Clinton statement on NIE report is an exercise in double-dealing misdirection

As noted yesterday, a new national intelligence report has caught the Bush White House in yet another round of warmongering lies. No real surprise there. The revelation elicited a range of replies from a variety of predictably interested parties.

John Edwards opted for flat honesty:

The new National Intelligence Estimate shows that George Bush and Dick Cheney’s rush to war with Iran is, in fact, a rush to war. The new NIE finds that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that Iran can be dissuaded from pursuing a nuclear weapon through diplomacy. This is exactly the reason that we must avoid radical steps like the Kyl-Lieberman bill declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, which needlessly took us closer to war. And it’s why I have proposed that we pursue a comprehensive diplomatic approach instead.

Obama treads a little lightly for my taste, but his point is nonetheless apt:

By reporting that Iran halted its nuclear weapon development program four years ago because of international pressure, the new National Intelligence Estimate makes a compelling case for less saber-rattling and more direct diplomacy. The juxtaposition of this NIE with the president’s suggestion of World War III serves as an important reminder of what we learned with the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq: members of Congress must carefully read the intelligence before giving the President any justification to use military force.

Harry Reid is characteristically gutless in a way that only an invertebrate who imagines himself a “statesman” can be:

Today this nation’s senior intelligence analysts concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, directly challenging some of this Administration’s alarming rhetoric about the threat posed by Iran. Democratic Committee leaders and I requested this assessment early last year so that the Administration could not rush this Congress and the country to another war based on flawed intelligence. I am very glad that the Administration has finally provided the NIE and I will examine carefully the full classified version in coming days.I hope this Administration reads this report carefully and appropriately adjusts its rhetoric and policy vis-à-vis Iran. The Administration should begin this process by finally undertaking a diplomatic surge necessary to effectively address the challenges posed by Iran. President Reagan had the wisdom to conduct diplomacy with America’s adversaries in order to advance U.S. interests. President Bush should follow Reagan’s example.

Chris Dodd engages in a bit of kitten-taming, although he’s right to backhand Congress. It would have been nice had he done so with a spiked gauntlet.

The NIE on Iran contains some very important findings by the intelligence community. Taken together these findings make a strong case for pursuing robust diplomacy to resolve our differences with Iran and for an end to the reckless talk by the Administration and reckless votes by some members of Congress.

Bill Richardson leads with a bitch-slap, which is nice.

This NIE tells us one of two things. Either the Bush-Cheney administration has been willfully misleading the American public on Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities or they are incompetent and were not aware of the consensus view of sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies until yesterday.

The NIE underscores what I have been saying all along. The next President will have to use diplomacy to accomplish our goals and strengthen our interests around the world. I am the only candidate, Democrat or Republican, who has served as an Ambassador. I will be ready on day one to go toe-to-toe with the toughest leaders in the world.

The Clinton camp put Lee Feinstein, its National Security Director, out front for the big reply, and I think his/their statement is pretty revealing. Specifically, I think it casts some light on why so many of us are uncomfortable about the idea of President Hillary Clinton.

First, the statement:

The new declassified key judgments of the Iran NIE expose the latest effort by the Bush administration to distort intelligence to pursue its ideological ends. The assessment of the NIE vindicates the policy Senator Clinton will pursue as President: vigorous American-led diplomacy, close international cooperation, and effective economic pressure, with the prospect of carefully calibrated incentives if Iran addresses our concerns. Neither saber rattling nor unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad will stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Senator Clinton has the strength and experience to conduct the kind of vigorous diplomacy needed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

If it seems like somebody is inviting you to an all-inclusive cruise on the USS Have-Your-Cake-And-Eat-It-Too, you may be right. Let’s take the statement piece by piece.

The new declassified key judgments of the Iran NIE expose the latest effort by the Bush administration to distort intelligence to pursue its ideological ends.

Dead-on. Honest, direct, boot to the nards. This is how a real leader talks. So far, so good.

The assessment of the NIE vindicates the policy Senator Clinton will pursue as President: vigorous American-led diplomacy, close international cooperation, and effective economic pressure, with the prospect of carefully calibrated incentives if Iran addresses our concerns.

Ummm, are we talking about the same Sen. Clinton who eschewed multi-lateral diplomacy and voted to authorize George Bush’s ideologically driven war on Iraq in the first place? The one who still hasn’t apologized for that fuck-up? The one who still hasn’t committed to getting our troops out of that debacle? Or is this a different Sen. Hillary Clinton who’s running for president?

Neither saber rattling nor unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad will stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Senator Clinton has the strength and experience to conduct the kind of vigorous diplomacy needed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Ummm, what?! Note the part I highlighted. What this statement does is try to sneak an arguable statement of fact past the reader in the form of an embedded assumption. Does Iran have “nuclear ambitions”? Maybe. There has been much yarping to that effect from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to be sure, but you have to remember that in the Iranian system he has roughly the stroke of an agency director. The real and ultimate power is Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, and he has “issued a fatwa (religious decree) declaring that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are all forbidden in Islam and has said that Iran shall never acquire these weapons…”

So perhaps Iran has nuclear ambitions and perhaps it doesn’t, depending on whether you think their supreme leader has more or less credibility than ours. But in no way, shape or form can you merely assume this, and Feinstein’s rhetorical trickery either points to a disturbing level of ignorance or an even more disturbing level of intellectual dishonesty – neither of which makes me feel better about either him or his candidate.

Further, the statement essentially spanks Dubya for acting erroneously on an assumption about Iran’s intent, and then it turns around three sentences later and makes clear that Clinton herself is making the same assumptions.

Which means, if I have it all straight, that she’s asking us to understand that she agrees with Dubya on everything right up to the point where he invaded.

I could accept that, I guess, if it weren’t for the part where she was directly culpable in helping him invade.

In sum, the Clinton/Feinstein statement is a mealy-mouthed, double-dealing, fork-tongued exercise in Newspeak. Sadly, our culture has grown so acclimated, so numb to this kind of cynical rhetorical chicanery that we barely notice it. It may feel a little off, but how the hell would we get through the day if we tried to stop and parse the underlying truth of every claim that comes across the transom?

I want to say we deserve better, but I believe Disraeli once said that “each People has exactly the Government they deserve.” When candidates behave badly and get elected anyway, the lesson they learn is that bad behavior pays. And since they won, they become the object lesson for other candidates.

I’m Sam Smith and I’m running for president. Please, feel free to quote me on anything I have written here.

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5 thoughts on “Clinton statement on NIE report is an exercise in double-dealing misdirection”

  1. If she didn’t include the “stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” her defense contractor donors might take umbrage. (Though I’m not discounting a post of yours that showed donors have much less effect on a politician’s actions than we think.)

    She’s a watered-down candidate for wishy-washy people who are content to let Hillary be their recreation director as they cruise on the “USS Have-Your-Cake-And-Eat-It-Too.” (When I read that line, I almost fell off my chair laughing.)

  2. It tells me how lukewarm the other candidates are. I’d turn this into a tv commercial and make it a body blow on her. None of the Dems have the go-for-the-throat needed to take her down. They all wanna play nice.

  3. Didn’t she vote “yes” on the Kyl-Lieberman bill? Isn’t Lee Feinstein employed in the defense industry?

    She’s never been afraid to rush into war before…

    Why do i get the sneaking suspicion that someone is playing an awfully mean joke on the American people?

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