Iraq Is on the Minds of all Voters

On the theory that any news is good news, I enjoyed the Houston Chronicle's coverage of yesterday: my GOTV rally speech and unsuccessful attempt to vote, because of a computer glitch, the folks said. I couldn't even get a provisional ballot. The TV cameraman seemed bemused, and I promised not to give up.


I early voted today at another location, with no trouble (and no TV camera this time), after addressing the polling place and meeting voters. (Unlike the primary, every person I met beforehand and after knew me from seeing me on TV)


I spent this morning at a famous sidewalk cafe in Houston, the Empire, for "Coffee with the Candidates," a half hour TV special featuring patrons questioning candidates at tables, with 4 TV cameras shooting. The questions mirrored what I've been hearing statewide in 550 plus trips: a businesswoman who owns a barbeque place asked about health care and insurance (I spoke of the need for prompt pay, preventive coverage and risk pool, with lowered administrative costs), a student asked about education (tuition deregulation is big, given cutbacks), and everyone wants to talk Iraq. Everyone.


It's not lost on a single person that my opponent, on national news, has gone from "increase US troops" to "partition Iraq" to "stay the course" to "course change" to "I didn't mean partition" to her claims in the debate that she would have voted against the war had she possessed the intelligence on WMD, to "we must stay in Iraq to prevent the terrorists from following us home." Voters are outraged at the notion that our soldiers are viewed as cannon fodder to avoid a global war on terror.


The cafe format permitted a lengthier explanation than in the debate's 90 second answer, so I discussed the classified intelligence contrasted with unclassified at the time of the Iraqi war vote in October 2002, when Sen. Bob Graham begged his colleagues on the floor of the Senate to read the 90 page classified NIE on WMD (as opposed to the 25 pages of declassified materials).


"Friends, I encourage you to read the classified intelligence reports which are much sharper than what is available in declassified form," Sen. Graham reports stating on the floor of the Senate in October 2002.

"We are going to be increasing the threat level against the people of the United States." He warned: "Blood is going to be on your hands"


Sen. Graham has explained that the classified version did not support the later claim by George Tenet that the WMD issue was a "slam dunk." The former Florida senator has also explained that the 25-page declassified document didn't accurately represent the classified NIE; "gone" were the assessments of Saddam Hussein's intentions to use WMD, omitting "a huge component" selectively removed.


And Graham has said the "slick" 25-page document was "substantially different" from the classified document, and selectively put forth risks in favor of invading, while omitting other key information. A "livid" Sen Graham had complained to George Tenet of the "wildly different impressions" created by the two documents. Sen. Graham's book "Intelligence Matters" recites the contemporaneous evidence available to Sen Hutchison, had she read it as requested: Saddam Hussein was not going to attack us unless we attacked him. We know the far greater terror risks were known then and served as the focus for the Graham Amendment: war on Al-Qaeda, Abu Nidal, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Liberation Front, and Hezbollah. And, he explains the rational priorities known then: finishing the job in Afghanistan, with General Franks's honest assessment of where the war on terror needed to be fought, known in February of 2002 (Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen) at a time when General Franks disclosed that the intelligence on WMD in Iraq was 'weak.'


This issue, I believe, combined with Sen. Hutchison's refusal to pledge to serve her term if re elected, serves, I believe, as the major reason for my endorsements in the "The Daily Texan" and the Austin Chronicle.