Clueless in the Capitol

"Sex. Clothes. Popularity. Is there a problem here?" That could well be the tagline for a movie about the real concerns of elected officials who are addicted to the "I was misled" claim, which begs the unintended question, "Well, why are you so damn clueless?"

In Sunday's WaPo Sen. Ted Kennedy claimed he was misled by Supreme Court justices Alito + Roberts during their confirmation hearings. Now, he claims shock over alleged ideological voting. The senator's claim of haplessness was unfortunately preceded by the preening reminder to readers of his 43 years of experience being misled, oops, rather, serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This was a nice follow-up to his previous article about Bush misleading Congress about the threat Iraq posed. No word on former President Clinton's February 17, 1998 citing of a "clear evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program." That preceded the Sate Dept.'s November 4, 1998 bin Laden/Muhammed Atef indictment quote that "al Qaeda reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq." Or Kennedy's own comment on Sept. 27, 2002:
"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed."

Those speaking the loudest supporting the war included Edwards (who was serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee) and Dick Gephardt who said, "I base my determination on what I heard from the CIA. I went out there a couple of times and talked to everybody, including George Tenet. I talked to people in the Clinton administration. "

If these "misled" ones really were interested in asking serious questions before the war, they might have explored the credibility of Khidhir Hamza, the top expert touted before Congress and the public on Saddam's nuclear weapons capability. A year before the war (and before being touted as credible by Democrats) his credibility had already been in question. David Albright, who Hamza worked with after his defection, said: "I must apologize that we no longer can in any way recommend Dr. Hamza. I unfortunately now believe he is deliberately distorting both his past credentials and his statements about Iraqi nuclear capabilities then and now."
Albright also said: "I believe that his statements are often inaccurate, they're inconsistent," adding, "I think he's distorted his title dramatically." This was available via a google search. The fact that no Congressman raised questions about Hamza indicates their "misled" claims have more to do with the wind changing directions than anything else.

One might also point out that Yossef Bodansky, who headed up the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare had, back in 1998, warned Congress that Libya in fact, was hosting the lion's share of Iraq's WMD program, including its nuclear program. He questioned the efficacy of bombing or occupation as a solution to the WMD problem: "No bombing campaign against Iraq, and even an occupation of that country for that matter, is capable of destroying the hard core of Saddam Hussein's primary WMD development and production programs. The reason is that under current conditions these programs are run outside of Iraq -- mainly in Sudan and Libya, as well as Algeria (storage of some hot nuclear stuff).Thus, once the bombing campaign is over, the Iraqis can be expected to smuggle new weapons from Iraq's development sites and production lines - sites that remain untouched by allied bombing as well as unchecked by UN inspection teams." These issues have not been followed up on to my knowledge by mainstream media since the Iraq war began. It obviously could lead to another chain of unpleasant political consequences, but the lack of curiosity about it downright bizarre.

There's no doubt plenty of power players deserve serious criticism for various aspects of handling of intelligence and pre-war claims. Why have certain people responsible received promotions and bonuses? (e.g. the aluminum tubes duo from NGIC). The servile elements of conservative media did their own share of unquestioning hyping, especially of post-invasion claims of WMD "smoking guns." By publishing hokey claims they actually have been undermining the case for WMD, a terrorism expert complained to me this year! In contrast stand Scott Wheeler's discovery of revealing regime documents and Yossef Bodansky's book: "The Secret History of the Iraq War."

Errors committed by politicians and intel people have been documented I note, by sources that cannot be classified "biased liberal media." (National Review, Pete Peterson, Bing West, John Lewis Gaddis, Yossef Bodansky, William F. Buckley, Jr. to name a few) . And it's foolish to believe Congress is a passive, helpless entity that has no knowledge except for what comes from the executive branch or conservative media or that it doesn't engage in its own misleading on a regular basis.

Well, enough of that.

During Condoleeza Rice's confirmation hearing for Sec of State, Sen. Mark Dayton proclaimed with seeming pride that he had been snookered. "She misled me" and other members of Congress who, he theatrically declared "would have opposed that resolution if they had been told the truth." That's the same Congressman who closed his office in Oct. 2004 and ran away due to unfounded fears of terrorist attacks. Not easily misled, that Mr. Dayton.

The NSA's former head Hayden was accused of misleading the 9/11 commission when he said any surveillance of persons in the United States was done consistent with FISA.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) charged that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales misled the Senate during his confirmation hearing when he "appeared to try to avoid answering a question about whether the president could authorize warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens."

On February 23, 2004, Sen. Carl Levin issued a statement entitled "The CIA Director Misled Congress."

This is the old standby - "I'm not responsible. I was misled." As a '93 Heritage Foundation study on Congress put it "Misjudgment in foreign policy, however egregious, is not criminal." Of course if ginning up excuses for various wars can be proven, then serious consequences should follow. It's a sign these politicians don't have proof of lying, or don't care to find proof, that they so easily, and regularly, fall back on the "I was misled" claim.

"Even when members do get the wrong impression, they never ask whether it was their own fault. Legislators often don't understand the answers they are being given because they don't even understand the questions they are asking. At the average hearing, lawmakers are simply reading from cue-cards handed them by their staffs...." -["The Ruling Class: Inside the Imperial Congress" -Eric Felten, Heritage Foundation]

Here we come full-circle back one of the issues at play in Kennedy's complaint against Alito & Roberts, in this Felton quote: "Through the criminalization of policy differences [i.e. the claim of lying to Congress -sg], Congress has given the administration good reason to be tight-lipped. When any statement is potential grist for an independent counsel investigation into the misleading of Congress, is it any wonder that administration officials become non-committal, trying not to say very much at all?"

The real irony is in loudly claiming they were misled, congressmen avert the public's gaze from their own damning "parliament of tricksters." Posted by Picasa