CIA Director George Tenet said in a speech Thursday that his agency never contended that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction were an imminent threat, and Sen. John Kerry then exploded as if he were himself a weapon of mass destruction.
"They (the Bush administration) said Iraq posed a 'mortal threat,' an 'urgent threat,' an 'immediate threat,' a 'serious threat,' and yes, an 'imminent threat' to the people of the United States," Kerry said. the Democratic presidential candidate in what a news account describes as a prepared statement.
Given that Bush-is-a-liar outburst, it would seem time, for the sake of perspective and historical accuracy, to pull out a couple of quotes, the first from Kerry again, delivered in 2002 when he was explaining in 2002 how he would vote on allowing military engagement with Iraq.
"I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force — if necessary — to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
Now Kerry, it should be understood, had means of finding out about the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies concerning the Iraqi threat. If he voted the way he did without some research, he was being irresponsible. His words about a "real and grave threat" are at least as pressing as Bush's oft-quoted words about "a grave and gathering threat." Both phrases, as it turns out, were right, but neither phrase should be mistaken by anyone whose literacy is not in question as implying that Saddam stood ready to give terrorists chemical, biological or nuclear weapons imminently.
That brings us to the second quote, this one from President Bush in his State of the Union speech at the beginning of last year.
"Some have said that we must not act until the threat (from Iraq) is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If the threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late."
Here, just about as specifically as possible, Bush concedes the threat is not imminent. In fact, much of the debate preceding the war in Iraq was over the administration's intentions of going to war in the absence of an immediate threat, and it is impossible to think Kerry so drowsy during all that discussion that he missed the point.
Tenet's Thursday remarks back up the administration — his assertion, for instance, that Bush never wanted anything but the unvarnished truth from him and his continued belief that Iraq posed a danger to this country.
The administration's credibility remains intact. Kerry's doesn't.