What Rove Admits in His Memoir: 4 Theories

The boldest one: he admits Iraq was an error

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Advance copies of Karl Rove's new memoir have made it to the major papers and have political blogs buzzing. The big question: does Rove or doesn't Rove admit mistakes regarding the Iraq War? The former Bush strategist vigorously defends the administration against charges of having lied about intelligence, but some see curious gaps in this explanation. Here's one passage in focus:

Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq's horrendous human rights violations

Left-leaning pundits, in particular, are dissecting the details.

  • Rove Admits War Was a Mistake  Some see Rove's admission that Congress wouldn't have approved the Iraq war without a WMD threat as an admission that the war itself was a mistake. Philadelphia Weekly's Joel Mathis, for example:
The math here is simple and, really, inarguable. If the invasion of Iraq wouldn't have happened without the WMDs, and if Iraq didn't actually possess WMDs, then the invasion of Iraq was a huge mistake--one created in part by the Bush Administration's aggressive blunder in short-circuiting the U.N. process. The debate, such as it was, is over. We can all move on.
  • Admits to 'False Pretenses?'  Mark Murray and the non-partisan MSNBC First Read team are shocked. "Is it us, or does he admit in his book--point blank--that George W. Bush went to war in Iraq under false pretenses?" They, too, point to the section regarding Congress. They call the admission "stunning":
Many in the chattering class take for granted the facts regarding WMD and Iraq now, but to have someone THIS close to the former president tell the world that this war was waged under false pretenses is stunning. Now partisans on both sides will get into their corners, but Rove has re-opened the Iraq debate again, and it's happening on the eve of one of the most crucial periods in THAT country's history.
  • Rove Admits to an Error--the Wrong One  Greg Sargent at The Plum Line takes issue with an AP headline reading Rove "admits to error on Iraq." They're referring, he observes, to Rove's acknowledgment that he should have countered the "Bush lied" narrative much earlier, and attacked it head-on. "Rove... blamed himself for failing to 'set the record' straight," writes Sargent. "But how is this any kind of admission? This is entirely unapologetic when it comes to the Bush/Rove handling of the war."
  • Rove Admits to None of the 'Lies'  Liberal writer David Corn, who's written two books on Bush and Iraq, lengthily rebuts Rove's assertion that Bush "absolutely" did not "lie us into war." Corn counters, "There is no doubt that the Bush posse mischaracterized what was known and not known about WMDs in Iraq. It was easy--and useful--for them to do so, for they didn't care to get this right." He asks the media, on Rove's book tour, to "press" him on this point.
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