July 19, 2004,
Former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, a close friend and supporter of presidential candidate John Kerry, today launched into a blistering attack against President Bush.
In a conference call with reporters, Cleland said the president went to war in Iraq “because he concluded that his daddy was a failed president” for not having removed Saddam Hussein from power after the first Gulf War. Therefore, Cleland explained, the younger Bush decided to “be Mr. Macho Man” by removing Saddam himself.
Cleland also said the president “flat-out lied” when he asked Congress to authorize war in Iraq. “He told us four things,” Cleland said, listing Bush’s claims of Iraq weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons programs, attempts to acquire yellowcake uranium in Africa, and ties to al Qaeda. “All of that was a pack of lies,” Cleland said. Both Cleland and Kerry voted to authorize the war.
“The president is living in a world of denial,” Cleland said. “So is the Vice President, and so is the Secretary of State.”
Cleland also said the president’s famous “16 word” contention that Iraq sought uranium in Africa “is a lie.” When asked if he believes former ambassador Joseph Wilson, the Bush critic whose story was substantially undermined in the new Senate report on pre-war intelligence, Cleland said, “I do believe that Joe Wilson is telling the truth. I believe he has tremendous credibility, and I’ve met with him personally for hours.”
Cleland condemned the Bush administration for what he said were its illegal efforts to discredit Wilson by publicly identifying his wife, a former covert CIA operative, as the person who recommended him to investigate the African uranium matter. Cleland said there will “probably be some indictments coming down, because they [the Bush administration] broke the federal law on that.”