Gore Unglued 2: Bush Lied

Al Gore’s at it again, although this time with less frothing at the mouth.

Reuters — Gore: Bush Lied About al-Qaida, Iraq Link

Al Gore on Thursday accused President Bush of lying about a link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein and said the president refuses to back down from that position to avoid political fallout.

“They dare not admit the truth lest they look like complete fools for launching our country into a reckless, discretionary war against a nation that posed no immediate threat to us whatsoever,” Gore, the former vice president who lost the presidency to Bush in 2000, said during a speech at Georgetown University Law Center.

Republicans responded that the Democrat’s assertions were false and out of touch.

Ken Mehlman, Bush’s re-election campaign chairman, admonished Gore for delivering “another gravely false attack” and the Republican National Committee contended he was out of touch.

“Al Gore’s history of denial of the threat of terrorism is no less dangerous today in his role as John Kerry’s surrogate than it was in the 1990s in his role as vice president, a time when Osama bin Laden was declaring war on the United States five different times,” RNC spokesman Jim Dyke said in a statement.

Mostly sidelined from the presidential race, Gore emerges every few months with another stinging review of the Bush administration. The former vice president, who has grown irate and bellowed in previous appearances, took a more tempered but highly sarcastic tone on Thursday.

Drudge has a transcript of Gore’s remarks. A key excerpt:

A little over a year ago, when we launched the war against this second country, Iraq, President Bush repeatedly gave our people the clear impression that Iraq was an ally and partner to the terrorist group that attacked us, al Qaeda, and not only provided a geographic base for them but was also close to providing them weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs. But now the extensive independent investigation by the bipartisan commission formed to study the 9/11 attacks has just reported that there was no meaningful relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda of any kind. And, of course, over the course of this past year we had previously found out that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So now, the President and the Vice President are arguing with this commission, and they are insisting that the commission is wrong and they are right, and that there actually was a working co-operation between Iraq and al Qaeda.

The problem for the President is that he doesn’t have any credible evidence to support his claim, and yet, in spite of that, he persists in making that claim vigorously. So I would like to pause for a moment to address the curious question of why President Bush continues to make this claim that most people know is wrong. And I think it’s particularly important because it is closely connected to the questions of constitutional power with which I began this speech, and will profoundly affect how that power is distributed among our three branches of government.

The problem, of course, is that Gore himself was saying much the same thing when he was vice president and, indeed, at least as far back as his first run for president in 1992.

The New American Century website details The Clinton Administration’s Public Case Against Saddam Hussein.

Even the World Socialist Website notes that Gore strongly backed going to war with Iraq over two years ago, on 12 February 2002

Gore declared, “I also support the president’s stated goals in the next phases of the war against terrorism as he laid them out in the State of the Union.” The 2000 Democratic presidential candidate thus backed the worldwide campaign of military force, covert provocations and diplomatic bullying that is being waged in the name of the “war on terrorism.” He endorsed Bush’s shift in the focus of this campaign from terrorist groups to governments allegedly engaged in the development of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

Gore said, “There is a clear case that one of these governments in particular represents a virulent threat in a class by itself: Iraq. As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table. To my way of thinking, the real question is not the principle of the thing, but of making sure that this time we will finish the matter on our terms.”

The former vice president recalled that he was among a small group of Democratic senators who backed the first President Bush in his decision to dispatch a huge army to the Middle East and go to war against Iraq over Kuwait. His only criticism of the Persian Gulf War was that it did not go far enough and was ended with Saddam Hussein still in power.

***

He concluded: “When all is said and done, I hope that when the people of our country next return the White House for a time to the Democratic Party, our leadership then will be big enough to salute the present administration for what it will have done that is wise and good. And to build upon it forthrightly.”

In all fairness to Gore, he did advocate a more cautious approach to the war in a separate speech later in the month. Still later that month, the RNC website compiled a rather devastating list of Gore “flip-flops” on Iraq.

The truly bizarre thing is that, when one goes back and looks at Gore’s speeches on Iraq during the buildup to war, much of what he said was vindicated. There are legitimate policy criticisms that one can make about the way the war and, especially, the aftermath have been managed. There are some legitimate nits to pick with the way the case for war was made. That the administration “lied” about Saddam’s weapons programs or his links to terrorism is not only demonstrably false but much weaker than those other arguments.

UPDATE: Reactions around the blogosphere:

  • Jeff Goldstein: “Al Gore is still not president. Thank the f#@^ing lord.”
  • Oliver Willis: “Gore Exposes More Bush Lies.”
  • Ed Driscoll: “[D]oesn’t [sound] like the actions of a party that’s trying to recapture America’s goodwill, does it?”
  • McQ wonders why Democrats like Nazi references so much.
  • Big Trunk: “At the least, someone really needs to ask if the Clinton team continues to stand with their Secretary of Defense in justifying the al-Shifa strike.”
  • Joe Gandleman assesses Gore from a ventriloquist’s vantagepoint.
  • Charles Johnson has an amusing PhotoShop of the event.
FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Donnie says:

    Holy cow, Oliver’s getting eaten alive in his comments on that post.

  2. capt joe says:

    Hey Paul,

    Whay aren’t you over there helping poor Oliver out. He’s taking a beating. It’s Rodney King all over again 😉