The Niger uranium story continues to dominate the news; I believe every liberal pundit is crowing about it in this morning’s newspapers. The Administration continues to dribble out defenses, arguing in the alternative with what seems like a new line each day. But it’s too late now; the Niger story is the first officially certified “scandal” of this Administration, never mind that what Bush said in the State of the Union was true, and nothing he does now will have any effect.
The most effective defense of the Administration has come not from a public official, but from Frank Gaffney, who is, as far as I can tell, the first person to point out the obvious:
“Somewhere, probably in Iraq, Saddam Hussein is gloating. He can only be gratified by the feeding frenzy of recriminations, second-guessing and political power plays that are currently assailing his nemeses: U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“The hysteria surrounding charges that faulty British intelligence about one aspect of Saddam’s nuclear weapons program–and a Bush State of the Union allusion thereto–may even be emboldening Saddam to believe the unimaginable: He might yet survive (physically and perhaps politically) the current pair of U.S. and British leaders, just as he did their predecessors in the wake of Operation Desert Storm
“It is hard to believe that Americans of any political persuasion would actually want to gladden the heart of so vile a tyrant as Saddam Hussein, let alone encourage those who seek his return to power.”
Well, that is where I part company with Mr. Gaffney. No doubt there are some Democratic critics who simply haven’t thought about the fact that their undermining of the Administration may have the effect of impeding the effort to construct a functioning democracy in Iraq. But the logical corollary of “Bush lied!”–a proposition to which the Democratic Party as a whole is now committed–is that “Saddam was innocent!” So why balk at actions that may facilitate his return?
I think that most of the partisan Democrats who are now attacking President Bush are well aware that their attacks increase the likelihood that chaos will dominate in Iraq; that the surviving Baathists and al Qaeda members will be emboldened; that more American servicemen will be killed; that the ultimate purposes of America’s intervention in Iraq will fail; and–less likely but still possible–that Saddam will return to power. All of these developments would be good for the Democratic Party in the 2004 elections. To assume that the Administration’s critics are somehow unaware of, and uninfluenced by, this fact is to ignore a great deal of recent history.
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