Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham expressed continued concerns this week after meeting with Ambassador Susan Rice regarding her comments on high-profile Sunday shows in September about the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Both men continued to pledge to block her nomination should she be appointed Secretary of State, with Senator McCain saying, “She’s not qualified,” while accusing Rice of deliberately “misleading the American people.” After meeting with Rice, Graham noted he was “more disturbed now than I was before,” adding her appearances on Sunday shows were “disconnected from reality.”
The episode, however, has clear echoes of McCain’s and Graham’s own moments of relaying bad intelligence on Sunday shows based on an inaccurate conclusion from the intelligence community.
In the 2003 lead-up to the Iraq War, McCain and Graham made appearances on Sunday talks shows such as Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, and Face the Nation where they made the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and would not hesitate to use them.
“He is lying, Tim, when he says he doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction,” Lindsay Graham said on Meet the Press on March 2, 2003. “For 12 years now, we’ve been playing this game, trying to get this man to part with his weapons of mass destruction.”
Later, responding to a question from then-host Tim Russert about reports Saddam was destroying certain missiles to comply with the United Nations, Graham emphasized intelligence showing presence of chemical weapons.
“He says, ‘I really have none. I don’t have any weapons of mass destruction.’ He failed to account for 26,000 liters of anthrax that we knew he was in possession of in 1998. He failed to account for 1.5 tons of VX nerve agent that could kill millions of people. He failed to account for 550 artillery shells with mustard gas. He has not accounted for things that we knew he once had. He is playing a game. The game is up, in my opinion, and we need to get on with the idea of disarming him and having a regime change, because it’s in our national interest.”
McCain, in a Feb. 16, 2003, appearance on Face the Nation, also made the case for the war based on intelligence showing weapons of mass destruction, even responding to a question that the CIA might not have been straightforward with weapons information as “a very reckless charge.”
“There’s not a doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein would give a weapon of mass destruction to a terrorist organization,” McCain said. He added, “They have common cause in trying to destroy the United States of America.”
McCain then said that should the United States decide to go in alone, the war would end quickly because of the weak Iraqi army, with the possibilities of Iraq firing a chemical weapon at Israel.
“I don’t think his army will fight — house-to-house fighting requires the — the most PR-proficient discipline on the part of military people, and they don’t have that,” McCain said. “I think that we are taking into account those kinds of possibilities. His army is very weak. I believe that we will win. There are certainly wild cards, ranging from launching a chemical or biological weapon at Israel to the human shield situation. But I have no doubt that we will prevail.”