Sen. Levin dissembles

Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, appeared on Fox News today for an interview with Chris Wallace. Most of the discussion was about Iraq, but at the end Wallace questioned Levin on the deal regarding North Korea’s nuclear program produced by the six party talks.
Levin said that, while we need to know more about the deal, Bush appears to be on the right track, now that he’s finally adopted the Clinton administration’s approach. Wallace noted, however, that there is a major difference between the Bush approach and the Clinton approach, inasmuch as China is “fully engaged” this time.
Levin responded that “China was engaged before.” When Wallace pressed him on this point Levin said, “China supported some of the Clinton initiatives.” That may be true. But it was not a party to the agreed framework, which represents Clinton’s attempt to halt the North Korean nuclear program. By contrast, as Wallace pointed out, the current deal is one “that North Korea has made with China as well as the United State.” Thus, China isn’t just vaguely supporting initiatives this time; it’s a party to an agreement.
One can argue that China’s status as a party to the current deal is irrelevant, or (as I would) that it’s insufficient to make the deal worthwhile. But it’s not honest to refuse to acknowledge the indisputable factual diffenence between the 1994 deal and the current one that arises from China’s participation.
UPDATE: I did not mean to suggest that Levin’s dubious (or worse) pronouncements during the Fox interview are confined to what’s cited above. Let’s consider some of the others:

[Bush] said that because Bill Clinton had moved this ball a certain distance [on North Korea], that he was going to do something totally different. If Bill Clinton did it this way, Bush had to do it the opposite way.

Bush said no such thing; Levin is just making this up. There’s no evidence that Bush’s policy decisions on North Korea were the result of some general desire to do things differently from Clinton. To the extent Bush did things differently, surely it was because it became apparent that Clinton’s “agreed framework” had fallen apart.

I don’t think there’s support to cut off funds. I think that sends the wrong message to our troops. We’re going to support our troops.

Then why not permit debate and a vote on a resolution confirming that funds won’t be cut off? That way, the troops will receive what Levin concedes is the correct message, instead of the mixed (at best) signals being sent now. The decision not to have a vote wouldn’t have anything to do with the Democrats’ fear of their anti-war base, would it? Nah, that would be playing politics with our national security interests.

We ought to listen to the prime minister of Iraq who says he does not want American troops in Baghdad.

I don’t hear him saying that now. I hear him saying that the surge has been a “dazzling success” so far. Does Sen. Levin think we should listen to that?

Interestingly enough, while we’re being criticized at the White House for having this debate, Condi Rice over in Baghdad was using the fact that Congress is moving towards restricting the presence of American troops in her effort to put pressure on the Iraqi leaders to tell them yesterday in Baghdad hey, folks, you better get your political act together, because look, Congress is about to restrict in a number of possible ways the president in terms of American presence in Iraq. It’s interesting that finally they understand the power of what we are doing in the Congress.

Is Levin saying that he and his fellow Dems are part of a good cop – bad cop arrangement with the administration designed to achieve a common objective of victory? No, let’s not over-think this. He’s just saying whatever he thinks might sound good.

We ought to put aside politics. Seven Republicans did yesterday and voted the way that I think is absolutely essential. . .”

So those who vote the way Levin likes are putting aside politics, and those who support an unpopular effort are politically motivated. That’s pretty good coming from someone who can barely open his mouth without uttering false or misleading partisan talking points.


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