Tuesday, February 06, 2007

# Posted 10:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUSSERT DISMANTLES EDWARDS: Can a Democratic candidate who voted for the war now run against it? If Sunday morning was any indication, the answer is a definite 'no'. Edwards' strategy was to admit unequivocally that he was fundamentally wrong about "the most important vote [he] cast" during his six years in the Senate. But candor was not enough to rescue the former Senator from North Carolina.

The first question you have to answer once you admit you were wrong is "Why were you so wrong?" Edwards said WMD:
For the same reason a lot of people were wrong. You know, we—the intelligence information that we got was wrong. I mean, tragically wrong. On top of that I’d—beyond that, I went back to former Clinton administration officials who gave me sort of independent information about what they believed about what was happening with Saddam’s weapon—weapons programs. They were also wrong.
Edwards mentioned those same Clinton administraiton officials later on, as well. He made a clear decision not to insist that he was misled (passive voice) or that (active voice) the White House distorted the evidence.

Those are bad arguments for precisely the reasons Edwards pointed out: there was a bipartisan consensus on the (wrong) intelligence. But being misled is also the only way to shift blame from oneself to the White House. Instead, Edwards' position makes it seem like Bush himself read the intelligence correctly -- quite a liability if Edwards had to run, for example, against John McCain.

The next question a formerly pro-war candidate has to face is why certain Democrats, say Barack Obama, were making all the same arguments against the war back in 2002 that Edwards is now. Here is the quote from Obama, circa 2002, that Russert read aloud:
I know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military is a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
That's a quotation we're going to hear quite often between now and New Hampshire. And it really forces every anti-war primary voter to ask what Edwards can possibly offer that Obama doesn't.

But wait, it gets worse. Edwards wants us to believe that he supported the war because of WMD, but as Russert pointed out, Edwards explicitly refused to renounce his vote for the war as late as October 2004, when 1000 American soldiers were already dead. His explanation? None. He just dodged the question.

Personally, I would say that even this rather harsh summary hasn't done justice to Russert's cross-examination. It was probably the best perfomance I've seen him or anyone else give in well over a year. I say, watch the video or at least read the transcript.

But the real damage done on Sunday morning may not have been to John Edwards. It was to Hillary Clinton. She will find it even harder to answer all of the same questions Edwards was asked -- except for why she decided to repudiate her vote for the war. But once she does that, she'll have to explain why she waited more than four years to admit hear mistake, in comparison to Edwards' one and a half.

The real winner on Sunday morning was, of course, Barack Obama. As Russert demonstrated, it's not just the charisma Obama has. Just as importantly, he made the right call on the issue that has become most important to Democratic primary voters. And he can go into a general election without having to explain why he changed his mind about the most important issue of the day.

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(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

David, Why were you so wrong?
The usual reasons (as noted before on OxBlog). Believed the bipartisan consensus on WMD intelligence. Thought Saddam should be forced to comply with his commitments to disarm. Had more confidence in Rumsfeld and Bush just after Afghanistan. Believed that ending Saddam's brutalization of Iraq was important. Didn't expect Sunnis to use wholesale slaughter to provoke a civil war.

The real question: Was I wrong based on what was known at the time, or is it only hindsight that has made the case for the war's opponents?
Also see Nitin's post about the Edwards interview.
And why did it take you so long to admit you were wrong?
The real question: Was I wrong based on what was known at the time, or is it only hindsight that has made the case for the war's opponents?

What you thought was known at the time, and what Edwards thought was known at the time, WMD, complicity with AQ, ..., all turned out to be false. They further turned out to be fabrications. Hindsight is just another term for reality.

Were you wrong? No. But are you angry about being lied to?
I'm not sure it took me very long to admit anything. The WMD thing was obvious. The administration's incompetence led me, strangely enough, to vote for John Kerry (yecch) in 2004. And the Sunnis made their brutality known by then as well.

Now let me clarify, since I don't want the Anonymi to be disappointed. I have not before and am not now repudiating the position I took in 2003. My first comment above simply listed, as I have before on this blog, wrong analyses I have made.

I took a position in 2003 consistent with the knowledge I had and the principles I still stand for.

At the moment, I don't mind letting the critics gloat. The real question is where we go from here. Perhaps the Anonymi will explain what they recommend and why it is the least bad option for Iraq?

PS Hindsight is not reality. Hindsight is not 20/20. That's why historians so rarely agree about the past.

And there were no lies that determined my position on the war.
And there were no lies that determined my position on the war.

Chalabi was a fabricationist.
Curveball was a fabricationist.
Cheney committed treason in order to discredit his critic Wilson before the invasion.
... (The list is very long.)

Hindsight is not reality.

Yeah, I keeping falling on that one.

I don't mind letting the critics gloat.

Honestly, I'm not gloating. Hence the lack of name.

... what they recommend ...

1. Talk to Iran, Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

2. Tell them we are leaving in a month.

3. Recommend immediate partitioning. Immediate statehood for Kurdistan.

4. Cut off all funds for all contractors immediately.

5. Leave in a month.

6. No aid until stability is achieved. Maybe not even then. Trade should be enough.

and why it is the least bad option for Iraq?

1. Least expensive.
2. Fastest recovery for Iraq.
3. Closure for us.

Like Vietnam and Cambodia, it will get very bloody.

ps, I didn't write the 'why did it take so long' post, just the paraphrasing first post.
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