Four Dicks (and Vice President Cheney)

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S1: There’s a famous photograph from nine days after 9/11, George W. Bush is hugging Senator Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, who was then the majority leader there, surrounded by clapping congressmen and generals. And the two men are staring right at each other. It looks like Daschle is saying something reassuring. The hug became a big deal, a sign that after the terror attacks, politics was on hold,

S2: I hadn’t been particularly close to President Bush before that fact. Many of us were very disappointed with the way the Supreme Court had ruled on his election. And so 9/11 changed that for a period of time. And that hug reflected that change.

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S1: You became close after 9/11?

S2: Well, I don’t know if we became close, but we became closer.

S1: House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt was having regular conversations with Bush, too. So over the top congressional Republicans, Trent Lott and Dennis Hastert, they became known as the Gang of Five. The group started meeting every Tuesday morning at 7:00 a.m.. Bush usually just had fruit at those breakfast meetings since he’d already been up for a couple of hours. Trent Lott would order the full shebang. Eggs, grits, toast, coffee, juice.

S2: One story I still vividly remember is that Dick Gephardt didn’t like to wear a jacket and he usually carried it, but he didn’t wear it. But he walked in the Oval Office and one of these breakfasts and president told him he needed to put his jacket on to respect the office. And and so Dick, of course, obliged.

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S1: Republicans and Democrats came together in ways that went beyond hugs and breakfast just three days after the towers fell, Congress voted on a request from Bush to authorize the use of military force. It was an unusual request because it didn’t name a specific target. This was going to be an ongoing campaign against whoever had committed the terror attacks. Both Ground Zero still burning. Congress didn’t want to second guess the president. The exception was Barbara Lee, a House Democrat from California.

S3: It was not a good authorization. It was overly broad. And I spoke in the Democratic caucus and I said, look, this is 60 words. And it says any president can use force forever.

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S1: After Vietnam, Congress had passed the War Powers Act. It required the president to get authorization for military actions that lasted beyond 60 days. Bush’s new proposal would allow the president to get around the time constraints in the War Powers Act as long as he claimed he was combating terrorism.

S3: I said, oh, my goodness, this is really not good because this sets the stage for forever wars, perpetual wars. Any president can use force any time, any place, anywhere.

S1: Congresswoman Lee remembers sharing her concerns with her colleague, Elijah Cummings. The two of them talked on September 14th, the day a 9/11 memorial service was scheduled, and the same day as the vote to authorize military action.

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S3: I was drinking a ginger ale and I said, Elijah, you know, I’m not going to the memorial service because I want to think through this and now come forward and say what I’m going to do on this resolution. So I talked to a lot of people want to talk to more people to something at the last minute, told me to go to the memorial service. And I ran down the steps of the Capitol with the ginger ale can in my hand and got on the bus. And during the memorial service, I listened to a lot of the eulogies and speeches and prayers and so many of them had retaliation. And we’ve got to go to war as part of what they were saying.

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S4: This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way. And at an hour of our choosing,

S1: Leigh was disturbed by what she was hearing. But there was one speech by the Reverend Nathan Baxter that moved her.

S4: Let us also pray for divine wisdom as our leaders consider the necessary actions for national security, wisdom of the grace of God that as we act, we do not become the evil we deplore.

S3: And so when he said that, I knew then that voting no is the only option I had.

S1: President Bush’s resolution passed in the House and Senate on the same day it was introduced, Congresswoman Lee was the only person who voted against it.

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S3: And after I voted no and was the only one up there, I went back into the cloakroom and several of my colleagues came back and thought I had made a mistake. Others told me I needed to change the vote because this was the end of my political career. And several told me that they knew I was going to have some danger physically and that people were going to come after me.

S1: And you did get d’états, right?

S3: Many. I don’t even I can’t even tell you what I got. It was it was so horrible.

S1: For Barbara Lee, the political climate after 9/11 felt unwise and dangerous. But this period of bipartisanship would be brief soon enough. The era of good feelings was over for everyone. The first big politicized issue was giving the Department of Homeland Security a permanent spot in the Cabinet. Everyone was for it. Democrats and Republicans. But there was disagreement over one bit of language that would prevent employees from unionizing. Senate Democrats wanted to get rid of that part before voting on it. But the Republicans use this delay in voting to paint the Democrats as weak on national security. And then there was a question of Iraq. The Bush administration didn’t want to ask Congress for permission to start another war in the summer of 2002. Reports surfaced that the administration believed it didn’t need to.

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S4: Now, the president has said he will consult with Congress, but he’s made no promises to wait for congressional approval before deciding to act.

S1: The Bush White House thought Iraq was already covered by the vote the previous September. That was the resolution that gave them permission to go after whoever had been responsible for the terror attacks. In other words. Barbara Lee’s fear that the authorization was too broad turned out to be justified. But that was a controversial read on the law after all. Article one, Section eight of the Constitution gives Congress alone the power to formally declare war. And the Bush administration wasn’t getting a lot of support from potential allies around the world. So the White House reluctantly decided it needed to work with Congress. The administration hoped shoring up support at home would help convince the United Nations to back an invasion. In early September 2002, the White House asked Congress to pass a resolution authorizing an invasion of Iraq. Members of the administration went on television and made the most dramatic version of the case for war. That’s the smoking gun mushroom cloud case you heard about in episode three. Meanwhile, Republicans had begun to politicize the grief of 9/11, a party events. George Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove, said Republicans should paint Democrats as soft on national security.

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S4: And we can go to the country confidently on this issue because Americans trust the Republican Party to do a better job of keeping our communities and our families safe.

S1: In June, a Democratic Senate staffer found a floppy disk in a park near the White House that does contain a presentation laying out Rove’s strategy for beating the Democrats in the 2002 midterm elections. One of the sides said focus on war and the economy. President Bush went out on the campaign trail in support of congressional Republicans. He took Karl Rove’s advice in his public appearances that summer and fall.

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S4: If I were running for office, I’m not sure how to explain to the American people that your vote for me and oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I’m going to wait for somebody else to act.

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S1: Tom Daschle, who had been hugged by the president a year before, was outraged. Here he is on the Senate floor.

S4: That former president is quoted in The Washington Post this morning as saying that the Democratic controlled Senate is not interested in the security of the American people, not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous. Outrageous. We ought not politicize this war. We ought not politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death.

S1: So the Democrats were angry, but what would they do about it? And how are the Republican colleagues press their own agendas? I’m going to tell you about four men in Congress, two from each party who played key roles in determining whether George W. Bush got what he wanted and whether the U.S. would go to war. All four of them were named Dick. This is Slover. I’m your host, Noreen Malone. In the lead up to the Iraq vote, how closely did Congress scrutinize the case for war? Did lawmakers vote on principle or on politics? And did bipartisanship mean mutual compromise or just letting the president do whatever he wanted? This is Episode five for Dick’s and Vice President Cheney. The first Dick was Dick Armey, the second highest ranking House Republican, he was a Bush ally and a conservative’s conservative, Armey likes to show up at photo shoots wearing a big cowboy hat. He loved cutting taxes. In early August 2002, AMI was on the road in Iowa stumping for a House candidate when he made some news.

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S4: Dick Armey, not just a fellow conservative, but also a fellow Texan and the number two Republican in the House, told reporters President Bush would be better off leaving Saddam Hussein alone. My own view would be that we try to act against Saddam Hussein. Maybe somebody is noxious as it is without proper provocation. We will not have the support of what other nation states might otherwise do.

S1: Dick Armey wasn’t the hawkish kind of conservative. He didn’t see the value in getting involved with something expensive overseas, especially if it didn’t have to directly involved the United States. He was also planning to retire from the House at the end of his term, which meant that he didn’t have to worry about the next election. The Bush administration was mad, it wasn’t just Armus vote, they were concerned about a Texas conservative who didn’t back Bush’s war, would give cover to Democrats and Republicans who didn’t want to vote for it. They couldn’t be accused of looking soft if a guy like Dick Armey was against the Iraq invasion. Armies opposition to the war meant the whole vote might fail. President Bush tried to change Army’s mind. He invited Army to talk in the White House Cabinet Room. Then he flew him to Camp David to talk more army stayed firm finally at the end of September with the vote just a couple of weeks away. The administration sent in its own dick. Vice President Cheney Cheney opened the briefing by saying, I know when I’m done you will agree with me that this is the right course of action. He laid out an assessment of the threat Iraq posed to the United States. Cheney’s presentation went much further than anything he said publicly and much, much further than anything the CIA believed was possible. He claimed that Iraq was developing a portable miniaturise nuclear weapon. A suitcase nuke army got the message the smoking gun would be a mushroom cloud unless he voted yes. After those meetings, Armey stopped speaking out against the invasion. There would be no substantial conservative opposition to the war. The Bush administration got its way. Lots of members of Congress were willing to believe the administration when it said that war was necessary. Others were skeptical Dick number two was against the invasion.

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S4: This video, it’s just audio. Oh, OK.

S1: Yeah, that’s Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois. Durbin was near the end of his first term. He was up for reelection in the November 2002 midterms, but in a relatively safe seat, being in the Senate was Durbin’s dream job. Back then. He lived in a group, House and Capitol Hill, with other Democratic congressmen, including Senator Chuck Schumer. The place was sort of like a frat house. Durbin was in charge of killing the rats. Durbin was on the Intelligence Committee, which meant that he got to see the full classified picture of what the administration said about Iraq, he was disturbed by the flimsiness of the evidence, and in particular, he didn’t see much proof that Iraq had an arsenal of WMD.

S5: There was some evidence of aluminum casings which were being translated into some preparation for weapons of mass destruction. And then there was a long debate about whether or not that was a reliable piece of evidence. But I came to the conclusion that was the only tangible evidence that anybody had, and there was even a question as to whether that was connected.

S1: At one Intel committee hearing in early September, a staffer motioned to Senator Durbin.

S5: He leaned over to me and he said they’ve never done a national intelligence estimate. And I said, well, what is that? And he said, well, it’s almost a requirement before you do anything significant related to national security. And he said they’d never done it.

S1: A National Intelligence Estimate or Niyi is a definitive summary of what the intelligence community thinks about a given issue. When policymakers want to know what’s happening in some foreign country, they ask for an end, i.e., the Bush administration hadn’t seen the need for a formal evaluation of Iraq’s WMD. They thought they already had a clear enough picture. Durbin didn’t agree. He thought the administration was moving too fast and he wanted them to do their due diligence. He wanted his colleagues to actually scrutinize the intel he wanted that night. Here’s Durbin on the Senate floor arguing that the administration needed to provide more evidence that an invasion was the only option.

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S6: If this administration can’t produce a national intelligence estimate which comes to that same conclusion. Then, frankly, those of us who’ve listened to the heavy rhetoric over the last several weeks will understand that when it comes to the evidence, there’s something lacking.

S1: Durbin got his way. The CIA agreed to do the NIE, but there was a hitch. The White House was on a schedule.

S6: Last Sunday on Meet the Press, Vice President Cheney indicated that the administration would like the Congress to vote on Iraq prior to adjourning this October. Do you realize that’s a matter of weeks, weeks before we would be called on to make this momentous decision? Because this is not we are talking about, in the president’s words, regime change.

S1: So George Tenet, the CIA director, asked the intelligence agencies to deliver an energy in just 19 days. This was a process that normally took months. At least Durbin was not impressed.

S5: You can’t really mobilize all the intelligence agencies in this government on an issue as critical as a declaration of war in a short time frame, as they suggested they were doing just what they had to do to put something on paper and to move it forward. And it was not a serious effort. It was not based on reliable intelligence sources, was not the kind of serious intelligence assessment that you would expect when we’re making a national commitment involving American lives and American treasure.

S1: The report included a section titled Key Judgments. It said that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons plus illegal missiles and that the country would probably have a nuke during this decade. How did the intelligence agencies reach that conclusion? Here’s Robert Draper, the author of To Start a War. He says all the incentives for the CIA pointed in one direction.

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S7: They’re figuring two things. First of all, Bush administration has already made up its mind. Like it or not, we’re going to go to war. And secondly, Saddam has probably got weapons anyway. So we certainly don’t want to be wishy washy about this. If we say, well, maybe he’s got chemical weapons and maybe he doesn’t, we don’t really know for sure, then the military commanders may well send in their troops improperly outfitted for the eventuality of a chemical weapons attack. And if and if there is a massacre of American soldiers in that blood will be on the hands of the intelligence community. Better, therefore, to just go ahead and say it. They’ve got chemical weapons. They’re producing lots of chemical weapons, make up some number, which they did.

S1: The NIE wasn’t totally one sided. There were flat out dissents on key pieces of evidence. And despite the top line conclusion, there was no proof showing Iraq was close to getting a nuclear weapon. But maybe that didn’t matter. Dick Durbin was one of the few elected officials to study the NIE in detail. Senate staffers estimate there may be only six senators asked to see the classified document in full. The NIE process ended up just reinforcing what members of Congress were already inclined to do. The people who are most skeptical of the intelligence read the actual document and got even more skeptical. The people who wanted to vote in favor of Bush’s war could point to a shorter declassified white paper, that document was even more weighted toward the intelligence that the administration favored and had no dissenting opinions. Nobody felt much pressure to change her mind. One more possible objection to passing the Iraq resolution was gone. There were people in Congress who fell in the middle on the Iraq debate, people who maybe didn’t want to give President Bush a blank check from our third deck, a third way,

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S4: the Bush administration, if it were up to them, they they would have just had a resolution that said the administration is authorized to go to war in Iraq for whatever purposes it deems necessary.

S1: That’s Dan Diller. He was a legislative director for Indiana Senator Richard Dick Lugar. Dick Lugar grew up on a soybean farm before becoming an Eagle Scout, Rhodes Scholar and Navy officer by 2002. He’d run for president once and was a high ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Lugar was a centrist with a reputation for working across the aisle. The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee was his pal Joe Biden, a Democratic senator who is also into bipartisanship. The two decided to work together on a bill for all the people in the middle, one that would authorize the administration to go into Iraq with more restrictions. And the president was asking for. The Biden Lugar bill didn’t allow for regime change as a goal. It said the president could only go to war to make Saddam get rid of his weapons. And it required President Bush to ask for U.N. approval before invading. If he couldn’t get it, he’d have to prove to Congress that the WMD threat was so serious it could only be handled with military force.

S4: We believe that we had potentially 60 votes for a Biden Lugar resolution, that it was the leading option.

S1: If you were on the fence about authorizing Bush’s war, you might have been drawn to the Biden Lugar bill. You wouldn’t be writing the president a blank check, but you also wouldn’t look soft on threats to the United States.

S4: We had the power to sequence votes in a way that would give cover to the the Democrats who did not want to go to war. The idea was that they could vote for our resolution, even though it would have authorized the use of military force, but still had votes that would have proven that they were against the whole process. You know, in addition to what they might might say in a statement,

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S1: those Democrats would look concerned and cautious, statesmanlike. That was especially helpful for Democrats who are up for reelection in the midterms. Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic majority leader, believe that the Iraq vote was not just a matter of conscience, it was also a decision that had to reflect what the public wanted.

S2: It wasn’t just a question of what’s the right policy, but but how do you defend yourself politically when you’ve got the overwhelming majority of the American people in support of the Bush administration’s position and really putting pressure on their members of Congress to fall in line and to be as supportive of that policy as they could be.

S1: Biden and Lugar’s team spent that September trying to get senators to back their version of the bill, the Democrats and Republicans on board, and according to Biden, the private backing of Secretary of State Colin Powell. But there was powerful opposition, DANNIELLA Again,

S4: the Bush administration was doing everything it could to, you know, find allies and to block what we were doing. I don’t want to get a resolution which ties my hands. So I’m not sure why members would like to weaken the resolution. But we’ll work with the members and I’m confident we can get something done and we’ll be speaking with one voice here in the country. And that’s going to be important for the United Nations to hear that voice. It’s going to be important for the world to hear that voice.

S1: Biden Lugar probably wouldn’t have stopped Bush from invading Iraq, but it might have slowed him down and changed the scope of the war. It was kind of a throwback, Bill, one that imagined this President Bush might move against Iraq under the same kind of terms his father had. It was a bill that assumed an invasion actually was about WMD. It was a bill that got the Bush administration completely wrong. Still, Lugar side believed they had a path to get their resolution passed. They just needed a little more time to get there. But it turned out they had a big roadblock in their way. A fourth dick, a Democrat with an entirely different agenda.

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S4: You cannot get this into politics. And I feel very strongly about that.

S1: Remember Dick Gephardt, the House minority leader? He’s the one who put on his suit jacket when Bush asked him to. He was an ideologically flexible Democrat from Missouri and he was thinking elections. Gephardt was hoping Democrats could take the House, which would make him speaker. So he needed the other members of his caucus to be on strong electoral footing. Gephardt was also thinking about another race, the 2004 presidential primary.

S7: Well, again, my apologies. Let me just take a sip of something here.

S1: I’ll do the same.

S7: A boy, if that can work.

S1: In 2002, Walter Shapiro was a political columnist for USA Today.

S7: Back to the question. What the Democrats were doing. Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, all of these people were already John Edwards were already running for president in everything but name.

S1: Al Gore and Hillary Clinton were also considered potential presidential candidates and everyone else was jockeying for position around them by the fall of 2002. Gore had come out against the war. Clinton had said she wasn’t running, but she had her eye on 2008. She was an influential hawk within the party. Robert Draper worked as a ghostwriter for John Edwards in 2002 and 2003.

S7: And I remember, you know, Edwards saying to me that the way he could get to the right of Hillary would be to say that Saddam had nuclear capability and there was nothing in the intelligence to suggest that that was the case. But it is also abundantly clear that Edwards was not an assiduous reader of the intelligence, to say the least, and more, I think, than anything else was very, very attuned to what would position him correctly among the Democratic field for 2004.

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S1: We reached out to Edwards for comment, but he didn’t get back to us. Dick Gephardt, like Edwards, probably saw a political advantage in looking tough on Iraq, Gephardt had a personal reason to worry about his vote. He’d been gunning for the presidency the last time there was a resolution on whether to invade Iraq in 1991, he’d voted against the Gulf War. That invasion ended up being very popular.

S7: Remember, Dick Gephardt was a politician who came of age during the 1980s.

S1: Democrats were crushed by Republicans that decade.

S7: The Reagan years were visceral for him, and he knew what he thought was the same road for his members, which is if Bush has to go to war, Gephardt says, how high?

S1: So while Joe Biden and Dick Lugar were working hard in the Senate, Dick Gephardt was making inroads with the White House. Here’s Dick Lugar staffer Dan Diller.

S4: Again, the White House, I mean, they were very upfront about this, that, you know, they were working hard to construct a coalition in favor of their version, but we didn’t know that they were close in this way to Gephardt.

S1: Gephardt talked to Bush’s team several times and went to the CIA to hear from George Tenet about the intelligence. Here’s Gephardt describing that Tenet meeting to me earlier this year.

S4: And I said to him, George, I just got to ask you as directly as I can. Is it your honest conclusion that Iraq, Saddam Hussein, is pulling together the basic elements needed to make a nuclear device? And I said, I’m just asking you one on one and I want to know your rock bottom honest opinion. And he said, absolutely. You know, it turned out to be not so true, but all you can do is what you can do. It is what it is.

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S1: It’s Gephardt cut a deal with the White House for a different Iraq resolution pretty much behind Biden and Lugar backs. He says now that he tried to get more concessions from Bush, but the administration just wasn’t going for it.

S4: Many in the Senate bill were also in disagreement with what I was saying and doing. I had lots of discussions with Tom Daschle. He was trying to put some language. I don’t remember the tenor of it into the resolution, but we we couldn’t get that done with with the Bush people. As I remember it. We couldn’t put it together as Daschle wanted it to be put together.

S1: The resolution Gephardt sponsored was more or less the one the Bush administration wanted all along the blank check. D’Angela, again,

S4: you know, once Representative Gephardt showed up at the at the White House, you know, the ballgame was over. You know, they had demonstrated that they had the votes. And then it was a complete surprise to us when it happened.

S1: The White House announced the deal with Gephardt in a press conference at the Rose Garden on October 2nd. The word bipartisan showed up a lot in the speeches, even if it always seemed to mean that President Bush was getting his way.

S4: Text of our bipartisan resolution is clear and it is strong. The statement of support from the Congress will show to friend and enemy alike the resolve of the United States.

S1: House Speaker Dennis Hastert also said bipartisan.

S4: There’s a bipartisan agreement. The resolution does not tie the president’s hands. It gives him flexibility. He needs to get the job done.

S1: So did Dick Gephardt,

S4: in response to the president’s desire for congressional support. And in keeping with our constitutional responsibilities, I have worked to draft a resolution. That reflects the views of a large bipartisan segment of Congress.

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S1: Nearly all of the congressional leadership was there, but Tom Daschle decided not to go, Daschle still talks like an old fashioned senator. He’s polite and collegial. But if you read between the lines, you can tell he was pissed about this whole Gephardt deal.

S2: I just felt uncomfortable going. I didn’t go because I wasn’t in the same position as Dick was. I had many mixed feelings and misgivings about that approach. And so I didn’t I didn’t show up. I wasn’t there. And I don’t think any of our Democratic senators were there.

S1: Joe Biden was also mad. Here he is talking to press after the Rose Garden event.

S4: A straight, honest answer is it’s probably too late for now. You’re making it sound like what you’re going to be for a symbolic gesture. Well, I don’t know. Look, what you’re doing with me is you’re doing this because this malarkey that I can’t give you, you know, there’s no answer to what you’re asking me the questions to you. I don’t know. I don’t know how it’s going to work out.

S1: Dick Gephardt told me there was nothing political about the deal he cut with the White House. Was anyone sort of saying to you back in 2002, hey, it’d be smart to position yourself one way or the other, you know, in advance of this 2004 run? No. No one said that you ever.

S8: There and I had no

S4: idea of running in 2004 then I was just trying to do my job as best I could do with

S1: the evidence suggests this may not be totally true by then. Gephardt had already met with a political strategist about the presidential race. In an email, Gephardt told us he doesn’t remember this meeting, but if it had taken place, he believes it would have been after the 2002 midterm elections. Either way, Gephardt still closed off the possibility of running Bush when it was all over. So going into the vote, there were three dicks who had been potential obstacles to the Bush administration. Dick Armey, the Texas conservative, had been convinced to back the war. Dick Durbin, who requested the intelligence report, hoped the lack of evidence would convince people to vote against the invasion. It didn’t. And Dick Lugar, the senator who tried to find a compromise approach alongside Joe Biden, had been betrayed by the fourth Dick, Dick Gephardt. Tom Daschle had supported the Biden Lugar compromise. He wasn’t hugely enthusiastic about the war, but he also believed that Saddam was a threat and he didn’t want his party to lose the Senate. Daschle had to decide how to vote and what signal to send his fellow Democrats about what to do.

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S2: I felt the need to make a decision well ahead of the vote because I was getting asked almost daily, or in fact, I was being asked daily what my position was. And I I felt that it was important from a caucus point of view not to kind of ride the fence. Here was a very, very close call for me.

S1: Daschle decided to support the bill to give Bush the blank check.

S4: This resolution gives the president the authority he needs to confront the threat posed by Iraq. It is neither a Democratic resolution or a Republican resolution. It is now a statement of American resolve and values.

S2: Our caucus was bitterly divided. It was very emotional.

S4: I know for many of you, this resolution is not what you want. And it’s true for Democrats and some Republicans. And in some ways it’s true for me.

S1: Congress voted in the very early hours of October 11th. In the end, the resolution passed the House 296 to one. Thirty three. Dick Armey and Dick Gephardt were among those who voted yes. A majority of Democrats voted against it, including Barbara Lee of California.

S3: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to this resolution authorizing a unilateral first strike against Iraq. Such an action could destabilize the Middle East and set an international precedent that could come back to haunt us all.

S1: The resolution passed in the Senate, 77 to 23. Only one Republican senator voted against it. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, he would later leave the Republican Party. Even Dick Lugar and Joe Biden voted for it. After all that effort to find another way,

S4: the leader of the House reached an agreement. First, I thought that was unfortunate because I believe we could have had a better resolution had that not occurred.

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S1: But in contrast to the House, more Democratic senators voted for the invasion than against it. Almost all the Democratic presidential hopefuls, John Kerry, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt voted for it. Walter Shapiro,

S7: almost every Democrat could convince themselves that they were either doing it to help negotiations or this was the right thing to stand up to terrorism or that this was the right thing for their own political survival.

S1: Dick Durbin, who’d asked for the National Intelligence Estimate, was one of the 22 Democratic senators who voted against the resolution.

S5: I’ve never heard any of the 22 of us say we made a mistake, but I certainly heard plenty of the others on the Democratic side say that

S1: most congresspeople will tell you now that the Iraq vote wasn’t about politics at all, that it was a true vote of conscience or a vote based on the intelligence at the time. And that’s probably true for some of them. For others, not so much. Walter Shapiro remembers one moment from around the time of the vote.

S7: Here I am with a senator and the senator, by chance, runs into a member of the House who is publicly against the war. And the senator says to me off the record and says to the House member, who’s against the war. Oh, you’re so embarrassing me by doing this. Wow. And it was I have to do this for political survival. Well, I know it’s the wrong thing to do.

S1: No one wants to admit that they voted to go to war because they wanted to get re-elected. But the reality is, most people in close races voted to authorize the invasion to not look weak, to support a popular president. Three quarters of House members in close races voted in favor of the war, and 20 of the 22 Democratic senators who voted against the war were not up for reelection. The case of Senator Paul Wellstone is a striking counterexample, Wellstone was in a close reelection campaign in Minnesota, a state that didn’t necessarily support his anti-war views. Wellstone voted no on the Iraq resolution.

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S6: I’d like to thank my staff for never trying one time to influence me to make any other decision than what I honestly and truthfully believe is right for the state. I represent Minnesota and for my country and for the world that my children and my grandchildren live in.

S1: Dick Durbin was one of Weston’s confidants.

S5: I remember most of all after the vote, it was it could have been two o’clock in the morning. And for some reason I didn’t leave. And I remember being there in the well of the Senate after the vote had been announced and there were three of us, Kent Conrad, Paul Wellstone and myself. And I said to Paul Wellstone, I hope this doesn’t cost you the election because he voted no, as I had. And he said to me, it’s all right if it does. He said, people of Minnesota know who I am. They know what I believe. And that’s what this vote is all about.

S1: The Paul Wellstone test case never happened on October 25th, 10 days before the midterms, he died in a plane crash. Walter Shapiro,

S7: his final words to me were, I have to be who I am. And it was both good political advice. And it was a reminder that so many Democrats were not who they were.

S1: Gephardt launched his exploratory campaign for president in January 2003, two months before the Iraq invasion. He dropped out a year later after a poor performance in the Iowa caucuses.

S4: In retrospect, I’m sorry that I sponsored the resolution. I’m sorry that I voted for it. Obviously, the intelligence was faulty and the whole effort was poorly run after the invasion and all of that. I mean, there’s a lot to be critical of. But when I go back to the basic decision. I was doing what I thought was the best thing to do and what was the right thing to do, as best I could figure it out.

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S1: The 2002 authorization of military force is still in effect. President Obama used it as a justification for going after ISIS. President Trump cited it in an airstrike against an Iranian leader. It wasn’t worth it electorally for the Democrats to back Bush’s war. Usually the midterm elections tend to swing toward the party that doesn’t hold the presidency, but in 2002, the Republicans kept the House and took the Senate. I asked Ashley what would have happened if those elections had gone differently. Do you think if the midterms had turned out well for the Democrats, the administration could have or would have kept going forward into war just a few months later, or was it just a fait accompli already?

S2: I think it was a fait accompli. I think they were determined to do whatever they had to. And having said that, obviously we still have the power of the purse and we have the as the Congress and we would have had leverage on oversight and and a lot more investigative ability. But that was lost when we lost the majority.

S1: President Bush now had the authorization he wanted with the support of both houses of Congress and politicians from both parties. Theoretically, the White House hadn’t decided to go into Iraq yet, the administration said the congressional vote just gave them an option. But Daschle didn’t have any doubts about what was coming. He’d spent a lot of time with Bush and he understood how the president’s mind worked.

S2: He oftentimes wasn’t clear what he wanted to do. He just was clear he wanted to do it.

S1: Next time on Sobhan Curveball, Colin Powell and the CIA officer, no one would listen to

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S7: the question wasn’t does this make sense? The question was, could this work? We didn’t have any of the background of this guy. We didn’t know anything about his living conditions.

S3: I called upstairs and said, did you guys see that you shouldn’t have used?

S1: That slogan is a production of Slate plus Slate’s membership program Slate. Plus, members get bonus episodes of Sloven every week where we’ll go behind the scenes into making the show and their clips and interviews. We couldn’t fit in here. On this week’s bonus episode, you’ll be hearing more from Congresswoman Barbara Lee and political reporter Walter Shapiro. Head over to Slate dot com slash Loban to sign up and listen. Now, it’s only a dollar for your first month. We couldn’t make Slover and without the support of Slate plus. So please sign up if you can head over to Slate. Dotcom slash slow burn. Slow Burn is produced by me, Jason de Leon and Sophie Summer, grad with Editorial Direction by Josh Levine and Gabriel Roth. Our mix engineer is Merritt Jacob. Brandon Angelides composed our theme song. The artwork for Slow Burn is by Jim Cuck. Special thanks to Jared Holt, Lonely June Thomas, Derek John, Ethan Brooks, Megan Karlstrom, Rachel Strahm, Seth Brown, Chout to Asia, Solutia, Katie Raeford and obviously, gentlemen, thanks for listening.