Bush is away, but Iraq attacks continue

Rumsfeld, Mehlman keep the spin alive.

Published November 15, 2005 7:34PM (EST)

George W. Bush is far off in Japan, but his surrogates back home are still working hard to turn the tables on critics of his administration's march to war. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld joined the fray today, insisting at a Pentagon press briefing that Bill Clinton and others in his administration also thought Saddam Hussein was a threat.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is circulating a compilation of video clips showing Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats talking tough about Iraq in the past. Bush said yesterday of his Democratic critics: "They spoke the truth then and they're speaking politics now."

Of course, what the Democrats are speaking now is the truth the Bush administration hid from them then -- all those doubts and questions about intelligence the administration passed along as if it were the undisputable word of God. So a video clip of Hillary Clinton explaining her support Bush on Iraq in 2002 doesn't show that the Democrats are being "dishonest" now, as the RNC claims today. It simply shows that Clinton, like a lot of Democrats, believed the story that the administration was peddling.

As it turns out, that story was false -- even if some administration officials may still believe it. Were the deceptions intentional? That's the question the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to be investigating, but it may still be a while before we hear an answer. Yesterday was the deadline for six members of the committee to report back on a plan for completing Phase II of their investigation into pre-war intelligence. But in a letter to Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Harry Ried, the three Democrats in that group say that they're "unable to provide an estimated completion date" for the investigation because a "substantial amount of work" remains to be done.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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