Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Straight from the horse's mouth:

Q Yesterday we were told that Karl Rove had no role in it --


Q -- have you talked to Karl and do you have confidence in him --

THE PRESIDENT: Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing.

And again I repeat, you know, Washington is a town where there's all kinds of allegations. You've heard much of the allegations. And if people have got solid information, please come forward with it. And that would be people inside the information who are the so-called anonymous sources, or people outside the information -- outside the administration. And we can clarify this thing very quickly if people who have got solid evidence would come forward and speak out. And I would hope they would.

And then we'll get to the bottom of this and move on. But I want to tell you something -- leaks of classified information are a bad thing. And we've had them -- there's too much leaking in Washington. That's just the way it is. And we've had leaks out of the administrative branch, had leaks out of the legislative branch, and out of the executive branch and the legislative branch, and I've spoken out consistently against them and I want to know who the leakers are.

So, in other words, maybe he has, maybe he hasn't, and no way he's telling you. I'd still maintain that the only other way they could be so sure it wasn't Rove would be if they do know themselves who did the leaking. Either way, he sure as heck doesn't want to talk about Rove, though.

From The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer, "Ted Kennedy, Losing It ":

(1) Imminent threat? How many times does one have to repeat this: When Bush laid out the case for the war in his 2003 State of the Union address, he deliberately denied imminent threat. "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent," he explained, but this president disagreed. The entire assumption underlying the Bush Doctrine of preemption is that Sept. 11 taught us that we live in a world where the enemy is too stealthy, his capacity for destruction too great and the margin for error too small to permit the traditional luxury of waiting for imminence. Indeed, in the U.N. speech one year ago that launched us on the road to war, Bush spoke not of a "clear and present danger," the traditional formulation of imminence, but of a "grave and gathering danger," an obvious allusion to Churchill's two-decade-long "gathering storm."

So that just makes it all fine and dandy if there had been no imminent threat, then. Bush gets to go ahead and set his own standards for war, by Krauthammer's lights.

(3) Good politically? There are a host of criticisms one might level at Bush's decision to go to war -- that it was arrogant, miscalculated, disdainful of allies, lacking in foresight, perhaps even contrary to just-war principles. I happen not to agree with these criticisms. But they can be reasonably and honorably made. What cannot be reasonably and honorably charged, however, is that Bush went to war for political advantage.

On the contrary, this war was an enormous -- and blindingly obvious -- political risk. It was clear that if America failed either in the conduct of the war itself (a bloody Battle of Baghdad, for example) or in the aftermath (a failure of reconstruction), Bush would be deeply wounded politically.

And indeed he has been. The unsettled outcome and mounting casualties have so damaged his standing that his poll ratings are now at their lowest ever.

A year ago Bush was riding high. He decided nonetheless to put at risk the great political advantage he had gained as a successful post-9/11 leader -- an advantage made obvious by the Republican gains in last year's elections -- to go after Saddam Hussein.

Politically, the war promised nothing but downside. There was no great popular pressure to go to war. Indeed, millions took to the streets to demonstrate against it, both at home and abroad. Bush launched the war nonetheless, in spite of the political jeopardy to which it exposed him, for the simple reason that he believed, as did Tony Blair, that it had to be done.

You can say he made a misjudgment. You can say he picked the wrong enemy. You can say almost anything about this war, but to say that he fought it for political advantage is absurd. The possibilities for disaster were real and many: house-to-house combat in Baghdad, thousands of possible casualties, a chemical attack on our troops (which is why they were ordered into those dangerously bulky and hot protective suits on the road to Baghdad). We were expecting oil fires, terrorist attacks and all manner of calamities. This is a way to boost political ratings?

Whatever your (and history's) verdict on the war, it is undeniable that it was an act of singular presidential leadership. And more than that, it was an act of political courage. George Bush wagered his presidency on a war he thought necessary for national security -- a war that could very obviously and very easily have been his political undoing. And it might yet be.

To accuse Bush of going to war for political advantage is not just disgraceful. It so flies in the face of the facts that it can only be said to be unhinged from reality. Kennedy's rant reflects the Democrats' blinding Bush-hatred, and marks its passage from partisanship to pathology.