March 30, 2004

Senator McCain, Senator Cleland, Secretary O'Neill, Ambassador Wilson, General Shinseki, Richard Foster, Richard Clarke, Larry Lindsay ... when will the character assassination, retribution, and intimidation end? When will we say enough is enough?

This extraordinary statement by Tom Daschle (D-SD) is
perhaps one of the most compelling signs of a
significant sea-change and of the deep waters
ahead...LNS readers know that we called for Duck-It's
resignation as Minority Leader far more often than we
have found reason to quote him. Indeed, we have dubbed
him Sen. Tom Duck-It (D-SD)...Nevertheless, this
speech on the floor of the US Senate rises to the
gravity of this moment...Let's see if he blinks when the VICE _resident says "Boo!"

Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD): The American people deserve to know the truth -- the full truth -- about what happened in the years and months leading up to September 11. Senator McCain, Senator Cleland, Secretary O'Neill, Ambassador Wilson, General Shinseki, Richard Foster, Richard Clarke, Larry Lindsay ... when will the character assassination, retribution, and intimidation end? When will we say enough is enough?

Cleanse the White House of the Chickenhawk Coup, Show
Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Floor Statement of Sen. Daschle on the Abuse of
Government Power

Mr. President, last week I spoke about the White
House's reaction to Richard Clarke's testimony before
the 9-11 Commission. I am compelled to rise again
today, because the people around the President are
systematically abusing the powers and prerogatives of

We all need to reflect seriously on what's going on.
Not in anger and not in partisanship, but in keeping
with our responsibilities as Senators and with an
abiding respect for the fundamental values of our

Richard Clarke did something extraordinary when he
testified before the 9-11 Commission last week. He
didn't try to escape blame, as so many routinely do.
Instead, he accepted his share of responsibility and
offered his perceptions about what happened in the
months and years leading up to September 11.

We can and should debate the facts and interpretations
Clarke has offered. But there can be no doubt that he
has risked enormous damage to his reputation and
professional future to hold both himself and our
government accountable.

The retaliation from those around the President has
been fierce. Mr. Clarke's personal motives have been
questioned and his honesty challenged. He has even
been accused, right here on the Senate floor, of
perjury. Not one shred of proof was given, but that
wasn't the point. The point was to have the perjury
accusation on television and in the newspapers. The
point was to damage Mr. Clarke in any way possible.

This is wrong–and it's not the first time it's

When Senator McCain ran for President, the Bush
campaign smeared him and his family with vicious,
false attacks. When Max Cleland ran for reelection to
this Senate, his patriotism was attacked. He was
accused of not caring about protecting our nation -- a
man who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, accused
of being indifferent to America's national security.
That was such an ugly lie, it's still hard to fathom
almost two years later.

There are some things that simply ought not be done –
even in politics. Too many people around the President
seem not to understand that, and that line has been
crossed. When Ambassador Joe Wilson told the truth
about the Administration's misleading claims about
Iraq, Niger, and uranium, the people around the
President didn't respond with facts. Instead, they
publicly disclosed that Ambassador Wilson's wife was a
deep-cover CIA agent. In doing so, they undermined
America's national security and put politics first.
They also may well have put the lives of Ambassador
Wilson's wife, and her sources, in danger.

When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill revealed
that the White House was thinking about an Iraq War in
its first weeks in office, his former colleagues in
the Bush Administration ridiculed him from morning to
night, and even subjected him to a fruitless federal

When Larry Lindsay, one of President Bush's former top
economic advisors, and General Eric Shinseki, the
former Army Chief of Staff, spoke honestly about the
amount of money and the number of troops the war would
demand, they learned the hard way that the White House
doesn't tolerate candor.

This is not "politics as usual." In nearly all of
these cases, it's not Democrats who are being

Senator McCain and Secretary O'Neill are prominent
Republicans, and Richard Clarke, Larry Lindsay, Joe
Wilson, and Eric Shinseki all worked for Republican

The common denominator is that these government
officials said things the White House didn't want

The response from those around the President was
retribution and character assassination -- a 21st
Century twist to the strategy of "shooting the

If it takes intimidation to keep inconvenient facts
from the American people, the people around the
President don't hesitate. Richard Foster, the chief
actuary for Medicare, found that out. He was told he'd
be fired if he told the truth about the cost of the
Administration's prescription drug plan.

This is no way to run a government.

The White House and its supporters should not be using
the power of government to try to conceal facts from
the American people or to reshape history in an effort
to portray themselves in the best light.

They should not be threatening the reputations and
livelihoods of people simply for asking – or answering
– questions. They should seek to put all information
about past decisions on the table for evaluation so
that the best possible decisions can be made for the
nation's future.

In Mr. Clarke's case, clear and troubling double
standards are being applied.

Last year, when the Administration was being
criticized for the President's misleading statement
about Niger and uranium, the White House unexpectedly
declassified portions of the National Intelligence
Estimate. When the Administration wants to bolster its
public case, there is little that appears too
sensitive to be declassified.

Now, people around the President want to release parts
of Mr. Clarke's earlier testimony in 2002. According
to news reports, the CIA is already working on
declassifying that testimony – at the Administration's

And last week several documents were declassified
literally overnight, not in an effort to provide
information on a pressing policy matter to the
American people, but in an apparent effort to
discredit a public servant who gave 30 years of
service to his American government.

I'll support declassifying Mr. Clarke's testimony
before the Joint Inquiry, but the Administration
shouldn't be selective. Consistent with our need to
protect sources and methods, we should declassify his
entire testimony.

And to make sure that the American people have access
to the full record as they consider this question, we
should also declassify his January 25 memo to Dr.
Rice, the September 4, 2001 National Security
Directive dealing with terrorism, Dr. Rice's testimony
to the 9-11 Commission, the still-classified 28 pages
from the House-Senate inquiry relating to Saudi
Arabia, and a list of the dates and topics of all
National Security Council meetings before September 4,

I hope this new interest in openness will also include
the Vice President's Energy and Terrorism Task Forces.
While much, if not all, of what these task forces
discussed was unclassified, their proceedings have not
been shared with the public.

There also seems to be a double standard when it comes
to investigations.

In recent days leading congressional Republicans are
now calling for an investigation into Mr. Clarke. As I
mentioned earlier, Secretary O'Neill was also
subjected to an investigation. Clarke and O'Neill
sought legal and classification review of any
information in their books before they were published.

Nonetheless, our colleagues tell us these two should
be investigated, at the same time there has been no
Senate investigation into the leaking of Valerie
Plame's identity as a deep cover CIA agent; no
thorough investigation into whether leading
Administration officials misrepresented the
intelligence regarding threats posed by Iraq; no
Senate hearings into the threat the chief Medicare
Actuary faced for trying to do his job; and no Senate
investigation into the reports of continued
overcharging by Halliburton for its work in Iraq.

There is a clear double standard when it comes to
investigating or releasing information, and that's
just is not right. The American people deserve more
from their leaders.

We're seeing it again now in the shifting reasons the
White House has given for Dr. Rice's refusal to
testify under oath and publicly before the 9-11

The people around the President first said it would be
unprecedented for Dr. Rice to testify. But thanks to
the Congressional Research Service, we now know that
previous sitting National Security Advisors have
testified before Congress.

Now the people around the President are saying that
Dr. Rice can't testify because it would violate an
important constitutional principle: the separation of

We will soon face this debate again when it comes time
for President Bush and Vice President Cheney to meet
with the 9-11 Commission. I believe they should lift
the limitations they have placed on their cooperation
with the Commission and be willing to appear before
the entire Commission for as much time as the
Commission deems productive.

The all-out assault on Richard Clarke has gone on for
more than a week now. Mr. Clarke has been accused of
"profiteering" and possible perjury. It is time for
this to stop.

The Commission should declassify Mr. Clarke's earlier
testimony. All of it. Not just the parts the White
House wants. And Dr. Rice should testify before the
9-11 Commission, and she should be under oath and in

The American people deserve to know the truth -- the
full truth -- about what happened in the years and
months leading up to September 11. Senator McCain,
Senator Cleland, Secretary O'Neill, Ambassador Wilson,
General Shinseki, Richard Foster, Richard Clarke,
Larry Lindsay ... when will the character
assassination, retribution, and intimidation end?
When will we say enough is enough?

The September 11 families – and our entire country –
deserve better. Our democracy depends on it. And our
nation's future security depends on it.


Posted by richard at March 30, 2004 03:40 PM