Will: ‘A bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq’
The Bush administration spent only one hour on a report on Afghanistan before handing the issue over to the incoming Obama administration, a former Clinton-era White House chief of staff says.
John Podesta, now president of the Center for American Progress, made the comments during a discussion on ABC’s This Week about former Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent criticism of the White House for “dithering” over a decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.
Podesta painted a picture of a hypocritical Bush administration that itself “dithered” over Afghanistan decisions, and — according to Podesta — spent only one hour preparing a report for the handover of the Afghanistan issue to the Obama administration.
“I think that the deliberation that’s going on is actually exemplary,” Podesta told the roundtable discussion. “It seems that the Bush administration for eight months did sit on Gen. [David] McKiernan’s request for more troops.”
Podesta was echoing a claim made by White House Press Secretary Richard Gibbs on Thursday. “It’s pretty safe to say the vice president was for seven years not focused on Afghanistan, even more curious given the fact that an increase in troops requests sat on desks in this White House – including the vice president’s – for more than eight months,” Gibbs said.
“I never heard Vice President Cheney assaulting President Bush for not acting on those requests at that time,” Podesta said. “And they did present him with a report at the very end of the Bush administration, but I have it on good authority that the Bush administration spent one hour on that report before they handed it off to Obama.”
In his recent remarks to the Center for Security Policy, former Vice President Dick Cheney implied that the Bush Administration was responsible for President Barack Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan.
In the fall of 2008, fully aware of the need to meet new challenges being posed by the Taliban, we dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy, assembling a team that repeatedly went into the country, reviewing options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama’s team. They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt.
Now they seem to be pulling back and blaming others for their failure to implement the strategy they embraced. It’s time for President Obama to do what it takes to win a war he has repeatedly and rightly called a war of necessity.
But Podesta’s allegation, if true, could cast a shadow on Republicans’ long-running claim that they are the party better suited to fight terrorism and foreign wars. The notion that developing a proper strategy for Afghanistan requires long and careful deliberation was supported by conservative columnist George F. Will, who several months ago announced his support for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“A bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction,” Will said. “For a representative of the Bush administration to accuse someone of taking too much time is missing the point. We have much more to fear in this town from hasty than from slow government action.”
This video is from ABC’s This Week, broadcast Oct. 25, 2009.