President Bush has been saying that the Democrats’ current claims about his manipulation of prewar intelligence are inconsistent with their own statements before the war. Ryan Lizza claims that Bush is being “dishonest.”
Lizza starts by relying on a Washington Post hit piece on Bush by Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus that the White House has, to my mind, already effectively debunked.
Lizza then argues that Bush has taken quotes out of context. Bush quoted Sen. Carl Levin as saying, “The war against terrorism will not be finished as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.” Lizza points out that Bush omitted Levin’s next sentence: “That does not mean he is the next target.” Levin went on to argue that he shouldn’t be. Lizza concludes: “In other words, Levin’s full quote shows exactly the opposite of what Bush was trying to say it showed. Levin was laying out the case against attacking Iraq, arguing presciently that there was unfinished work in Afghanistan, that war in Iraq could damage alliances, and specifically cautioning against targeting Iraq absent hard evidence of Saddam’s WMDS or his role in September 11. It’s ludicrous to argue, as Bush did Monday, that Carl Levin ‘reached the same conclusion’ on Iraq as Bush. Levin didn’t even vote for the war resolution.”
It seems to me that Lizza has omitted some context, too, doubtless because he doesn’t see its relevance. Here’s the full sentence Bush spoke: “Leaders in my administration and members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence on Iraq, and reached the same conclusion: Saddam Hussein was a threat.”
Levin may have differed with Bush on the magnitude of or proper response to that threat, and those differences may in part have been based on different readings of the intelligence. But Levin did reach the conclusion Bush attributes to him. And the quote that Bush uses from Levin–about how the war on terrorism won’t be over until Saddam Hussein is gone–is excellent evidence on this point.
I think a very similar defense can be made of the Harry Reid quote that Lizza charges Bush with taking out of context.