blogenlust
10.03.2004

Cheney = Nutcase


Who are we to argue with the Vice President of the United States?:
WARRENTON, Mo. -- The phrases vary. Some days, Vice President Dick Cheney says Saddam Hussein had "long-established" ties to Al Qaeda. Other days, he says the former Iraqi dictator "had a relationship" with the terrorist group. But the underlying message remains unchanged -- Cheney plants the idea that Hussein was allied with the group responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Although the extent of any relationship between Al Qaeda and Hussein has been widely disputed, Cheney proceeds with his contention with nary a nod toward such questions. In doing so, he draws a line from the war in Iraq, on which public opinion is divided, to the larger war on terrorism, for which President Bush wins greater support. "When voters look at Iraq as a stand-alone issue . . . it is a horrible situation for the president," said Charles Cook, a nonpartisan political analyst in Washington. "But when it is woven into the fabric of a global war on terrorism, people are more accepting of it as the price we have to pay." Cheney slips his reference to Hussein and Al Qaeda into his litany of Hussein's offenses: the regime's production and use of chemical weapons against enemies; support for the families of suicide bombers; and Iraq's defiance of various United Nations resolutions. Each has largely been established and is subject of little debate, with the exception of the tie to Al Qaeda. The bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks said it had found no evidence of a "collaborative relationship" between Hussein and the terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden. Its staff has said it had found "no credible evidence" that Iraq had cooperated with Al Qaeda in targeting the United States. To back up Cheney's contention of a "relationship" between Al Qaeda and Hussein, the vice president's aides point to the presence in pre-invasion Iraq of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born militant thought to be behind much of the insurgency in postwar Iraq. But although Zarqawi is widely thought to have had ties to bin Laden's group -- Cheney calls him "a senior Al Qaeda associate" -- the extent of his links to Hussein, if any, has never been established. [...] Surveys of Americans consistently have found large numbers who say Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, despite repeated declarations by a variety of investigators to the contrary. As recently as June, a Gallup Poll indicated that 44 percent of those surveyed said Hussein was personally tied to the terrorist strikes; 51 percent said he was not. A senior Republican who served in top White House positions during the Ford and Reagan administrations cited the Gallup findings in discussing Cheney's campaign comments on Al Qaeda and Hussein. Cheney, the senior Republican said, is "talking about something that is credible with the American people, despite the intelligence. And the intelligence community is so under attack that he can say whatever he wants." "What he gets out of it is making the case even stronger for why we went into Iraq, and it fits a pattern of what the American people want to believe," said the Republican, who requested anonymity because his comments could be interpreted as being critical of the vice president, with whom he has worked in the past.
If there is a God in heaven, He will have John Edwards hang Cheney with his own words during Tuesday's debate. It is ludicruous that Cheney can travel around the country and make such bunk claims even after they've been repeatedly disputed. The 44% of people in this country who still believe that Hussein had something to do with 9/11 must be responsible for their ignorance, but the VP should not be able to spout false claims about something so significant. Unless, of course, Cheney actually believes what he says, and if that is the case, it is a whole other problem. Tuesday should be interesting. Some people think that Cheney's "gravitas" will overwhelm the inexperienced Edwards. I don't think so. Cheney is one of the least popular politicians in the country and has zero personality. Edwards, on the other hand, is well-liked and very smart. He should be able to portray a stark contrast between himself and Cheney--one that is in his favor, too. This election is all about contrasts--confident vs petulant, gloom & doom vs optimism. You can decide which is which.