It was good to see the papers take Dick Cheney’s AEI speech yesterday seriously. They all but ignored Paul Wolfowitz’s superb briefing the day before. And what Cheney does is address something very fundamental to the argument. Here’s the money section:

The ability to criticize is one of the great strengths of our democracy, but those who do so have an obligation to answer this question: How could any responsible leader have ignored the Iraqi threat?
Last October, the director of Central Intelligence issued a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s continuing programs of weapons of mass destruction. That document contained the consensus judgments of the intelligence community, based upon the best information available about the Iraqi threat.
The NIE declared, quote, “We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction program in defiance of U.N. resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles with ranges in excess of U.N. restrictions. If left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade,” end quote.
Those charged with the security of this nation could not read such an assessment and pretend that it did not exist. Ignoring such information or trying to wish it away would be irresponsible in the extreme.

How can one disagree? The problem with the critics is that they ignore the context and the impossibility of complete certainty in intelligence. But given that NIE assessment, given what we found out on September 11, what would we have expected the government to do? If they over-estimated the WMD capacity of Saddam, it was surely a better option than under-estimating it. Yes, war is and was a grave decision. But war against the monster in Baghdad was always far more morally defensible than war against almost any other regime on the planet. I have no problem whatever with tough criticism of the intelligence we had before the war, or the uses to which it was put. But I still have found no clear evidence that the administration acted in bad faith, or that the end-result is anything but a boon to our security, the security of the entire world, and to the poor Iraqi people, terrorized for generations. The president should get back on the offensive, and show how his opponents would have left this country more vulnerable than any responsible government can or should tolerate.

BROOKS TO THE NYT: A great move for the New York Times, although David will have to defend himself from becoming the tame establishment conservative. Still, it really does show someone there gets what has gone wrong. With David Shipley at the Op-Ed reins, we have a chance of a truly diverse editorial page for the first time in a very long while.

HRC DEFENDING BIGOTRY: Here’s the Human Rights Campaign’s Winnie Stachelberg’s response to a Democratic congressman calling another congresman a “fruitcake” and a “cocksucker”:

“I think Congressman Stark’s use of the word [fruitcake], he probably regrets having used it. I think he meant nothing by it, but I think in the 2003 context, it’s probably a poor choice of words. But it’s also important to note that Congressman Stark is one of the gay community’s staunchest allies.”

Translation: bigotry is fine if you vote our way. How will anyone take HRC seriously when they condemn Republican bigotry in the future?