NBC's Mitchell Blames Iraq 'Hangover' for Obama's 'Credibility Gap' on Syria

In an interview with former Bush national security advisor Stephen Hadley on her Thursday MSNBC show, host Andrea Mitchell pinned all of President Obama's problems selling military action in Syria to the Iraq War: "There is such a credibility gap between the White House and Congress, the leftover, the hangover from the Iraq War. So can you be at least a little sympathetic to what the administration is encountering now with Congress, in explaining the intelligence and getting people to believe it?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Mitchell led up to that slanted question by declaring: "I don't want to re-litigate Iraq, but the blunt fact is that some of the questions that were asked – Congressman [Juan] Vargas [D-CA] asked both [Secretary of State John] Kerry and [Defense Secretary Chuck] Hagel yesterday, 'Are you lying? Because we were lied to about weapons of mass destruction.'"

In response, Hadley pointed out: "I mean the problem in Iraq was not that anybody lied, the problem was that we relied on intelligence and the intelligence was wrong."

He then detailed the ways in which Obama had failed to make the case for military intervention in Syria:

...the administration has not prepared the American people for this. This – what's been going on in Syria has been going on for two years and the administration's position has been, in large measure, "This isn't our fight, we're not really going to get involved in any sort of active and public way." And there's been no explanation to the American people of what is at stake in Syria for almost a two-year period. And that makes it very difficult in this short period of time to turn that around and built support for doing – taking some action in Syria.

On Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie grilled former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the same topic: "Looming over this debate time and time again has been the specter of Iraq....Do you personally take any responsibility for that? Or feel any responsibility for that?"


Here is a transcript of the September 5 exchange:

1:22PM ET

(...)

ANDREA MITCHELL: Steve, I don't want to re-litigate Iraq, but the blunt fact is that some of the questions that were asked – Congressman [Juan] Vargas [D-CA] asked both [Secretary of State John] Kerry and [Defense Secretary Chuck] Hagel yesterday, "Are you lying? Because we were lied to about weapons of mass destruction." There is such a credibility gap between the White House and Congress, the leftover, the hangover from the Iraq War. So can you be at least a little sympathetic to what the administration is encountering now with Congress, in explaining the intelligence and getting people to believe it?

STEPHEN HADLEY [FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR]: Sure. I mean the problem in Iraq was not that anybody lied, the problem was that we relied on intelligence and the intelligence was wrong. And that's why one of the questions here – again, another use of military force that seems premised on intelligence – is that intelligence sound, is it reliable? And those are legitimate questions to ask. The administration has to make its case, and at this point, from what I've seen, it seems pretty compelling.

But one of the other problems here is the administration has not prepared the American people for this. This – what's been going on in Syria has been going on for two years and the administration's position has been, in large measure, "This isn't our fight, we're not really going to get involved in any sort of active and public way." And there's been no explanation to the American people of what is at stake in Syria for almost a two-year period. And that makes it very difficult in this short period of time to turn that around and built support for doing – taking some action in Syria.

I think the administration is making its case. It's just – it's got a pretty big deficit of having not explained what's going on in Syria to the American people. It's got a big deficit that it's got to make up and not a lot of time to do it.  

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC