September 6, 2002
WAR: WHERE WERE YOU ON OCTOBER 11, 2000?
Well, I was in the middle of a trial and working late at the office, so I never did get to see the second Bush-Gore debate. All anyone seems to remember is that Gore was too quiet and agreeable and Bush didn't like nation-building. But I looked back, to see what was said in that foreign-policy-dominated debate about terrorism and about Iraq.
On the first: zip. zilch. nada. Never came up. In fact, in the three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, terrorism was never discussed - the only times "terrorists" or "terrorism" appear in the transcripts are in brief laundry lists by Gore and Lieberman (once each) of Gore's and the Clinton Administration's accomplishments. Amazing.
But moving to Iraq, there are some interesting things in this exchange, in terms of the thinking at the time on both sides:
"MR. LEHRER: -- how you would handle Middle East policy. Is there any difference?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I haven't heard a big difference right -- in the last few exchanges.
GOV. BUSH: Well, I think -- it's hard to tell. I think that -- you know, I would hope to be able to convince people I could handle the Iraqi situation better. I mean, we don't --
MR. LEHRER: With Saddam Hussein, you mean?
GOV. BUSH: Yes, and --
MR. LEHRER: You could get him out of there?
GOV. BUSH: I'd like to, of course, and I presume this administration would as well. But we don't know -- there's no inspectors now in Iraq. The coalition that was in place isn't as strong as it used to be. He is a danger; we don't want him fishing in troubled waters in the Middle East. And it's going to be hard to -- it's going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him.
MR. LEHRER: Do you feel that is a failure of the Clinton administration?
GOV. BUSH: I do.
MR. LEHRER: Vice President?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, when I -- when I got to be a part of the current administration, it was right after I was one of the few members of my political party to support former President Bush in the Persian Gulf War Resolution. And at the end of that war, for whatever reasons, it was not finished in a way that removed Saddam Hussein from power. I know there are all kinds of circumstances and explanations, but the fact is that that's the situation that was left when I got there. And we have maintained the sanctions. Now, I want to go further. I want to give robust support to the groups that are trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein. And I know there are allegations that they're too weak to do it, but that's what they said about the forces that were opposing Milosevic in Serbia. And you know, the policy of enforcing sanctions against Serbia has just resulted in a spectacular victory for democracy just in the past week. And it seems to me that having taken so long to see the sanctions work there, building upon the policy of containment that was successful over a much longer period of time against the former Soviet Union and the Communist Bloc, it seems a little early to declare that we should give up on the sanctions. I -- I know the governor is not necessarily saying that, but you know, all of these flights that have come in, all of them have been in accordance with the sanctions regime, I'm told, except for three, where they notified. And they're trying to break out of the box, there's no question about it. I don't think they should be allowed to.
MR. LEHRER: Are you -- did he correct -- did he state your position correctly? You're not calling for eliminating the sanctions, are you?
GOV. BUSH: No, of course not. Absolutely not. I want them to be tougher."
NAVEL-GAZING POSTSCRIPT: This is the post that got linked by Andrew Sullivan (fourth post down), thus launching my site traffic and giving me, at least temporarily, a Sullivan Number of One.