America: Three Tough Questions

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(No one is asking President George “Mission Accomplished� Bush and other politicos the tough questions).

Many have accused the mainstream media of being too soft on the Bush Administration.

I have often watched in frustration as “talking heads� from all of the major networks allowed Republican guests to repeat the latest party catchphrase over and over without answering any substantive questions. In fact, many times there were no substantive questions asked by the moderator. They often seemed to be more facilitator than moderator. One particular Republican senator got away with using the phrase “Cut and run� 5 times during a 2-minute interview (I counted).

The perceived pass that Meet the Press, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Face the Nation, Chris Matthews and CNN gave the Republicans angered me, not because I’m anti-Republican, but because a well-informed electorate is the best protection for democracy. Tough questions need to be asked of any party that rules Congress, the Senate and The White House, if the interest of the American people is to be protected.

Then it hit me. Why am I upset at the “talking heads� for not holding the Bush Administration accountable, when the Democrats won’t ask the tough, obvious questions themselves? If you’re a Democrat, you might recall how during the 2000 election, Al Gore stayed on the defensive, forced to respond to the oft-repeated charge of being unfamiliar with the truth. John Kerry didn’t start speaking out until it was too late. The Republicans had already successfully labeled Kerry “flip-flopper�.

Both Gore and Kerry ignored the example set by the last Democrat since Truman to be elected to a two-year term, Bill Clinton. Clinton understood that Republican accusations had to be challenged quickly, loudly and firmly. The “kinder and gentler� approach employed by Gore and Kerry gave them both the appearance of being “soft and unpresidential�.

Furthermore, Gore, Kerry and the rest of the Democrats never demanded that the Republicans substantiate their accusations or challenged them to answer tough, obvious questions that would dispel most of their rhetoric. Here are a few questions I’d like to see asked: If Saddam Hussein was contained, as both Rice and Powell already acknowledged in July and February of 2001, respectively, why did we invade Iraq?�

On 7/29/2001, Condoleezza Rice was asked about sanctions against Iraq during an interview on CNN. Her response was as follows: “But in terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let's remember that his country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.�

Then Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell made a similar statement in February of 2001 at a news conference in Cairo. Mr. Powell stated that, “He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.�

The administration has stated that they never claimed that Hussein had anything to do with 9/11. What happened in those few months to suddenly make Hussein a big enough threat that we had to invade Iraq? I’ve never heard that question asked, not from a political talk show host or a Democrat. Why was the Office of Special Plans (OSP) installed in the Pentagon?

The OSP, which existed from September 2002, to June 2003, was a Pentagon unit created by Donald Rumsfeld and led by Douglas Feith, to control the dissemination of intelligence on Iraq. President Bush has always held to the notion that he made his decision to invade Iraq after September 11, 2001. He also claims that the decision was based on the best intelligence available at the time.

According to former CIA officer Larry C. Johnson, OSP was "dangerous for US national security and a threat to world peace. [The OSP] lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam. It's a group of ideologues with pre-determined notions of truth and reality. They take bits of intelligence to support their agenda and ignore anything contrary.�

Sound familiar? Richard Clarke, the country’s foremost national security expert that served presidents Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Clinton, said that President Bush pulled him aside after a briefing on 9/11 and told him to find a connection to Iraq. When Clarke told the president that there was no connection, he was ordered to find one.
Bush’s former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said that the president sought to invade Iraq from the beginning of his presidency. O’Neill also served under presidents Nixon and Ford.

Nothing in either Clarke’s or O’Neill’s past suggest that they are left-wing operatives, impulsive liars, or disloyal flip-floppers. When you combine the creation of OSP, Clarke’s testimony under oath and O’Neill’s revelations, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that President Bush and his administration have created the truths that circulate back to the president as well as to members of Congress and the Senate. Controlling the information that gets to the president gives them plausible denial when that information turns out to be untrue.

In all fairness, I have heard this mentioned…once. Howard Dean briefly mentioned that the administration had fixed the intelligence on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. I haven’t heard mention of it since.

When did it become a virtue for everyone one in the same party to say and think the same way? “Were fighting them there, so we don’t have to fight them here�, “Cut and run�, “Stay the course�. Democrats are often criticized for not having a unified message. I, for one, don’t expect my democratic senator from Maryland to always think and vote the way as the democratic senator from Wyoming. I do expect the votes from the lawmakers that represent my state to reflect the best interest of its citizens.

We now hear stories of Republicans that felt bullied by the current administration for years. Are they to be rewarded for voting party unity over conscious? The Republicans’ stated strategy for the 2006 elections has been to focus on state issues. One would have to believe the President’s agenda was always in line with all Republican’s state agendas to not see a conflict there.

Until the Democrats step up and make this administration, the media and themselves accountable, we should not expect answers to the tough questions that need to be asked. For that matter, we shouldn’t even expect to have tough questions asked.

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