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Joe Klein Gets it Wrong on Karl Rove’s Memoir

John on March 12, 2010 at 9:04 am

Klein has been won over in several significant respects, yet can’t quite step back from his own bellicosity to see how far he’s come. And so in the first paragraph of his review, Klein rails about Rove’s pettiness and in the second paragraph he gets petty himself. Here’s the setup:

Rove offers a damning list of Democratic politicians acting like politicians — making bellicose statements prior to the war, then criticizing Bush for rushing in when no WMD turned up. Touché.

At this point you might think Klein would point out that he was one of the people making bellicose statements and later retracting them. Alas, he does not. Now on to the petty (and also wrong) part:

But then he goes a step too far. “Perhaps the most pathetic display of hypocrisy came from one of America’s most embittered politicians: former Vice President Al Gore,” Rove writes. He proceeds to quote a 2002 Gore speech: “We know that [Saddam] has stored away supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country.” Rove’s busy-beaver oppo researchers should get credit for digging up that one … except that it was delivered in the midst of a vehement antiwar speech.

A vehement anti-war speech? Not exactly. Here is the full text of Gore’s speech to the Commonwealth Club on September 23, 2002. Gore explains his thesis this way near the beginning of the speech:

I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism…

I believe that we are perfectly capable of staying the course in our war against Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist network, while simultaneously taking those steps necessary to build an international coalition to join us in taking on Saddam Hussein in a timely fashion. If you’re going after Jesse James, you ought to organize the posse first. Especially if you’re in the middle of a gunfight with somebody who’s out after you.

And here is how the speech ends, with Gore’s recommendations:

The president should be authorized to take action to deal with Saddam Hussein as being in material breach of the terms of the truce and, therefore, a continuing threat to the security of the region. To this should be added that his continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially a threat to the vital interests of the United States.

To label this speech “vehemently antiwar” is simply dishonest. First, Gore was vehemently pro war-on-terror. Second, he explicitly suggested Congress authorize the President to take on Saddam at the right time and with the right precursors. What’s more, he ties this authorization to the WMD threat, just as President Bush was doing at the time. So when Klein concludes:

Gore, in fact, was making a wise argument: war was not justified even if Saddam had WMD.

This is wrong. Gore was not saying any such thing. Which makes Klein’s final rebuke of Rove into a bit of unintended self-criticism:

taking those sort of lines out of context is how you hammer your opponents in political campaigns…

Yes, and also how you hammer them from the pages of Time magazine. Why does Joe Klein continue to have a job there?

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Category: MSM & Bias |

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