Daschle Asked To Depoliticize Iraq War Vote, Bush Refused

In recent weeks, President Bush has used the October 2002 Iraq war vote to deflect criticism of his conduct in the lead-up to war. Today’s Los Angeles Times reports that, in September 2002, Sen. Tom Daschle 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.’ “

In so doing, President Bush departed from the example of his father, who waited until after the 1990 midterm elections to call for a vote on the first Iraq war. Bush’s decision to rush the vote had two important effects:

1. Members did not have adequate time to review the National Intelligence Estimate.The 90-page unclassified document was delivered to Congress on October 1, the night the hearings began and less than 10 days before the vote. Members “could look at it only under tight security on-site. They could not take a copy with them for review.”

2. The vote was overly politicized. E.J. Dionne noted recently that Bush “forced the war vote to take place under circumstances that guaranteed the minimum amount of reflection and debate, and that opened anyone who dared question his policies to charges, right before an election, that they were soft on Hussein.”