Cheney’s pride of ownership

CHENEY’S PRIDE OF OWNERSHIP….Slate’s Fred Kaplan wrote a compelling piece last week about the White House’s defense of the war in Iraq. Kaplan’s point made sense at the time, but I don’t think Bush and Cheney are sticking to the original script.

President George W. Bush has suddenly shifted rhetoric on the war in Iraq. Until recently, the administration’s line was basically, “Everything we are saying and doing is right.” It was a line that held him in good stead, especially with his base, which admired his constancy above all else. Now, though, as his policies are failing and even his base has begun to abandon him, a new line is being trotted out: “Yes, we were wrong about some things, but everybody else was wrong, too, so get over it.”

This “I was wrong, but so were you” tack is, to be sure, underpinning most of the new White House talking points, including the mistaken notion that Democrats in Congress saw the same intelligence as the president.

But the entire line of argument has become less and less applicable over the last week. If the White House was really arguing that everyone was wrong at the same time about the same things for same reason, then the “I was wrong, but so were you” approach would make sense. But what we’re seeing instead is, “I was wrong, but so were you … and by the way, I was right all along.”

Consider Dick Cheney’s speech this afternoon (text, video).

“In a post-9/11 world, the President and Congress of the United States declined to trust the word of a dictator who had a history of weapons of mass destruction programs, who actually used weapons of mass destruction against innocent civilians in his own country, who tried to assassinate a former President of the United States, who was routinely shooting at allied pilots trying to enforce no fly zones, who had excluded weapons inspectors, who had defied the demands of the international community, whose regime had been designated an official state sponsor of terror, and who had committed mass murder.”

Cheney isn’t trying to share responsibility for a war most Americans believe was a mistake; he’s back to where he was in 2002, arguing that the invasion, war, and occupation of Iraq were not only the right call, but were absolutely necessary.

This isn’t an easy needle to thread. The Bush gang will grudgingly concede that Iraq had no WMD, or nuclear program, or ties to 9/11, and in their weaker moments, admit that Saddam Hussein did not pose an imminent threat to the United States. Simultaneously they’ll argue that the war was essential from the beginning. The White House wants to have its yellowcake and eat it too.

Will this persuade anyone who disapproves of the war and Bush’s handling of it to change their mind? It’s hard to see how.