Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Man Who Would Be Secretary
It is amazing the hysteria that has built up regarding the supposed "obsession" Bush had with Iraq from Day 1 of his presidency. Guys like Paul O'Neill and now Richard Clarke throw red meat to the dogs that keep this meme afloat. Bush wanted to avenge his father and take out Saddam! Bush surrounded himself with Rumsfeld, neocons and Iraq haters so that they could begin the war planning right from the start!

Sadly, this line of thinking looks quite shaky after a look back at the 2000 election aftermath. One thing that stands out is the peculiar unmention of Rumsfeld's name during the time that Bush was kicking around names for Sec. Defense. The Associated Press back on Dec 16, 2000 lists Gov Tom Ridge, Sen. John McCain, Richard Armitage and Paul Wolfowitz (who ended up as deputy defense secretaries), former Sen. Sam Nunn (D) and Sen. Dan Coats as names under consideration. Indeed, as the process moved along, Sen Dan Coats became the frontrunner for the top defense job. One report indicates that Sen. Coats and then president-elect Bush did not click during meetings to discuss the defense job and that Bush turned away from choosing the front runner. A closer look reveals that this was due to a growing controversy over Coats' conservative opinions regarding gays in the military. So you would think, if the conspiracy theories about Bush wanting to attack Iraq from day one of his presidency were true, then Sen. Coats (as the guy who was the frontrunner for the Defense job) thepublic record would offer examples of statements of bellicosity towards Iraq. However, the greatest ire Coats' expressed regarding Iraq came during Clinton's 1998 bombing campaign of Saddam's regime. Coats' wrath was not directed at Saddam but rather Clinton for having used the bombing of Iraq as a "Wag the Dog" smokescreen to deflect from the growing Lewinsky scandal.

Why is any of this important? Well, when conspiracists point to the grainy footage of Rumsfeld's meeting with Saddam as some significant proof of a Bush White House interested in silencing the "dictator they built up in the first place", it would help their cause if Rumsfeld was the guy Bush intended to have serve him all along. But since Rumsfeld was for the most part the last choice for the Defense post, it erodes that assertion greatly. O'Neill, Clarke and others (Kerry, Kennedy, et. al.) are rabid with the claim that this administration was about going after Iraq from Day One, and that Bush was going to honor his father and family name by taking down the dictator. Well, if that were the case then certainly Bush would have made sure that the key players to help him with that cause were assembled front and center. Sen. Dan Coats' was a hair width away from becoming Sec. Defense. He was turned away from at the last minute because his nomination had the potential of stirring up controversy. Controversy that Bush was already weathering with another nominee: Sen. John Ashcroft (for Attorney General). Had Ashcroft not been nominated, Coats may have remained as Defense pick (in effect being the bone tossed to the social conservatives). If that did happen, what does that then do to the conspiracy that Bush was itching to go after Iraq right from the beginning? If Rumsfeld is supposedly a key player in the anti-Iraq cabal, why was he so lightly regarded during the time that nominees were being sought?


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