nuanced than the intelligence you saw, and yet you, not the President, said that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat.

Rockefeller dodges the question here, simply repeating he never got the President's Daily Brief.

WALLACE: Senator Rockefeller, I want to play another clip from your 2002 speech authorizing the use of force, this time specifically on the question of Saddam's nuclear program. Here it is.

SEN. ROCKEFELLER (October 10, 2002): "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons. And will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years and he could have it earlier."

WALLACE: Now, by that point, Senator, you had read the National Intelligence Estimate, correct?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: In fact, there were only six people in the Senate who did, and I was one of them. I'm sure Pat was another.

WALLACE: Okay, but you had read that, and now we've read a declassified…

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: But Chris, let's a...

WALLACE: Can I just ask my question sir, and then you can answer as you choose. That report indicated there was an agreement – a disagreement among analysts about the nuclear program. The State Department had a lot more doubts than the CIA did about whether he was pursuing a nuclear program. You never mentioned those doubts. You came to the same conclusion the President did.

...

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Chris, there's always the same conversation. You know it was not the Congress that sent 135,000 or 150,000 troops.

WALLACE: But you voted, sir, and aren't you responsible for your vote?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No.

WALLACE: You're not?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No. I'm responsible for my vote, but I'd appreciate it if you'd get serious about this subject, with all due respect. We authorized him 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 150,000 troops or 135,000 troops. It was his decision made probably two days after 9/11 that he was going to invade Iraq. That we did not have a part of, and, yes, we had bad intelligence, and when we learned about it, I went down to the floor and said I would never have voted for this thing.

WALLACE: My only point sir, and I am trying to be serious about it, is as I understand Phase Two, the question is based on the intelligence you had, what were the statements you made? You had the National Intelligence Estimate which expressed doubts about Saddam's nuclear program, and yet you said he had a nuclear program. The President did the same thing.

The points here are so simple it takes active dishonesty to pretend missing them. Wallace asks Rockefeller, repeatedly, if your own conclusions were made in good faith, how can you say the President's were not?

We've been asking them this for two years now. Actually, longer than that. They want to insist that their own conclusions were erroneous but honest, but that the President's were deliberately dishonest, despite the fact that they were based on the same intelligence.

They always change the question in the middle of the argument (as Juan Williams did later) to noting that the President made the decision to go to war, which Clinton didn't, and which Democrats in Congress didn't. But that's not the question they themselves are asking.

The Democrats may ask if that decision was ill-advised; certainly that's fair game. But the entire point of this exercise is their attempt to prove the President came to that decision in bad faith, and rallied the country to the cause through deliberate, knowing lies. And yet, in attempting to argue that the President lied, they change the topic from "statements" to "decisions" at the critical point of their argument.

If the President lied, and the Democrats feel they can prove that, why do they always have to change the topic away from his actual statements when pressed on this point?


More: Clinton's strike on the Sudanese aspirin-factory was apparently based on "twisted intelligence" linking ibuprofin to the relief of chronic back-pain.


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posted by Ace at 04:23 PM

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