- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2003

The White House said yesterday that Capitol Hill Democrats — nearly half of whom supported using force to disarm Iraq — are now playing politics and trying to pretend they had doubts all along about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program.”The case against Saddam Hussein and his regime was solid and compelling,” said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. “There was never any discussion about whether or not Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or a weapons of mass destruction program until recently.”Democrats, particularly liberals pursuing the presidency in 2004, have berated President Bush recently about a now-discredited piece of intelligence that said Saddam recently had sought to obtain uranium from Niger.But many of those same lawmakers had supported the president’s move to disarm Saddam, just as they had backed similar actions by President Clinton.”You do have to raise the question about certain members of Congress now who are trying to rewrite history,” Mr. McClellan said. “The last thing anyone should do is politicize this issue by rewriting history. There are some where the present rhetoric does not match their past record.”For instance, Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, this week took to the floor of the Senate to accuse the White House of a broad pattern of dissembling in making its case for waging war on Iraq.”The misleading statement about African uranium is not an isolated incident. There is a significant amount of troubling evidence that it was part of a pattern of exaggerations and misleading statements,” he said. “It was not inadvertent. It was not a slip … It was calculated. It was misleading.”Mr. McClellan, in his second day as White House spokesman, said he remembered a different viewpoint.”In a letter to President Clinton, one member of Congress … urged the president to ‘take necessary actions to respond effectively to threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs. By its refusal to abandon its quest for weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, Iraq is directly defying and challenging the international community and directly violating the terms of the cease-fire between itself and the United States-led coalition.‘“That was Senator Levin back in 1998,” Mr. McClellan said.Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, has challenged the White House assertion that the matter of the erroneous intelligence is concluded, saying that there remain “enormous questions still about the overall intelligence given to the Congress, the quality of that intelligence and even about the politics.”“Let me read one more, and then we’ll move on,” Mr. McClellan said from the White House briefing room podium yesterday. “‘Saddam Hussein has already used these weapons and has made it clear that he has the intent to continue to try, by virtue of his duplicity and secrecy, to continue to do so.“‘That is a threat to the stability of the Middle East. It is a threat with respect to the potential of terrorist activities on a global basis.‘“Again, this was in 1998, and that was by Senator Kerry,” the spokesman said.Some Democrats have demanded an investigation into the president’s statement in his State of the Union address in January that the “British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”Although the White House said last week that the statement rested partly on discredited information of Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium “yellowcake” from Niger and should not have been included in the presidential address, Britain has stood by the statement, based on other intelligence.Still, Democratic presidential hopefuls continue to press the Bush administration on the uranium intelligence.Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said the president should take responsibility for the uranium reference.”The responsibility is not the CIA’s; it’s not anyone else’s. It is the president’s responsibility. And those 16 words were spoken by the president and he has to take responsibility for them,” he said.Sen. Bob Graham of Florida said, “President Bush should come clean with the truth. Unfortunately, he continues to display an arrogant pattern of hiding information from the American people and ducking questions that need to be answered.”Both had voted in October for U.S. intervention in Iraq.

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