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Context of 'February 28, 2002: Some Republican Politicians Suggest Any Criticism of Bush’s ‘War on Terrorism’ Is Out of Line'

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When asked in a press conference if the success of the “war on terrorism” has been overstated, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) replies: “I don’t think the success has been overstated. But the continued success I think is still somewhat in doubt.… I will say that at this point, given the information we’ve been provided, I don’t think it would do anybody any good to second-guess what has been done to date. I think it has been successful. I’ve said that on many, many occasions. But I think the jury’s still out about future success, as I’ve said.” He adds that it would be necessary for the US to find Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders for the “war on terrorism” to be considered a success. But despite the mild tone of these comments, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) responds by saying: “How dare Senator Daschle criticize President Bush while we are fighting our war on terrorism, especially when we have troops in the field. He should not be trying to divide our country while we are united.” Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) calls Daschle’s remarks “thoughtless and ill-timed.” And Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) uses language analogous to a charge of treason, saying that that Daschle’s “divisive comments have the effect of giving aid and comfort to our enemies by allowing them to exploit divisions in our country.” [Salon, 3/1/2002] Secretary of State Colin Powell defends Daschle and other Democrats, saying: “They’re raising questions. And I think that’s what a loyal opposition does.” The Washington Post editorial board criticizes the Republican response, saying that the US “would be a weaker country if Sen. Lott succeed[s] in choking off debate.” But Lott refuses to apologize, and says that “any sign that we are losing that unity, or crack in that support, will be, I think, used against us overseas.” [New York Times, 3/1/2002; Salon, 3/5/2002]

Entity Tags: Trent Lott, Tom Daschle, Colin Powell, Bill Frist, Tom Davis

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

President Bush invites a group of congressional leaders to have breakfast with him and Cheney in the White House’s private dining room to discuss Iraq. Present at the meeting are Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. Bush tells the lawmakers that he needs a Congressional resolution authorizing military force against Iraq, and he needs it soon. During the meeting, Daschle suggests that it would be better to postpone the debate on such a resolution until after the November elections, so as to take politics out of the equation (see September 19, 2002). According to Daschle, Bush looks at Cheney, who replies with a “half smile.” Then Bush answers, “We just have to do it now.” [New York Times, 9/7/2002; Dean, 2004, pp. 140; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 23] After the meeting, the lawmakers pass the word that Bush implied new intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program would be forthcoming. That new information never materializes. [Dean, 2004, pp. 140] In the upcoming days, many Democrats will accuse the Bush administration of attempting to “politicize” the debate on the resolution in order to impact the upcoming midterm elections (see September 25, 2002 and September 26, 2002).

Entity Tags: Tom Daschle, Trent Lott, Dennis Hastert, George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard Gephardt

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Presidential adviser Karl Rove is concerned about the 9/11 Commission, which is soon to be established (see November 15, 2002). Author Philip Shenon will say this is because he thinks that “in the wrong hands… [it] could cost President Bush a second term.” According to Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Republican Senator Trent Lott says that behind-the-scenes opposition to the commission’s creation is orchestrated by Rove and the White House’s political office. “It’s all Rove,” Lott tells Daschle. Rove is also involved in the selection of the Commission’s initial chairman, Henry Kissinger (see November 27, 2002), and his successor Tom Kean (see December 14, 2002). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 15, 29]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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