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BOTH SIDES NOW: Cheney's Unapologetic About Iraq But History's Not So Forgiving

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By Mark Green

With the Cheney documentary and March 19 anniversary, it's a good week to reprise W's "16 words" and Vice's "no doubt" about WMD vs. Downing Street's doubts. Ron Reagan and Torie Clarke (Rumsfeld's spokeswoman) discuss whether the architects of that invasion and occupation can self-reflect on invading a country linked to neither OBL nor WMD? And did Jeb amBush himself on immigration?


On Cheney's War. Torie explains that 9/11 affected 3/19 since "unlike years past, our military couldn't just sustain a blow and respond since you might lose not 3,000 people but 30,000 or 300,000." She reminds listeners that "the debate then was largely about what to do about WMD, not whether Iraq had it," adding that nearly all intelligence agencies in the world agreed that Saddam had WMD. (We listen to one politician who nailed the problem a year before W, Cheney, Powell et. al. warned about mushroom clouds over American cities: "I'm not against all wars," said State Senator Barack Obama, "just dumb wars.")

Ron agrees with Obama not his both-sides colleague. The decision to invade was "corrupt, venial, dishonest, tragic" since Downing Street, half of Democratic Senators and terrorism czar Richard Clarke, among others, thought that the White House was "fixing the intelligence" around their pre-conclusions. The son adds that the best time to have invaded was in 1988 when Saddam did gas his own people; when Ron suggested that to the President he was told that it was "complicated" because of relations with Iran.

Torie replies that Colin Powell too decided the intelligence was sufficient. But according to Showtime's The World According to Dick Cheney, Powell walked into the office of aide Larry Wilkinson on March 19 and said, "wouldn't it be something if we invade and never find WMD?" Ron concludes that the lesson learned for current American decision-making on Syria, Iran etc. is "not to put boots on the ground without a plan." Torie replies that there was a careful plan and that Powell helped put it together -- "Bremer was his guy" -- but events didn't go according to plan.

Was R. J. Cutler's documentary this weekend, which essentially contrasted Cheney's deep-throated, self-assured monotone with the harsh reality in Iraq, fair or slanted? Torie is critical about its over-emphasis on Iraq. Ron, at first, thought the film "bent over [too far] backwards" to be fair to Cheney but now realizes that was "a stroke of genius" because it implies that Cheney's unregretful adamancy to come off as more fanatical than heroic. What about the film's last line, with Cheney saying that "if I had to do it all over again I'd do it in a minute"? Citing the 4,000 Americans killed, 50,000 wounded, 300,000 with PTSD and hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, Ron thinks it "sociopathic" not to be at all reflective or remorseful.

While Cheney stonewalls, history is coming to a critical conclusion, at least based on books with titles such as Fiasco and Hubris.

On Rand's Filibluster. After their 180° difference over Iraq, the two come a double consensus on Sen. Rand Paul's 13 hour filibuster over drone policy. Torie concludes that it was a "sad stunt" which politically worked for the presidentially ambitious libertarian but actually discouraged a needed, serious debate over Obama's secret drone policy. She points to many Democrats who criticize the President's 400 drone attacks in three countries for undermining our system of checks and balances and harming our reputation around the world. "If a Republican president had done this, people would be calling for his impeachment."

But Bush did and Democrats didn't. Says Ron: "I didn't call for his impeachment for that, only for being a war criminal for torture." Consensus alert: both agree that President Obama needs to lay out at least his criteria for when he uses a so-called "kill list" abroad.

Host: we listen to audio of Rand Paul speculate whether a president might use a drone to kill "a Tea Party member for attending a meeting" or Jane Fonda for her anti-war criticism. While this line of thought led the Wall Street Journal and John McCain to denounce the Kentucky senator, it was also a nauseating pander. Many in his Tea Party harbor extreme views about the supposed constitutional right to bear AR-17s with 100 round clips... yet here he is hypothesizing that a president would use weapons of war against political speech at home.

One wonders what his Ted Nugent base would think if Rand Paul had included these two sentences in his epic rant: "If we're worried about some president using flying robots to kill protesting Americans, we should also denounce the more palpable threat coming from the 800 percent rise in well-armed right-wing militias since Obama's election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. What's more likely in the U.S. -- the next Oklahoma City or a domestic Anwar al-Awlaki?"

On Jeb Bush's book and prospect. Most GOP leaders like Marco Rubio and John McCain now understand the political power of the rising Hispanic vote and "self-deporting" politicians. So how did Jeb Bush, a smart, experienced Republican married for 39 years to a Latina, write a book called Immigration Wars that breaks with his past comments favoring a path to citizenship? Neither panelist can explain this stumble other than he finished the book before his party started shifting on this issue post-election... which describes a tactical rather than a principled pol.

Torie shrugs off a small stumble that won't matter much between now and 2016. Ron concurs, going further to chide him as a potential Bush 45 given what his brother has done to the family brand. "He'd run as Bush 3.0? I don't see that as a way for the Republican Party to get into the 21st Century."

Quick Takes: Soda & Obesity; OFA & Change; Pope & Change.

SODA: Ron and Torie agree that Bloomberg's heart is in the right place on reducing youth obesity but banning super-sized sodas in some venues was not the way to go...banning all junk food in schools was.

OFA: Both chastize President Obama for helping his former aides raise millions to fund the transition of his pioneering social network Obama for America into a grassroots lobbying network called Organizing for Action. Along with The Washington Post and Fred Wertheimer, they think that it's hypocritical.

Host: since Republican justices vote for unlimited corporate contributions in elections and Republican electeds vote against public funding for public elections and Karl Rove creates superpacs financed with hundreds of millions in secret funds, why can't Obama now respond by approving a similar "independent expenditure" that in fact will disclose its donors as it advocates Obama's agenda. With jobs, immigration reform, gun violence laws, climate change and voting rights bills at stake, Obama-ites in the real political world prefer hints of hypocrisy to the certainty of failure.

POPE FRANCIS: Raised Catholic but now not a church-going member, Torie thinks the choice of Cardinal Bergolia was"a giant head fake." On the one hand he's genuinely humble, sensitive to the poor, rides buses... but on the other he's a doctrinaire traditionalist who won't at all change the catechism against women in the church hierarchy, against celibacy, against married priests. The more things change...

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

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