On Monday, March 17, as news broke that President Bush was going to issue an ultimatum to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.) went on the warpath-against our Commander in Chief.
Addressing a conference of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Daschle said: “I’m saddened, saddened that this President failed so miserably at diplomacy that we’re now forced to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this President couldn’t create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country.”
These remarks assumed 1) diplomacy could have persuaded Saddam to disarm, 2) Bush, not Saddam or the French, was responsible for its failure, and 3) Americans would die unnecessarily because of Bush’s failure.
Republicans instantly rebuked Daschle. “Senator Daschle has spent more time criticizing the leadership of President Bush than he has spent criticizing the tyranny of Saddam Hussein,” said House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.)
HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor David Freddoso went to the Senate to see if he could find Democrats ready to support their leader. It was slim pickings: Daschle still has Jim Jeffords on his side.
HE: [Tom Daschle] actually said President Bush cost American lives by failing miserably at diplomacy, to disarm Saddam Hussein peacefully-
ANOTHER REPORTER: He said that Bush’s failure forced us into war.
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D.-IND.): Well, then I would respectfully disagree. Better diplomacy would have led to better support. That certainly would have been desirable. But would it have led to Saddam Hussein disarming voluntarily? I don’t think so.
Do you agree with Senator Daschle that President Bush cost American lives by “failing miserably” in the diplomatic effort to disarm Saddam Hussein peacefully?
SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D.-LA.): I don’t think that’s what he said.
He said he was very disappointed that we had to lose even one life because President Bush failed miserably in the diplomacy with Iraq.
BREAUX: Well, any time you have a war it’s an acknowledgement that diplomacy has failed. There’s no question that it’s failed. Whose fault is it? I’m not certain. There are a lot of facts and a lot of figures involved in the diplomatic effort that resulted in the failure. France is one of the major causes for it to fail. So war is an admission that diplomacy has failed. I think that everybody wished it had been successful.
Do you think there’s anything specifically President Bush could have done differently that would have brought about a peaceful solution?
BREAUX: Well, that’s Monday morning quarterbacking. I think it’s not helpful.
Senator Daschle said yesterday President Bush cost American lives by failing “miserably” in his diplomatic effort to disarm Saddam Hussein. Do you agree with that assessment?
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D.-WISC.): I can only speak to my own view, which is that I respectfully disagree with the President’s approach to this problem. But he was given the authority by the Congress last year-even though I voted against it-and at this point, if he’s intending to go for it, we need to support our troops and hope for a good result.
Senator Daschle said yesterday President Bush had “miserably failed” in diplomacy and now he’s going to force us into war. Do you agree with that assessment?
SEN. JIM JEFFORDS (I.-VT.): Well, this whole Iraq thing is something that has been in the President’s mind, and the decision was made months, years ago that we were on that course. I don’t think anything is going to dissuade him going forward. The only issue is timing.
In your opinion, is the disarming of Saddam Hussein necessary, or do you think it can be handled without-
JEFFORDS: Well, first of all I would say that I don’t think the war is necessary. If you look at the United Nations, they had made real progress toward disarming. They found, first of all, the number one threat we have been talking about, nuclear, was not there. And when you get down to the poison gas and that sort of stuff, there’s no direct threat to the United States. And so if you’re going to go to war, you have to justify it, and the only way you can justify it, in my mind, is that the United Nations sanctions it. And when they didn’t sanction it, I don’t think we should have gone for it.
Senator Daschle said yesterday President Bush had cost lives because he had “failed miserably” in diplomacy to disarm Saddam Hussein. Is that accurate, in your assessment, or is he just pinning the blame on Bush?
SEN. BEN NELSON (D.-NEB.): Well, I would suggest it another way. . . . A lot of people believe that it would have been better to have gotten the diplomatic relations handled on the front side, rather than on the back side. In other words, after the decision was made, there was a military buildup, and then you go back to the United Nations and try to get a second resolution-and where’s the diplomacy in that? If you put it all together up front, I think that might have been what he had in mind. . . .
Do you think that any amount of diplomacy would have caused Saddam to disarm-
-or are you just saying that we would have given a better impression with the rest of the world when we took action?
NELSON: We would have a better impression in the rest of the world, and we probably would have gotten some other members of the Security Council to go along with the second resolution. . . .
But you’re saying that it would have been a matter of our image rather than actually having an effect on Hussein? We would eventually have gotten to where we are now?
NELSON: Well yes, eventually, I think we would be where we are at the moment. . .
Do you think that Daschle puts too much blame on the President by blaming him for forcing us into war, costing us lives?
NELSON: Well, those are his words, not mine. I just expressed my view of it, and critiquing it, I hope that in the future we spend more time on the front end, and less time on the back end, regarding diplomacy.
Senator Daschle said President Bush failed so miserably at diplomacy that now we’re forced to go to war. Do you think that’s a fair assessment of how the President has done on Iraq?
SEN GEORGE VOINOVICH (R.-OHIO): What bothers me is I think Tom voted for the resolution on the floor [to authorize military force]. And all of us would have hoped that we could have solved this diplomatically. The President did everything in his power, and I think the fact that we were able to get that resolution  out of the Security Council, fifteen-zip, was miraculous . . . . It was a monumental effort, and the people who signed that resolution knew full well what it meant. And our allies-in quotation marks-waffled. . . So they sold us out, like Judas, for money and prestige and power. And for someone to say that we failed lacks credibility, intellectual honesty. And I think that as [Daschle] looks back on his career, he will regret that he made that remark.. . . [I]f anyone is to blame for the fact that we’re going to war, it’s the French, it’s the Germans, it’s some of the other people who vacillated when they should have stood up for the resolutions that the United Nations passed going back 12 years. . . . So I think that Daschle’s depiction of history is all wet, and wacko, and I think some day he’ll regret that he made that statement.
Senator Daschle said yesterday that President Bush had cost American lives. . .
SEN. MARK DAYTON (D.-MINN): I don’t know what Senator Daschle said, I’m sorry. (The Senator retreated into the Senate chamber.)