A futile call for reason

Matt Miller, a former Clinton administration official, shares his former boss’s disgust with the over-the-top approach of Democrats to Iraq. Miller’s opening could have been written by one of the Power Line crew, or a reader like Stan Brown: “Poor Democrats! They’ve been driven so mad by George W. Bush that on a day of unambiguously good news – when Odai and Qusai Hussein were killed by U.S. forces – one normally sensible Senate aide moaned to me that ‘they’re using Odai and Qusai to bury the real news!’ The news in question? That top National Security Council aide Stephen Hadley had apologized for letting those now infamous 16 words about Iraq’s hunt for uranium in Niger slip into the State of the Union.”
Miller isn’t impressed by Nigergate: “For starters, those 16 words (citing British suspicions on Iraqi activity) for which Bush staffers keep apologizing were literally true. Tony Blair said so again himself the other day. It’s heartening to see the White House so off balance that it feels obliged to apologize for factually accurate statements, but that doesn’t seem a trend on which Democrats can stake much long-term hope. Next, no matter how sorry George Tenet and Stephen Hadley are, the fact remains: We did not go to war with Iraq because the Brits thought Saddam had recently tried to get uranium from Niger. We went because of Saddam’s pattern of behavior since 1991. We fought because every civilized nation and American president knew Saddam had chemical and biological weapons and was pursuing nuclear weapons. We fought because each time we thought we knew what Saddam had been up to on nuclear weaponry, defectors later told us he was further along than we’d suspected. We fought because after 9/11 these dynamics seemed too risky not to act on at some point, especially when Saddam had given up $180 billion in oil revenue via sanctions rather than come clean – hardly the behavior of a madman with nothing to hide.” Again, I couldn’t have said it better.
Miller is convinced that the Democratic carping about alleged intelligence failures will “boomerang,” especailly if indisputable proof of Saddam’s WMD eventually emerges, as he thinks it will. Miller wants the Democrats to concentrate on domestic issues, North Korea, and Bush’s inability to obtain international support for the war in Iraq.
The approach urged by Clinton and Miller is probably the smart play. If the economy doesn’t go in the tank and the situation in Iraq doesn’t deteriorate, the Democrats probably cannot capture the White House with either approach. However, the more moderate approach might prevent 2004 from being disaster, as Bob Dole’s listless moderate-conservative campaign may have prevented a rout of congressional Republicans in 1996. In the end, though, the debate over Democratic tactics seems academic. The Democratic approach is being driven by the inflammatory utterances of presidential hopefuls who must make them to appeal to the radical, activist half of the party. This dynamic renders futile Miller’s call for reason and moderation.


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