- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2003

If history is uncongenial to your ideology or your ambitions, revise it. If facts contradict your point of view, drop them down the Memory Hole. But facts are stubborn things, as Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller, West Virginia Democrat, learned to his sorrow in an interview with Tony Snow on “Fox News Sunday.”

“What I keep having to remind myself is that we went to war in Iraq based on an imminent threat which was being caused by weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Rockefeller began, repeating a meme common among Democrats.

Mr. Snow then played a clip from the State of the Union address this year in which President Bush said: “Some have said we should not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late.”

If Mr. Bush never said Iraq posed an “imminent” threat, there were other politicians who did. Mr. Snow quoted a U.S. senator who said last fall: “There’s been some debate over how imminent a threat Iraq poses. I do believe Iraq poses an imminent threat. But I also believe that after September 11 [2001], the question is increasingly outdated. It is in the nature of these weapons and the way they are targeted against civilian populations, the documented capability and demonstrated intent may be the only warning we get. To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? We cannot.”

The senator Mr. Snow was quoting was Jay Rockefeller.

Mr. Rockefeller has lots of company in his hypocrisy. “We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction,” Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said in January. “Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein.”

In his speech last October explaining why he voted for the resolution authorizing war with Iraq, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said: “The threat posed by Saddam Hussein may not be imminent, but it is real, it is growing, and it cannot be ignored.”

Similar quotes from other Democratic Iraq hawks reborn as doves now that Mr. Bush has removed the threat posed by Saddam are legion. Andrew Sullivan has a compilation on his Web site (www.AndrewSullivan.com).

It is reasonable — though I think mistaken — to argue that Mr. Bush’s policy of pre-emption against terror-supporting states is reckless, and that military force should not be resorted to until a danger is clear and present, or in the buzzword of the day, “imminent.” But Democrats evidently don’t think they could win that argument. And if they made it, they couldn’t shriek: “Bush lied.”

The Clinton presidency has made it psychologically necessary for Democrats to claim Mr. Bush deceived America into war. Even his most ardent admirers have to acknowledge Mr. Clinton was a liar, since he himself grudgingly admitted it. And Mr. Clinton lied under oath, committing the felony of perjury.

Democrats console themselves that Mr. Clinton’s lies were “just about sex,” and that his sexual misconduct did not interfere with what they regard as his otherwise sterling performance in office. But if the Democrats’ hero is known to all and sundry as a liar, then the Republicans’ champion must be made out to be as bad a liar, or worse.

But when you have to lie in order to accuse your opponent of lying, there are pitfalls. Most of the news media can be counted on to repeat Democratic spin as if they were true. But some do fact-checking, as Jay Rockefeller learned.

The drumbeat of distortions took a toll on Mr. Bush’s popularity, but — the most recent Gallup poll indicates — it has ticked upward now that he has started to defend himself. Fox has broken the liberal monopoly on television news, and the expanding blogosphere is filled with enthusiastic, and effective, fact-checkers.

If Americans think they’ve been deceived, they’re likely to react with anger. In the end, I doubt their ire will be directed at President Bush.

Jack Kelly, a syndicated columnist, is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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