Never apologize. Never explain. Never concede. Many politicians–and many Homo sapiens–live and die by these words. But the Bush clan has emblazoned them onto the family crescent. Bush has had a good run of late: US forces nabbed Saddam Hussein, Libyan ruler Moammar Qadaffi declared he would voluntarily abandon his WMD programs, the US economy grew at a high rate this past quarter. All of this has contributed to a Bush bubble, and political commentators are once again diminishing the chances of the Democratic presidential nominee, whomever it will be.
But at the moment Bush’s political fortunes are on the rise, more evidence has emerged showing that he deserves less respect than ever. Take the case of those missing weapons of mass destruction. Before the war, Bush said there was “no doubt” Hussein had them. In the months following the fall of Baghdad–as no such weapons were discovered–Bush and his crew continued to insist that Bush had been right to say Hussein was neck-deep in actual WMDs. Then in the fall, chief weapons hunter David Kay reported that his team had found evidence of possible weapons programs in Iraq. (Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has argued that the evidence is not conclusive that the labs cited by Kay were used for WMD research.) Bush and his aides pointed to Kay’s report as proof they had been right all along, even though there is an obvious distinction between weapons and weapons programs. And when asked if the administration was backing away from its previous assertions about the presence of weapons (not programs) in Iraq, Bush officials said no. They suggested that Kay needed more time to find the proof. (The Bush crowd has been far more patient with him than they were with the UN inspectors.)
Now Bush–attempting to shift the terms of the debate in his favor–says it did not matter whether or not Iraq possessed weapons before the invasion. In a recent interview, ABC News’ Diane Sawyer asked Bush, “Fifty percent of the American people have said that they think the administration exaggerated the evidence going into the war with Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, connection to terrorism. Are the American people wrong, misguided?” Bush replied, “No, the intelligence I operated on was good, sound intelligence.” That was a non-responsive but untruthful reply, for the House and Senate intelligence committees (both led by Republicans) and Kay himself have each definitively stated that the prewar intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs was loaded with uncertainties. Sawyer continued to press Bush about his prewar statements on WMDs, and he refused to directly address the question, repeatedly asserting that Saddam Hussein had been a “threat.” And then he referred to Kay’s discovery of a supposed “weapons program” to defend himself. But when Sawyer noted that Bush and other administration officials had “stated as a hard fact that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that [Hussein] could move to acquire those weapons,” Bush countered, “What’s the difference?…The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger.”