I guess the “Bush lied” or “I was fooled” line is not working, so the Democrats are trotting out a new meme:
Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator from South Dakota, remembers the exchange vividly.
The time was September 2002. The place was the White House, at a meeting in which President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney pressed congressional leaders for a quick vote on a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.
But Daschle, who as Senate majority leader controlled the chamber’s schedule, recalled recently that he asked Bush to delay the vote until after the impending midterm election.
“I asked directly if we could delay this so we could depoliticize it. I said: ‘Mr. President, I know this is urgent, but why the rush? Why do we have to do this now?’ He looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: ‘We just have to do this now.’ ”
Daschle’s account, which White House officials said they could not confirm or deny, highlights a crucial factor that has drawn little attention amid rising controversy over the congressional vote that authorized the war in Iraq. The recent partisan dispute has focused almost entirely on the intelligence information legislators had as they cast their votes. But the debate may have been shaped as much by when Congress voted as by what it knew.
Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, did not call for a vote authorizing the Persian Gulf War until after the 1990 midterm election. But the vote paving the way for the second war with Iraq came in mid-October of 2002 — at the height of an election campaign in which Republicans were systematically portraying Democrats as weak on national security.
I guess the new line is “I only voted for the war for political considerations!”
That ought to go over well, and really rally the anti-war base.
*** Update ***
Regarding Bush 41’s decision to ‘delay’ the vote to ‘depoliticize’ it, John Henke notes:
On August 6, 1990, President Bush deployed “U.S. armed forces to defend Saudi Arabia in an operation named Operation Desert Shield.”
President George HW Bush didn’t “put off the debate”. He’d already decided: “in October 1990 [Bush] settled on military action if Iraq’s troops had not left Kuwait by the 15 January 1991 deadline.”
Read the whole thing.
I am still not sure how the Democrats think “We only voted for the war because we thought we wouldn’t get re-elected otherwise” is somehow the sort of campaign slogan that inspires confidence. “Vote Daschle! I’m too gutless to vote my conscience!”
That seems like a real winner, guys.