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Thursday, September 23, 2004

It wasn't the way W. did it. It was what he did.

I wasn't really a Maureen Dowd fan, but I'm getting there. Today's op-ed is absolutely on target, and without the excessive cuteness that frequently plagues her columns. Here's part of it:
We have, as Mr. Kerry says, a president and vice president who are "in denial" in a fantasy world, and who are guilty of "colossal failures of judgment." W. did "hitch his wagon to the ideologues who surround him, filtering out those who disagreed, including leaders of his own party and the uniformed military."

America's credibility in the world has plummeted, as Mr. Kerry says, just at the time we have to deal with the truly scary spokes in the "axis of evil": the ones who are a real nuclear threat, not an imaginary one.

Yet Mr. Kerry's case has a hollow center. He was asked at his press conference on Tuesday about W.'s snide reminders that his rival gave him authority to go to war (and, playing frat pledge to W.'s rush chairman, inanely agreed that he would still have voted to give that authority even if there were no W.M.D.).

That vote, he replied, was correct "because we needed to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for weapons. That's what America believed."

Not all Americans.

The administration rolled the Democrats on the authorization vote. It was clear at the time that going after Saddam to punish Osama made no sense, that Cheney & Co. were going to use Saddam as a lab rat for all their old neocon agendas. It was clear, as the fleet sailed toward Iraq, that the Bush crew had no interest in diplomacy - that it wanted to castrate the flaccid U.N., the flower child Colin Powell and his pinstriped State Department, snotty Old Europe, and the despised Saddam to show that America is a hyperpower that is not to be messed with.

As I quoted a girlfriend saying in September 2002, a month before Mr. Kerry's authorization vote, "Bush is like the guy who reserves a hotel room and asks you to the prom."

When Mr. Kerry says it was the way the president went about challenging Saddam that was wrong, rather than the fact that he challenged Saddam, he's sidestepping the central moral issue.

It was wrong for the president to take on Saddam as a response to 9/11, to pretend the dictator was a threat to our national security, to drum up a fake case on weapons and a faux link to Al Qaeda, and to divert our energy, emotions and matériel from the real enemy to an old enemy whose address we knew.

It was wrong to take Americans to war without telling them the truth about why we were doing it and what it would cost.

It wasn't the way W. did it. It was what he did.