Last night on The Charlie Rose Show, former Bush political adviser Karl Rove claimed that he was “opposed” to holding the pre-war Iraq vote just ahead of the 2002 elections. “The administration was opposed to voting on it in the fall of 2002,” Rove said. He stated that his upcoming book will argue that the administration did not want to schedule an Iraq war vote prior to the 2002 elections:
ROSE: But you were opposed to the vote.
ROVE: It happened. We don’t determine when the Congress vote on things. The Congress does.
ROSE: You wish it hadn’t happened at that time. You would have preferred it did not happen at that time.
ROVE: That’s right.
Recall, the House and the Senate voted on whether to authorize war against Iraq in October 2002, just a few weeks prior to the 2002 elections.
Rove’s claim is utterly dishonest and flat-out false. In Sept. 2002, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) asked President Bush to delay the vote on the Iraq war:
“I asked directly if we could delay this so we could depoliticize it. I said: ‘Mr. President, I know this is urgent, but why the rush? Why do we have to do this now?’ He looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: ‘We just have to do this now.’”
While some Democrats — particularly Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO) — were arguing that it was “imperative” that Congress vote immediately to authorize war, had the White House wanted to delay the vote until after the 2002 elections, they would have found a great deal of support. Here’s what a few key leaders were saying at the time:
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL): “It would be a severe mistake for us to vote on Iraq with as little information as we have. This would be a rash and hasty decision.”
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA): “I do not believe the decision should be made in the frenzy of an election year.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “I know of no information that the threat is so imminent from Iraq” that Congress cannot wait until January to vote on a resolution.
But Karl Rove and President Bush weren’t interested in delaying the vote. Rather, the administration actively politicized it. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “Delaying a vote in Congress would send the wrong message.” President Bush explicitly told Congress to “get the issue done as quickly as possible“:
My answer to the Congress is, they need to debate this issue and consult with us, and get the issue done as quickly as possible. It’s in our national interests that we do so. I don’t imagine Saddam Hussein sitting around, saying, gosh, I think I’m going to wait for some resolution.
On Sept. 11, 2002, administration officials briefed Congress on Iraq, with the goal of persuading them to schedule a vote to authorize military action. And the administration’s congressional allies were clear on why they wanted to rush the war vote. “People are going to want to know, before the elections, where their representatives stand,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis (R-VA.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “This could be the vote of the decade, so why wait?”
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