During a fundraiser for Iowa’s Governor, four of the candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s 2004 presidential nomination questioned whether President Bush misled Americans about the war aims in Iraq Published reports suggest intelligence reports regarding the presence of weapons of mass destruction — nuclear weaponry — in Iraq may have been overblown by President Bush as he made the case with the public for an Iraq attack. One of the candidates compared the controversy to the Watergate scandal which involved a cover-up and the eventual resignation of President Nixon. “The President’s credibility is in question,” said former Vermont Governor Howard Dean during a question-and-answer session with reporters Sunday afternoon. “I never though I’d hear this question raised in my lifetime again, but the question really now is going to become ‘What did the President know and when did he know it?” Dean opposed U.S. intervention in Iraq, and he accused President Bush of being selective with the facts regarding Iraq’s nuclear program.”I think it’s important for the Democrats not to make charges that are not fully backed up because our credibility is at stake, too,” Dean said. “At this moment, it appears the President had some information that he was not sharing with the American people; that the Vice President in March intimated that there may have been nuclear weapons which turned out probably not to have been true.”Florida Senator Bob Graham said the Bush Administration had engaged in a “pattern of deception and deceit.” “I hope that we’ll find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because the faiilure to do so will be an enormous blow to our credibility abroad and among the people of America,” Graham told reporters. Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has long criticized intervention in Iraq and he voted against a Congressional resolution that gave President Bush the authority to launch a strike against the country.”We picked the wrong target for the use of our great military,” Graham said. “We put our valiant men and women in harm’s way not against our primary opponent, which is al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, but against Saddam Hussein. We also did so under what appear to have been at least less information than the American people deserved.” Graham said America’s prestige abroad has suffered since Bush took office. “America, even among nations that have been our closest allies, is now seen with more suspicion than it is respect,” Graham said. Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman was one of the co-sponsors of the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, and on Sunday he defended that action.”There was reason to believe based on evidence that came not just from American intelligence but from the United Nations that he (Saddam Hussein) had weapons of mass destruction,” Lieberman told reporters. “Very serious questions are being raised now about whether our intelligence community had it right, whether the Administration was over-stating the case.” While Lieberman said a congressional investigation should aggressively seek answers to those questions, he stopped short of saying the war with Iraq was not justified. “It ought not diminish from the fact that our military did what was right in overthrowing Saddam and the American people are safer as a result of it,” Lieberman said. Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has repeatedly said the war with Iraq was not justified, and on Sunday he said Bush had pursued a “fradulent” foreign policy that fostered fear among Americans who worried about Iraq becoming a nuclear threat. “They never had the information that they told the American people they had to justify going to war,” Kucinch said while being interviewed by reporters. Kucinich said Democrats had to challenge Bush on the issue to ensure Bush doesn’t use the same tactics to justify sending troops into Iran and Syria. Kucinich also said the party’s presidential candidates can’t let Bush change the subject when it comes election time in 2004. “The only way that this Democratic party is going to have any chance to regain the White House is to challenge this Adminsitration on the pretext that they created to go to war with Iraq because if we don’t, then we’ll never have the opportunity to argue those imperitive issues of health care, education and jobs.” The four candidates delivered short speeches to a gathering of about 300 democrats who attended Governor Tom Vilsack’s annual family picnic fundraiser in Mount Pleasant. Diverting from the menu of the past three years, veggie burgers were offered as well as pork sandwiches, a move one staffer attributed to Lieberman’s presence at the picnic. Lieberman is a devout Jew who does not eat pork.
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