Karl Rove fired back Tuesday against the critics who are saying his book about his years as President George W. Bush’s senior adviser is a collection of distortions and lies, particularly as it relates to the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and the Valerie Plame affair.
Rove sat down with TODAY’s Matt Lauer in New York to discuss the criticisms of the book. Lauer began the interview by noting that Dana Milbank of The Washington Post called the book “500 pages of you rewriting history.”
Reading from Milbank’s review of “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight,” Lauer quoted, “That business about President George W. Bush misleading the nation about Iraq? Didn’t happen ... Condoning torture? Wrong!”
“Let’s stop right there. He said one sentence. I devoted an entire chapter to showing that Bush did not lie about Iraq,” Rove fired back. “He may be able to dismiss it in one snarky line, but I have the facts in here.”
Where were the WMD?
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush cited intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and was willing to use them against the United States and its allies. Bush’s secretary of state, Colin Powell, used the intelligence developed by the CIA to defend the invasion to the United Nations and the world.
Invading forces never found WMD in Iraq, and it is now generally agreed that the intelligence was faulty. Critics of Bush and Rove have said the president ignored information suggesting that Hussein had no WMD, and Rove writes in his book that without the WMD, there would have been no invasion and no war.
Rove said the critics ignore that there was general agreement at the time that Hussein had the weapons.
“The intelligence was worldwide agreed that he had WMD,” Rove told Lauer. “In fact, I quote Democrats. There were 110 Democrats who voted for the Iraq war resolution. Sixty-seven of those Democrats, including John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, on the floor of the Congress, said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”
“There was a consensus,” Rove said. “It doesn’t imply that everybody agreed. It implies that the preponderance of evidence and the majority of agreement was that there was WMD. This is a bipartisan agreement. It was Al Gore and Bill Clinton as well as Republicans who said he had WMD.”
Lauer pressed Rove on the issue, saying that Bush’s staunchest ally, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, wrote in a 2002 memo that the case for Hussein having WMD was thin.
“Well, he agreed with the decision,” Rove said. “It was a worldwide consensus. You can go back and rewrite history. But at that moment, we as a nation were faced with the belief that he had WMD, that he was a threat to the stability of the region, and in the aftermath of 9/11, the calculus changed.”
In his memoir, former White House political adviser Karl Rove says he should have pushed back against allegations that President Bush invaded Iraq under false pretenses.
1PfalsefalseIn the book, Rove admits to making a major mistake on Iraq, but he says the mistake was not being more forceful in countering Democratic attacks after it became clear there were no WMD in Iraq.
In July 2003, Sen. Ted Kennedy, who voted against the invasion, accused Bush of lying about WMD. Rove said within the next two days, five major Democrats, including Sens. John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, repeated the charge.
“When you have five major Democrats pick up the same line in two days which they know is incorrect, it is a political attack aimed at the heart of the administration, and we should have responded stronger than we did,” Rove said.
Plame and Katrina
The man described as “Bush’s brain” was similarly defiant about his role in the Valerie Plame affair, in which Plame, a covert CIA agent, had her cover blown by columnist Robert Novak. Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was found guilty of perjury for lying about his conversation with Novak that led to the outing. Bush then pardoned Libby.