If you missed yesterday's Meet the Press, you missed out on one of the most
civilized debates between a Democrat and Republican to be aired on television in
years. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and former ambassador Madeline Albright
discussed Iraq and it was refreshing to hear both sides make the case
rationally. Even more comforting was hearing a Republican Senator finally admit
the problems with the Iraq War.
The first interesting part of the Iraq discussion involved the weapons of
mass destruction case. Here is the transcript from that part:
SEN. GRAHAM: I think the evidence that shows about the aluminum tubes, I
authored a resolution before I went to the Senate, in the House, saying that
he was an imminent threat. And one of the pieces of evidence that was
presented to me was the aluminum tubing. And I can tell you about it now, we
went to a secure room in the Capitol and they made the case, this could only
be used for a nuclear centrifuge, to make a nuclear weapon. I........
MR. RUSSERT: But the State Department and the Department of Energy
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. I was wrong. I think it's OK to say that you were
wrong, as long as you-- something good comes out of it. I think it's wrong
to assume that the sanctions were working. I think the U.N.'s effort to
control Saddam Hussein was a joke. I think they were being bought off. I
think he was going to get stronger over time. And if we've learned nothing,
let's don't turn our national security over to the U.N. until it's reformed.
MR. RUSSERT: But you no longer believed he was an imminent threat?
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, in terms of the weapons of mass destruction, they seem
not to be available. But here's what I do believe. I believe within that
dictatorship, that he thought he had them. We've had generals tell us that
they assumed the general across the way had the weapons, even though they
didn't have it. He wanted us to believe that he had these weapons of mass
destruction. And he probably believed it himself.
MR. RUSSERT: But he was not an imminent threat to the U.S. at the time we
went to war.
SEN. GRAHAM: In the sense of possessing a weapon of mass destruction,
that appears to be wrong.
The last line is what really shocked me. So many times we hear right wing
pundits lie and say there are weapons of mass destruction and we have found
them. Senator Graham showed a level consciousness and maturity making his
comment that seems to have been absent from Washington over the last several
Another argument has been on the connection between Iraq and 9/11. While most
people who follow Washington closely knows there is not a connection, again many
right wing pundits try to argue there is. Senator Graham clears up that
MR. RUSSERT: What about his support of the al-Qaeda murderers who plotted
against September 11th?
SEN. GRAHAM: That...
MR. RUSSERT: Do you--is there a linkage between September 11th and Saddam
SEN. GRAHAM: That seems to have fallen apart, Tim. It really does. And in
that regard, I'm glad he's in jail. I'm glad he's on trial. The world's
better off without him. It would be a huge event in the Mideast if this
could become a functioning democracy, where a woman would have a say about
her children based on a constitutional right, that you could enforce in a
courtroom with a fair judge. That's where the consensus ought to be.
Did we make mistakes? Yes. Did we poorly plan the fall of Baghdad? You'd
better believe it. Shinseki was right. We should have had more troops. We need
more troops now, in my opinion. This idea that it's a bunch of dead-enders is
totally wrong. The insurgency's got to be larger than 1/10th of 1 percent
because Zarqawi's been able to survive this long. So, yeah, we've made tons of
This was an original argument made by Democrats. They felt that we went into
Iraq without the proper level of troops. As matter of fact most in Washington
believe that. The only ones who seem to think otherwise are the President and
his administration plus a handful of loyalists. General Shinseki was forced out
of the military for saying we would need more troops prior to the invasion. His
career was lost over making a truthful assessment and now we must wonder how
many more decent people we have lost the service of because their professional
assessments did not coincide with the political assessments of George Bush.
Graham also had some interesting comments on McCain's anti-torture bill.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the issue of the treatment of prisoners of
war in this war on terror.
Senator Graham, you're working very much in this process.
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: You support Senator McCain's legislation.
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Is the administration asking for immunity for events that
may have occurred?
SEN. GRAHAM: There is a breakdown along how to best protect the troops.
There's a philosophical difference here. I don't want to divulge. It's
honestly held differences. The vice president is not the vice president of
torture. He is trying to create exemptions, in my opinion, to protect our
people that go too far because the way you protect your people is to adhere
to the rule of law. The way you win this war is to embrace a value system
different than your enemy. The Israelis are under siege. They don't engage
in torture. The British at the House of Lords passed a resolution or a court
case said that the U.K. will not engage in torture. If we're going to
teach the Iraqis ethics and values and close down these secret prisons,
we've got to practice what we preach. And if we exempt our own troops from
the application of international or domestic law, then we will set in motion
forces that will hurt our troops in future conflicts."
Apparently Senator Graham is out of touch with the administration on this
one. He wants us to be that "shining city on the hill" once again. An example of
human rights for all the world to see and idolize. Of course the Bush
administration is trying to argue it the other way.
Reports are coming out that the House will agree to the bill this week which
will send it to the President for signature. Once it makes its way to the Oval
Office, will President Bush break the seal on his veto pen for the first time in
his Presidency? Chances are he will and that will send a very bad message to the
people of this country, the troops and all over the world.
Another comment by Graham which really struck me yesterday was in regards to
the RNC's new "white flag" video attacking Democrats (you can view the ad
here). The Republicans consistently whine and
argue about partisan attacks yet they put out this video and it will do nothing
but widen the divide that is already plaguing this nation. What was Senator
Graham's assessment of the video?
MR. RUSSERT: Waving a white flag, is that appropriate?
SEN. GRAHAM: The '06 election is going to come and go. Iraq will be still
a problem after '06. I don't think it's appropriate. Howard Dean is wrong
when he says we can't win. It doesn't mean he's not a patriot. Murtha wants
to leave the region and deploy outside of Iraq. I think he's wrong, doesn't
mean he's a patriot. John Kerry wants to cut the force by two-thirds. I
think he's wrong, doesn't mean he's not a patriot. Lieberman says stay the
The--there is no a political consensus in this country. Democrats and
Republicans are struggling. We've lost our national unity when it comes to
Iraq. What happens in Iraq will matter to this country long after '06. I
wish we would quit running ads against each other and try to find consensus.
Maybe this would be one of the things we could agree on. What happens in
Iraq matters to the region and to our own national security. Come up with a
plan that will allow us to leave honorably and give these people who are
dying in droves in Iraq for their own freedom a reasonable chance to be
MR. RUSSERT: So it is your opinion that you would prefer the Republican
National Committee to pull that ad down?
SEN. GRAHAM: Yes. I don't want to have a campaign about who's a patriot.
I want to have a campaign that would unite the country, find consensus on
Iraq and talk about our political differences in terms that make us
stronger, not weaker. And we're going to drive a wedge among ourselves that
will make the world less safe, including ourselves.
Thank you Senator Graham for restoring some faith in the Republican party. I
wish more people from the right would follow the direction of Senator Graham and
realize that dividing this country is the worst thing for it. Its not that
Democrats want to see the troops fail in Iraq. We want to see them succeed but
in order to succeed the mistakes must be recognized and corrected and they must
have a clear plan. The President ignores these mistakes and continues to hide
behind his lies and miscalculations and that is costing him the support of the
You can read the entire transcript from yesterday's Meet the Press