Tuesday, September 30, 2003


The GOP seems to have moved on from remarks made by U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy about Iraq. For a while, the entire party seemed to be writhing wild-eyed, frothing at the mouth, over Kennedy’s assertion Sept. 18 that the Iraq war “was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud.”

Now, President Bush happens to go to Texas a lot, so if it matters where the plan was made up, Texas is as good a guess as any. And anyone who doesn’t think Bush had made up his mind in January that we were attacking Iraq might want to, at the very least, check out that month’s State of the Union address. It’s also not so farfetched that Bush would have told fellow top Republicans. And, in fact, it’s undeniable war is good politically for the party in power.

And a war could reasonably be called a fraud if it was based on threats of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare in the hands of a man linked to 9/11 perpetrators Al Qaeda ... but results in no nuclear, biological or chemical weapons or meaningful links to Al Qaeda or 9/11. Especially if defectors, U.N. weapons inspectors, CIA agents and special envoys to Africa offered intelligence that the war was unnecessary, but were brushed aside.

Anyway, here were some Republican reactions to Kennedy’s words, with my snippy comments:

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens: “Anybody who has been to as many funerals as I have of Colorado soldiers who've died serving their country in Afghanistan and Iraq has to in fact find what Senator Kennedy said today to be extremely disturbing and at significant variance with the facts.” (Owens could attend a thousand more funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq, but they still wouldn’t have anything to do with what Kennedy said -- except that it would be a thousand more people who died for no other reason than that Bush wanted a war.)

U.S. Sen John Warner, of Virginia: “I think some of those comments have no place in the dialogue of the Congress of the United States when it is our mission specifically to protect the men and women of the armed forces and their families.” (Another complete non sequitur, if that’s not too redundant, but it should be pointed out that a good way to protect the men and women of the armed forces is not to send them off on a pointless war of choice.)

Vermont Gov. James Douglas: “To undermine or to impugn the motives of the president and all those who voted to do this and call it a political game or calculation I think is totally out of bounds, totally inappropriate.” (No comment needed.)

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: “I hope that we will not fall into the temptation to establish political policy or take political shots based on what we find out after the fact.” (No, by all means, let’s not say anything based on new information. In fact, why find out anything ever? I think we know enough stuff now, and we can just keep talking about that.)

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay: “A new low ... (comments) as disgusting as they are false ... it's disturbing that Democrats have spewed more hateful rhetoric at President Bush than they ever did at Saddam Hussein.” (No comment needed.)

White House spokesman Scott McClellan: Kennedy's comment “obscures the real policy debate, which is how we make America safer in a post-Sept. 11 world. Sept. 11 taught us we need to confront new threats before they reach our shores.” (Actually, Kennedy’s comments were dead on concerning how to make America safer in a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world, since Bush painted Iraq as a threat, which he wasn’t, and since the war has arguably made America less safe by enraging, and creating, Islamists and terrorists.)

And my favorite, yet another classic non sequitur:

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, of Texas. “I have great respect for Senator Kennedy, but I think that is a slur on my home state. I want to remind the people of America that Texas is a patriotic state.” (Good thing Kennedy didn’t bring up Waco or the assassination of President Kennedy! Because we all know that if something happens in a state, the entire state’s to blame for it. A fine attempt by Hutchison to smear Kennedy by implying he smeared Texas.)

The comments of Boston Herald columnist Cosmo Macero Jr. were far more measured and reasonable. Although he compared Kennedy’s words with treason (“Kennedy has rolled a live grenade into the tent,” Macero wrote on Sept. 26, alluding to an attack in late March in which a U.S. Army soldier was accused of doing just that to fellow soldiers), Macero used his column to chide Kennedy for making statements that put military funding for his home state at risk.

“The Soldier Systems Center, otherwise known as Natick Labs, was already vulnerable to the latest Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure process -- for which criteria will be established by February,” Macero wrote. “And the fallout from this folly may not be limited to Natick, either. Hanscom Air Force Base -- which generates $3.2 billion for the regional economy and employs 3,500 -- is the focus of a major public/private drive to steer Pentagon officials away from closing or downsizing the Bedford base.”

Macero also quotes state officials in despair over Kennedy’s comments (“He is deliberately provoking the Pentagon and Bush administration at a time when we should be courting them to help save the state's economy,” one says of Kennedy).

But Kennedy’s been around too long to have spoken recklessly. My guess: He knows what he’s doing, possibly saying for the military what the military can’t say itself, possibly just because he has so much power in the Senate or political capital in general that he knows he can save military spending in Massachusetts no matter what the fallout -- but he’s not going to clue in Republican state officials whose boss twits him about taking “political shots based on what we find out after the fact.”

The military doesn’t like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Perhaps the brass are finding Bush’s hubris, for which U.S. soldiers are paying the price, just as tiresome and unwelcome.

Also, although base-closing criteria will be set in February, final recommendations don’t come until May 2005, and by then there’s likely to be a new administration in place. The president may even be a certain general who seems as unhappy with Bush, and the Iraq war, as Kennedy.

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