Where Have All the Blowhards Gone?

An Iraq invasion retrospective!

Travel back with us to the spring of 2002. The nation is liquored-up on Osama bin Laden, adrenalin, the war in Afghanistan, dirty bombs, shoe bombs, anthrax—and the dawning realization that, while the president of the United States might look like a chimp, he is almost certainly not as smart as one. Relax, Irvine-based syndicated shock jock Hugh Hewitt tells MSNBC's Alan Keyes on May 6, 2002. "I believe that a year from now, when Iraq has been toppled, you will look back and say, 'You know what? We were a little too quick to judge this president. There were plans within plans within plans, and he was executing them.'"

Seven months later, on the same network's Buchanan & Press, Hewitt parroted the administration's claim—now exposed as a lie—that Iraq had and was ready to use weapons of mass destruction. Hewitt's mangled syntax suggests he was channeling the president hisself when he asserted, "We are going to war against Iraq because they have the potential via weapons of mass destruction to deliver to themselves the same kind of deterrent that North Korea now possesses as a result of the Clinton-Carter appeasement of the 1990s." That twisted attempt to link all threats in an unholy trinity—nuclear, communist and Clinton liberals—led Hewitt, by now almost breathless with anxiety, to his conclusion: "We have to go and remove that problem before it metastasizes and threatens the entire region, including American interests."


Illustration by Bob Aul

Now, of course, we know there was no metastasizing threat. The weapons of mass destruction? Nonexistent. Saddam Hussein? Can't find him. The link between Saddam and al-Qaida? Gone. The joy with which Iraqis were going to greet America's gum-chewing gods? Check the body bags. The plan within a plan for leaving Iraq? In a White House memo dated Oct. 16, Secretary of State Don Rumsfeld admitted the administration has no plan—no way to measure whether "we are winning or losing the global war on terror," no exit strategy, no blueprint more detailed than the prediction that the way out of this mess is likely to be "a long, hard slog."

If Hewitt has a talent, it would appear to be his endless capacity for stating with precision the opposite of what's true—and then to attack administration critics. When Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) admitted he was "saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war," Hewitt—jacked-up on 200-proof American can-do spirits—reached deep into history for the most subtle comparison available: in a March 19 Weekly Standard column, he compared Daschle to Nazi sympathizers. Daschle's despair at watching peace slip away was, Hewitt alleged, "unprecedented for the leader of the opposition party in Congress." Unprecedented? Yeah, for that sort of politicking, you have to go all the way back to late 1998. Shortly after Bill Clinton ordered U.S. forces in Iraq to enforce UN mandates with surgical air strikes, Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott released a one-page statement reading in part, "I cannot support this military action in the Persian Gulf at this time."

If Hewitt is asked to reconcile all this—his puffed-up predictions, the Nazi-name-calling, the grotesque errors of fact, the blind partisanship masquerading as patriotism—he'd be best advised to quote one of Ronald Reagan's more famous misspeaks. Reading from a teleprompter John Adams' observation that "facts are stubborn things," Reagan Freudian slipped: "Facts," he said, "are stupid things.

—Will Swaim

Resolution Rock

According to www.citiesforpeace.org, more than 160 U.S. cities have passed resolutions opposing the war in Iraq. Inspired by these numbers, Mark Leyes took action last spring: he wrote a resolution supporting it.

"If there are cities that are going to oppose the war," reasons Leyes, "then as a counterpoint, it's important that we go on record and support it."

"We" is the Garden Grove City Council, on which Leyes is a member. Largely on the portly politician's insistence, the five-person council unanimously approved on March 25 his resolution supporting "the President of the United States and the U.S. Armed Forces in the matter of disarming the despotic regime in Iraq."

No other Orange County city took a position for or against the war. The Fullerton, Irvine and Laguna Beach city councils rejected citizen-written proposals opposing the war. County Supervisors Chuck Smith and Chris Norby scuttled a motion by fellow Supervisor Bill Campbell that would have sent a letter to President George W. Bush announcing Orange County's support; Campbell sent his own letter anyhow on official letterhead.

The councils and supervisors argued that local governments should focus on local issues, not international skirmishes. But Leyes felt otherwise. "As the senior member of the council, [the resolution] reflects the sentiment of a large portion, if not a majority, of city residents," says Leyes, who says he didn't consult anyone before putting the resolution on the March 25 council agenda.

The Garden Grove City Council has done nothing since to follow up on its pro-war resolution—there isn't even going to be a city-sponsored Veterans Day ceremony this year. Nevertheless, Leyes is unapologetic about passing the resolution or his continued support for the war.

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