The Democrats may not be very good at winning elections or formulating and sticking to coherent poicies. They are, however, world class venters. They do much of their best venting in Senate Committee hearings. Usually, the venting has a policy veneer to it. But often one can’t help but wonder whether the underlying source of outrage is the fact that President Bush fares so well agaist them. How nice it would be if the Senate Democrats could simply hold a hearing at which they vented explicitly about the fact that they are constantly being out-flanked.
Richard Cohen offers a way to make this happen. President Bush has nominated his friend Karen Hughes to be Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. She must be confirmed by the Senate. And here’s the great part. Hughes used to advise President Bush about communications. Thus, Cohen asks, why not use her as a “target of opportunity” to attack the administration for “blowing smoke” at the American people?
I can think of a few reasons not to do so. First, Cohen presents no evidence that Hughes had anything to do with the practices Cohen complains about, and it’s clear that, with one exception, she could not have been responsible for them (one happened at the Department of Agriculture; the other occurred after Hughes had left the White House). Second, the one remaining practice (which has to do with preparing video news releases and packaging them as actual television news) was a tried-and-true technique of the Clinton administration. But why should the facts stand in the way of an opportunity to vent?
Cohen’s column would be an amusing and characteristically light-weight piece if he had left it there. But Cohen decided to blow some smoke of his own. Specifically, he claims that Vice President Cheney “lied” about Iraq’s nuclear capacity (again Cheney’s statements on this subject have nothing to do with Hughes). Cohen provides no specifics to support his attack on Cheney. The left’s case that Cheney lied about this issue has always rested on a statement he made during an interview with Tim Russert. We discussed that interview in great length here. During the course of the interview, Cheney stated that Iraq was “pursuing” nuclear weapons and “trying to produce” nuclear weapons, and that he disagreed with the IAEA’s claim that Iraq did not have a “nuclear program.” Then he made the statement that the left relies on to show that lied, namely that Saddam “has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” In the context of the interview, this statement can only be considered a slip of the tongue. Cheney clearly meant to say, as he said elsewhere in the same passage, that Saddam has reconstituted his nuclear program, a view that was supported by the record. A reconstituted program makes sense; a reconstituted weapon does not. Certainly Tim Russert understood this, as he did not react to or follow-up on what would have been an astonishing claim, had Cheney made it.
So, by all means, let’s haul Karen Hughes on the carpet.
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