Long Time Coming
Well, THIS has been a long time coming, but is most welcome:
The new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday sharply criticized the Bush administration’s increasingly combative stance toward Iran, saying that White House efforts to portray it as a growing threat are uncomfortably reminiscent of rhetoric about Iraq before the American invasion of 2003.
Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who took control of the committee this month, said that the administration was building a case against Tehran even as American intelligence agencies still know little about either Iran’s internal dynamics or its intentions in the Middle East.
“To be quite honest, I’m a little concerned that it’s Iraq again,” Senator Rockefeller said during an interview in his office. “This whole concept of moving against Iran is bizarre.”
Mr. Rockefeller did not say which aspects of the Bush administration’s case against Iran he thought were not supported by solid intelligence. He did say he agreed with the White House that Iranian operatives inside Iraq were supporting Shiite militias and working against American troops.
Mr. Rockefeller said he believed President Bush was getting poor advice from advisers who argue that an uncompromising stance toward the government in Tehran will serve American interests.
“I don’t think that policy makers in this administration particularly understand Iran,” he said….
Because Mr. Rockefeller is one of a handful of lawmakers with access to the most classified intelligence about the threat from Iran, his views carry particular weight. He has also historically been more tempered in his criticism of the White House on national security issues than some of his Democratic colleagues.
Mr. Rockefeller was biting in his criticism of how President Bush has dealt with the threat of Islamic radicalism since the Sept. 11 attacks, saying he believed that the campaign against international terrorism was “still a mystery” to the president.
“I don’t think he understands the world,” Mr. Rockefeller said. “I don’t think he’s particularly curious about the world…."
When the NYTimes says that Rockefeller has historically been "more tempered," that may be the understatement of the century. Having met my Senator a number of times through the years, and having had a lengthy and frank discussion with him and a chief aide at a function shortly after Valerie Plame Wilson was outed by Novak's column, I can tell you without hesitation that he has been simmering to a boil for quite a long time with regard to the Bush Administration's contempt for differing views and their efforts to suppress any and all criticism or conflicting information from their chosen course of action, but also for their flouting of the Constitution and the laws of this nation in favor of a monarchical "unilateral executive" assertion at every turn.
But it has never been his way to jump out in front with a flashy presser and a public rant — it just is not who Jay Rockefeller is, or is ever likely to be.
Which makes this article and interview in the NYTimes all the more pointed for its direct, and occasionally snarky, criticism. It is good stuff, and everyone would do well to read and re-read for the subtle hints dropped along the way here. As I said earlier in the week, the grown-ups are back in charge — and I would expect some detailed examination of intelligence matters by Sen. Rockefeller and all the members of the Senate Intel Committee, most of whom have been chafing at the politicization of the committee by former chair Pat Roberts for months and months, skewing every hearing, every witness panel, every matter in a defined tilt toward whatever the White House dictated ought to be the slant. That is not, nor will it ever be, oversight — but it is an awful lot like propaganda and pressure on intelligence officers who are supposed to be gathering intel and analyzing it outside the political process, now isn't it?
Somehow, I have a feeling that a whole lot of something is about to let loose, so stock up on the popcorn now while you still can.