Rep. Jane Harman teamed up today with Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) to editorialize in the Wall Street Journal on
why Bush isn’t so bad The Limits of Intelligence. Leaving aside the hilarious range of jokes afforded by the title, it’s a nearly letter-perfect exculpation for the Bush Administration. To hear Reps. Harman and Hoekstra tell it, the information produced from the Intelligence community is inherently flawed and suspect. As a result, any conclusion could be right or wrong at any given point and assigning a value judgment is just silly:
Still, intelligence is in many ways an art, not an exact science. The complete reversal from the 2005 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program to the latest NIE serves as its own caution in this regard. The information we receive from the intelligence community is but one piece of the puzzle in a rapidly changing world. It is not a substitute for policy, and the challenge for policy makers is to use good intelligence wisely to fashion good policy.
Or in other words, sure it looks like Harman, Hoekstra and the President totally dropped the ball on this over the course of three full years of Iran-focused hawkish rhetoric that apparently had no basis in reality, but that’s just how it works. And now that it’s been completely disproven, rather than admit an error, we’re simply going to blame the evidence. It’s been said that a good craftsman never blames his tools, and this may be the best demonstration in quite some time. Caught with their pants down the first time, it turns out that the assessment has always been correct no matter what the actual research or evidence might say, and we’re all best served just ignoring the inconvenient evidence and running with the stuff that we like. I liked this outlook best when it was justifying the invasion of Iraq, but I guess the classics never really die.
After her primary challenge last year, I was hopeful that Harman’s hawkish tendencies would soften. And in many ways, we’ve gotten that. Despite protestations that “Jane Harman hasn’t changed” since declaring herself “The Best Republican in the Democratic Party,” her votes on the war have gotten better- in fits and starts- over the past year. But lately she’s been trying to play thought police and now trying to justify a belligerent stance on Iran by legitimizing the same insanity that got us into Iraq. In 2002, the selective application of intelligence and deliberate misinformation to support a pre-established policy goal went on behind closed doors and, eventually, really pissed people off. Oh, and it also needlessly killed hundreds of thousands of people, bankrupted the country, further destabilized the Middle East and destroyed the nation’s international credibility. But this time we’re going to tell you to your face that we’re feeding a predetermined policy and tell you that it’s the only reasonable way to decide anything. Only the crazy irrational fringe would be swayed by actual evidence.
Perhaps the saddest part is that this whole article goes beyond political outrage and comes off as Rep. Harman’s “I drive a Dodge Stratus!” moment. She got passed over to Chair the House Intelligence Committee after Democrats retook the House, getting the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence instead. This sure does come off as a half-bitter, half-desperate attempt to reclaim relevance by grabbing a headline. Maybe her tendency to undermine the party in support of hawking an antagonistic foreign policy is why Rep. Silvestre Reyes is chairing the Intelligence Committee today. I’m just speculating there of course, but it’s tough to come up with a positive reading of this editorial, particularly when it finally boils down to “The government is telling you Iran is dangerous even though the government has established that Iran is not dangerous”:
Though the new NIE may be taken as positive news, Iran clearly remains dangerous. The combination of international pressure, economic sanctions and the presence of U.S. troops on Iran’s borders may have indeed convinced Tehran to abandon its nuclear-weapons program, as the NIE states with “high confidence.” Nevertheless, Congress must engage in vigorous oversight — to challenge those who do intelligence work, and to make site visits to see for ourselves.
This line of crap flew in 2002 and 2003 because Democrats like Jane Harman pushed it and there wasn’t a clear and recent debacle to prove how wrong-headed it was to its core. There’s no excuse now.
Cross posted to DailyKos