Clift Claims Bush and Cheney Committed a Modern Gulf of Tonkin Incident

Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift, in a new column previewing on, has finally moved the “Bush lied” debate in a direction that has been highly anticipated: in her view, the alleged misinformation concerning Iraq WMD is equivalent to what President Lyndon Johnson and his Defense Secretary Robert McNamara did in 1964 concerning the Gulf of Tonkin incident:

“There is a parallel with Vietnam in the falsehoods advanced by government to rally congressional support and public opinion for war. Take the ongoing controversy over exactly what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. Although analysts on the scene radioed back to Washington that there was no cause for alarm, President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara glossed over doubts about a second attack on American ships and trumpeted the alleged expansion of the war by the North Vietnamese to rally Congress and the American people to escalate a war that had been losing public support. Sen. William Fulbright, one of only two senators to oppose the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, said in a speech on the Senate floor, ‘We will rue this day.’”

She continued: “President Bush and Vice President Cheney accuse Democrats of ‘rewriting history’ by objecting to a war they voted for and claiming they were misled. But the information presented to lawmakers was selective, and efforts to learn more were stymied.”

Yet, Clift’s claims regarding “selective” information and “efforts to learn more [being] stymied” were flatly contradicted by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan), chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, on Fox News’ “Special Report” yesterday. Hoekstra stated that every member of the Intelligence Committee can ask for whatever information they require directly from the CIA, and that members of Congress that are not on that committee can seek information from those that are. Yet, according to Hoekstra, very few members of Congress took advantage of this prior to casting their votes on the war resolution in October 2002.

What follows is a full transcript of that exchange.

JIM ANGLE: The consensus of the community is should members of Congress see something different than the consensus of the community?

HOEKSTRA: Absolutely. And we can't. We get the documents. We get the consensus.

If we have more questions we can call the CIA, we can call the Defense Intelligence Agency, and say, you know, we want to peel back the layers. We have access to the analysts. We can dig further down and, not only have access to the analyst, but say what were the sources and methods that were used to give this information so that we have a better understanding.

No, we don't get exactly what the president gets. You know, he has a presidential daily brief, but we can dig down. We can drill down when you need to.

ANGLE: You mean a member of Congress can just call up in the midst of this debate over the war, could just call up the CIA and say hey, guys, I am wondering about a particular issue. I want to ask some questions on this?

HOEKSTRA: Not every member of Congress. Every member on the Intel Committee can do that, and request for other members of Congress go through the Intel Committee, we decide whether we are going to give them access or not.

You know, digging down and drilling down its the job of the Intel Committee. That's what we're supposed to do.

ANGLE: Now, "Washington Post" reported the other day that only six senators and a handful of house members took advantage of an opportunity to come over and look at the National Intelligence Estimate, the whole document, which was available to them before they voted on the war.

What do you know about that? Were people given the opportunity to see that? And did they take that opportunity?

HOEKSTRA: Members were given the opportunity. I don't know exactly the date when they were given the opportunity to access the documents. I know who's seen the documents, and so I know the number, but it's classified in the committee, so I can't share it with you.

But I think the American people would be surprised by how few people took the opportunity to actually go through the National Intelligence Estimate, and I think they'd be disappointed. 

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