Thursday, January 15, 2004

Telling Ourselves the Old Story 

Ted Kennedy gave a great speech yesterday ("America, Iraq and Presidential Leadership") for the Center for American Progress. It goes through the whole narrative with wonderful concision and emphasis. Nothing new here--but public figures need constantly to be working out new and better ways to tell this story to the public.
In public, the Administration continued to deny that the President had made the decision to actually go to war. But the election timetable was clearly driving the marketing of the product. The Administration insisted that Congress vote to authorize the war before it adjourned for the November elections. Why? Because the debate in Congress would distract attention from the troubled economy and the troubled effort to capture bin Laden. The strategy was to focus on Iraq, and do so in a way that would divide the Congress. And it worked.

To keep the pressure on, President Bush spoke in Cincinnati on Iraq's nuclear weapons program, just three days before the Congressional vote. He emphasized the ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda. He emphasized Saddam's access to weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons. He said, "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed... Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists."

The scare tactics worked. Congress voted to authorize the use of force in October 2002. Republicans voted almost unanimously for war, and kept control of the House in the election in November. Democrats were deeply divided and lost their majority in the Senate. The Iraq card had been played successfully. The White House now had control of both houses of Congress as well.
Full text.


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