The Salem News
Thursday, September 25, 2003
If it hadn't been for Hurricane Isabel, I might not have known that what Ted Kennedy said about the president isn't true.
We don't watch national network news. But last Friday, Sept. 19, Chip was watching hurricane coverage and saw the "ABC News Fact Check" on the previous night's story about Sen. Kennedy's verbal attack on President George Bush. We ordered the transcript, and for those of you who missed the story, here it is:
Story: Fighting Words (ABC News Fact Check)
Peter Jennings: Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts has launched a major attack on the president's war policies. He gave an interview yesterday which certainly got a lot of attention and today we asked ABC's John Cochran to check out what the senator had said and whether he had his facts right.
John Cochran: Senator Kennedy has criticized the president on Iraq before, but never like this. Kennedy told the Associated Press the war in Iraq was a "fraud, made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically." Actually, Kennedy was referring to a speech the president's political advisor, Karl Rove, made not last January, but in January of 2002.
Rove said then that national security issues were good political issues for Republicans, but Rove never said a war was going to take place in Iraq or anyplace else.
Kennedy also said a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office showed that only $2.5 billion of the $4 billion being spent every month in Iraq could be accounted for by the Bush administration.
We could not find a CBO report that mentions such a figure. Today, a source close to Kennedy agreed and said the senator had heard that figure from someone.
Kennedy also said he believed that "this money is being shuffled all around to these political leaders in all parts of the world, bribing them to send in troops," but, again, a source close to Kennedy said he was not referring to actual bribery, but incentives to countries such as Turkey to send troops to Iraq. Today House Majority Leader Tom Delay called Kennedy's remarks "hateful and a new low."
Sources familiar with Kennedy's reasoning say he stepped up his attacks on the president in an effort to get the country to pay more attention to a situation in Iraq that he feels is catastrophic.
John Cochran, ABC News, Washington.
I am paying attention, but it isn't easy for an ordinary citizen to understand foreign policy. We have to make our judgments on the statements of policy protagonists - which is why I watch numerous "talking head" shows instead of the news. When I know that one head isn't telling the truth, I give more weight to the other side until it lies to me, too.
Some may say Kennedy didn't lie, he just didn't bother to do his own fact check on rumors, choose his words carefully or control his emotions. But I would question the motivation for his sloppiness. If he wants to challenge U.S. policy in Iraq, he is in a position to acquire facts that support his position. Since he didn't, we can only assume his position is untenable.
He does, however, seem to have achieved his political objective - to trash the president and help pave the way for the Democrats next fall. If they win enough Senate seats, he can be a powerful committee chairman again.
I have no way of knowing - and have seen no real evidence about - what President Bush actually knew going into the war. Common sense tells me it can't be easy to determine what's going on in a hostile country until you get there, television dramas about the CIA notwithstanding.
In search of understanding, I watched the recent "60 Minutes" report on Vice President Dick Cheney and Halliburton, his former company that has the Iraq rebuilding contract.
The charge is that the government and Halliburton have a cozy relationship, which I'm sure they do. I was surprised to learn that prior to becoming CEO at one of the nation's largest companies, Cheney had no real business experience.
I called my friend Chris Egan, president of a Massachusetts-based company, who assured me this is not unusual. In large companies that do business with the government, the CEO is often chosen for his political connections. "He is in charge of vision and direction, not actually running the company. The COO - chief operating officer - executes the plans."
Most of us do not move in big business or foreign policy circles. Yet in a democracy we have to do our best to know what is happening, and why, before we vote. Otherwise we go along with Britney Spears, who thinks we should just trust our president on foreign policy. I stopped doing that during the Vietnam War.
But I need more than Ted Kennedy's self-serving outbursts to make a decision, especially when even ABC said he was wrong.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.