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Political editors clash over Iraq

Maddie Hanna | Thursday, September 23, 2004

National Review editor Richard Lowry and The Nation Washington editor David Corn focused on the Iraq War Wednesday night during a spirited debate on the upcoming election in front of a packed house at Washington Hall.

Lowry, conservative author of “Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years”, defended the war against the more liberal Corn, author of “The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception.”

The debate, moderated by Center for Social Concerns executive director Father Bill Lies was interrupted by outbursts of applause and anger from what appeared to be an evenly divided audience composed of members of the Notre Dame and South Bend communities.

Lowry supported the war by arguing for the elimination of the threat of Saddam Hussein and advancement of human rights.

“If you really want to hold a dictator to account, to stop the slaughter, you can’t rely on the United Nations, you have to rely on the United States of America,” he said.

Lowry continued amidst applause.

“We owe it not just to them [the Iraqi people], but to ourselves, to do everything we can to try to prevail there [Iraq].”

Corn, however, said that there were other options to deal with the threat besides war. “Bush refuses to acknowledge it [the possibility of other options] or he refuses to see it, and I don’t know which is worse,” Corn said. “Both scare the hell out of me.”

To counter Corn and defend Bush’s stance on Iraq, Lowry said, “If you think this war is based on lie, you do not have a candidate in this race,” taken to mean that Kerry too supported and voted for the war.

While Corn acknowledged this statement, he said that Kerry acted upon information from the president that there was a direct and immediate threat on the country.

“I question the due diligence of this remark,” Corn said, basing his response on newer information that shed light on what went on prior to 9/11.

“I do believe the president rushed into an elective war. Elective war, you can plan for it.” However, Bush never met with cabinet members to deal with the political, economic or security transitions, according to Corn.

“It was hubris. They did not stop to think about the hard questions,” he said.

Lowry attacked Kerry’s ‘flip-flopping’ in response.

“John Kerry voted to authorize a war, not to authorize an empty threat. He knew the result. To turn that around now because of politics is really an odious thing,” he said. “John Kerry has literally been on every side of this issue because he can’t remain steadfast under political pressure.”

Corn said that Kerry had demonstrated “guts,” “resolve” and “thoughtfulness.”

“Mature leadership means assessing threats and responses,” Corn said.

Alluding to a long list of past presidents, Lowry said that Bush has been following a Democratic tradition of idealism as it pertains to foreign affairs. He accused liberals of ignoring the administration’s idealistic goals and of “holding a grudge and turning their backs.”

Corn said, “And now we’re told this is about idealism. I find the administration’s use of [idealism] highly cynical.”

“The number one reason we had to go March 19 wasn’t because of idealism, but because Bush said there was a direct threat. Where’s idealism when it comes to Russia?” Corn asked, also receiving applause.

Further commenting on the Bush administration’s involvement in Iraq Corn said, “Bush went before the UN this week. You want to know what his plan is? ‘To prevail.'”

“You don’t behave in a reckless fashion with other people’s lives are at stake,”

Lowry maintained his stance.

“What you’re trying to do in the long run here is to cut through the axis of evil, create an axis of decency, to rearrange and displace tyranny,” he said.

Other debated issues not related with the war included taxes, global warming, gay marriage and abortion, but were only briefly discussed compared to the heavy focus on Iraq.