Morning Joe failed to note Bill Clinton's statement against March 2003 invasion of Iraq

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

The November 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe featured a discussion of former President Bill Clinton's November 27 comment that he "opposed [the war in] Iraq from the beginning," which contributor Willie Geist called "revisionist history." Similarly, in a November 28 "On Deadline" column discussing Clinton's comments, Associated Press writer Ron Fournier asserted: "In truth, Clinton did not oppose the Iraq war from the start -- at least not publicly." Fournier continued: "If the former president secretly opposed the war but did not want to speak against a sitting president (as some of his aides now claim), what moral authority does he have now?" But absent from either the Morning Joe discussion or Fournier's column was any mention of Clinton's comments on March 14, 2003, just days prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- which the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) posted on its website the evening of November 27 -- opposing war at that time. In those remarks, he said "let's give him [Saddam Hussein] a certain date in which, in this time, he has to destroy the missiles, reconcile the discrepancies in what we believe is the truth on chemical weapons, reconcile the discrepancies on biological weapons, reconcile the issue of the Drones, and offer up 150 scientists who can travel outside of Iraq with their families for interviews. If you do that, then we'll say this is really good-faith disarmament, and we'll go on without a conflict."

Clinton's March 14, 2003, comments were posted on The Fact Hub -- a fact-check website produced by Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign -- on November 27. From Clinton's March 14, 2003, remarks:

Do you believe this matters? If you believe it matters -- as I do -- then you have to decide if it matters whether we bend over backwards to try to disarm him in a way that strengthens rather than divides the world community. If you don't think it matters, then you're with a lot of the people in the current administration who think that we'll just go over there and this will take a few days, after we win -- victors always get to write history -- everybody will get over this and we'll get everybody back together and they'll be glad he's gone because he's a thug and a murderer. That's what they think. If you believe it matters to keep them together, then you've got to support some version of what Prime Minister Blair's doing now, which is to say, okay, he's finally destroying his missiles. And the administration, to be fair, is nominally in favor of what Blair's trying to do.

He's finally destroying his missiles, so let's give him a certain date in which, in this time, he has to destroy the missiles, reconcile the discrepancies in what we believe is the truth on chemical weapons, reconcile the discrepancies on biological weapons, reconcile the issue of the Drones, and offer up 150 scientists who can travel outside of Iraq with their families for interviews. If you do that, then we'll say this is really good-faith disarmament, and we'll go on without a conflict. Now if that passes, however, then you have to be willing to take yes for an answer. You see what I mean? I'm for regime change too, but there's more than one way to do it. We don't invade everybody whose regime we want to change. There's more than one way to do this, but if that passes and he actually disarms, then we have to be willing to take it, and then work for regime change by supporting the opposition to Saddam Hussein within and outside Iraq, and doing other things.

From the November 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

JOE SCARBOROUGH (host): And then Bill Clinton, he's at it again. He's out there, and what's Bill Clinton saying?

GEIST: He's saying he's been against the war from the very beginning.

SCARBOROUGH: What? Huh?

GEIST: Yeah. And he's flabbergasted that they went to war. And he says -- during his campaigning for his wife --

MIKA BREZINZSKI (co-anchor): Yeah?

GEIST: -- he said, quote, "I was against the Iraq war from the beginning. Even though I approved of Afghanistan and opposed Iraq from the beginning, I still resent that I was not asked or given the opportunity to support those soldiers."

Now, that's some more revisionist history, obviously. But I would submit to you, Joe Scarborough, that Karl Rove's rewriting of history is a little more consequential --

BREZINZSKI: Yeah.

GEIST: -- than Bill Clinton's because Bill Clinton was --

BREZINZSKI: But it's an interesting --

GEIST: -- sitting in the La-Z-Boy at that point.

BREZINZSKI: It's an interesting example of the way things are spun as you look back.

GEIST: It is interesting, isn't it?

BREZINZSKI: Fascinating, actually.

GEIST: And unfortunately, we're in the middle of a giant spin machine, and it's very difficult to remember what actually happened --

BREZINZSKI: Well, we should watch.

GEIST: -- but it's incumbent upon us to remind people.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I can tell you what happened. Bill Clinton, in April of 2003, praised the president and his handling of the war in Iraq. And Bill Clinton praised the president in his handling of the war, and also said that the Senate should give the president the authority -- that, in fact, his wife did give the president -- to go to war with Iraq.

BREZINZSKI: Oh. OK.

GEIST: That is --

SCARBOROUGH: The president [Clinton] also said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, as did Al Gore in 2002, as did Ted Kennedy, as did John Edwards, as did Hillary Clinton, as did every single Democrat who is now kicking and screaming, saying, "George Bush lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction." Even Saddam Hussein said, "I have weapons of mass destruction," so there is a rewriting of history. And Mika, I like your idea about a new board game.

BREZINZSKI: I think it would be fun. We could have it right here. Revisionist History. And we could have a little Karl Rove.

GEIST: Everything you said about Bill Clinton is true. But don't you find it a little more outrageous that the man who was actually one of the architects of the war would change the story of the war?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, sure. It affects us more now. But I'm saying that the Bush administration just didn't wake up one day and say, "Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." When I was in Congress, and we heard the Clinton administration in '97, in '98, in '99, in 2000, saying Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Then it was the Democratic Party that was pushing us to take military action against Iraq, to scramble jets, to send missiles in there. So you have two administrations that had been pushing war in Iraq, that had been talking about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, who I guess last night just decided maybe if we just tell the people of Iowa and the country and the world that we were against the war, maybe they'll believe us.

GEIST: It's amazing. This was no one's idea. Everyone was railroaded into the war with Iraq.

BREZINZSKI: Right. Well --

GEIST: Where did it come from, then?

BREZINZSKI: It's going to be important during this election for voters to really look at everybody, because depending on what candidate wins could change the direction of this country completely.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, and, you know, Bill Clinton going out to Iowa and saying such things insults the people of Iowa. They are smart voters. They pay close attention.

You know, when Bill Clinton said a couple of weeks ago -- we had Tim Russert on telling us this -- that when Bill Clinton said a couple of weeks ago that he thought the men were ganging up on his poor old wife. Well, then we had polls showing that a lot of men hated him playing the gender card, and Hillary Clinton lost support.

Now when he says that he was against this war from the beginning, when everybody knows that's just not the truth. He undervalues the intelligence of the Iowa voter, and again, I think we may have a situation where he's being too clever by half, which was always Bill Clinton's problem. He's always too cute.

Yeah, he smoked pot, but he didn't inhale. And, yes, I did this, I did that, and now he's doing it again with the war. And it's just -- again, I don't think he does his wife favors. Just for once admit, "I supported the war. I said he had weapons of mass destruction. I supported the president's handling of the war at the beginning." Admit it. We're not dumb.

BREZINZSKI: Well, and Hillary Clinton does. I mean, she says, "I believed what I was told."

GEIST: She has to. She voted for it. She can't help but admit to that.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, yeah, but Bill Clinton -- there are a thousand quotes in newspapers of Bill Clinton saying the he supported the president's handling of the war. And now he thinks that nobody is going to hold him accountable to it. it's just --

BREZINZSKI: Very interesting. And that Karl Rove clip is very enlightening as well.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Willie Geist
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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