Whether Bush lied is a settled issue for all but the most hardened idealogues. It's time to move beyond it.
On the whole lying thing, Josh Marshall nails it:
Logically speaking, this should be the column where I sound off about the emerging body of evidence that the Bush White House hyped, manipulated and puffed up evidence and generally bamboozled the American people about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). But, if it's all the same, can we just face facts instead?
C'mon. There's no "emerging body of evidence."
If you were (a) paying attention to this debate, and (b) not an utterly rabid ideologue, you knew the administration was tossing around all sorts of improbable, unproven or just plain ridiculous stories. All that's changed is that something else truly unexpected happened: We didn't find anything — no chemicals, no biologicals, no nothing — at least not yet. And that fact suddenly made it possible to discuss, or maybe just impossible to ignore, what most of us knew all along.
John B. Judis and Spencer Ackerman sensibly move on to the far more important matter of just what these lies mean to our democracy, and what we should do about them. In The New Republic:
Foreign policy is always difficult in a democracy. Democracy requires openness. Yet foreign policy requires a level of secrecy that frees it from oversight and exposes it to abuse. As a result, Republicans and Democrats have long held that the intelligence agencies--the most clandestine of foreign policy institutions--should be insulated from political interference in much the same way as the higher reaches of the judiciary. As the Tower Commission, established to investigate the Iran-Contra scandal, warned in November 1987, "The democratic processes ... are subverted when intelligence is manipulated to affect decisions by elected officials and the public."
If anything, this principle has grown even more important since September 11, 2001. The Iraq war presented the United States with a new defense paradigm: preemptive war, waged in response to a prediction of a forthcoming attack against the United States or its allies. This kind of security policy requires the public to base its support or opposition on expert intelligence to which it has no direct access. It is up to the president and his administration--with a deep interest in a given policy outcome--nonetheless to portray the intelligence community's findings honestly. If an administration represents the intelligence unfairly, it effectively forecloses an informed choice about the most important question a nation faces: whether or not to go to war. That is exactly what the Bush administration did when it sought to convince the public and Congress that the United States should go to war with Iraq.