"The president's attacks are outrageous...The president has undermined trust."
Former Senator (and Florida Governor) Bob Graham is an honest, understated man. He is no radical. He was the most popular politician in Florida for two decades, and is a member of the Graham family that owns the Washington Post. He is a moderate, an insider, a man several times seriously considered for Vice-President, and former Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
He has an essay today in the Post, "What I Knew Before the Invasion". And his verdict on George W. Bush's conduct during the run-up to the war is devastating: "I, too, presumed the president was being truthful--until a series of events undercut that confidence."
This is as close as a decent man like Bob Graham will ever come to saying "liar, liar, pants on fire".
I spent most of 2003 seeing Bob Graham up close once or twice a week for months, at the candidate debates during the Democratic primary. (I served as an advisor to Dennis Kucinich, involved in debate prep, so I saw all the candidates up close week after week during 2003. Plus, my buddy David Eichenbaum, who just helped guide Tim Kaine to victory in Virginia--and thus increase the panic among conservatives nationally--was working with the Graham campaign.)
Graham was among the more interesting candidates, in my opinion, because he was running "out of his box". By that I mean that Graham was explicitly saying, debate after debate, that we had not been told the whole truth about the war in Iraq, which was undercutting the war against al Qaeda, despite the fact that it rubbed his Establishment backers the wrong way, and despite the fact that his methodical style was unlikely to inspire converts among the progressive wing of the party, which was defiantly anti-war, fiercely anti-Bush, and in search of feistiness rather than understated opposition.
Even the Post, to what should be its shame, mostly ignored Graham's warnings about Bush and Iraq, and continued to treat opposition to the war as the province of knee-jerk libs and tin-foil-hat loonies, while day after day putting its aggressive, confident, credentialed--and deadly wrong--"experts" on the front and op-ed pages.
The Post wouldn't even take a second look at its Iraq puffery when a close member of the family spoke out. Bad on them. But also bad for Graham's campaign, since it meant he was deliberately forfeiting his Establishment, insider advantages.
So I came to a surprising conclusion--Bob Graham was telling the truth about the war, even though it was hurting his candidacy. With each passing week, despite the differences in our worldviews, my respect for him grew. Bob Graham did not come close to winning the nomination; but he cemented his reputation as an honest man, that rarest of politican in the early 21st century.
And now he is reminding us that the Bush Administration did not tell the truth in 2002 or 2003. And that they are not telling the truth now. Maybe this time the foreign policy Establishment will listen to him, including the Post.
Better late than never.