One revealing facet of the Democrats' Senate shutdown Tuesday afternoon was the emergence of "Phase 2" (sometimes spelled "Phase II" or "Phase Two") as a key talking point, with Democrats complaining that Senate Republicans with Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts in the lead had failed to deliver on their promise upon completion of phase one in July 2004 to conduct and complete a follow-up inquiry after the fall elections into intelligence before the Iraq war. But who knew that was such a sore spot?
Surely if Democrats were unhappy with the pace of Phase II, there would have been stories about it in the press. But a Nexis search of the Washington Post and New York Times turns up next to nothing on that score. Last August 2, for instance, Intelligence Committee member Dianne Feinstein released her letter of July 31 to Chairman Roberts complaining about the committee's failure to complete Phase II, but her unhappiness failed to generate any coverage or Democratic momentum.
Several stories or columns in the Boston Globe did cover the "second phase" aspect in some detail last summer and fall. One of them discussed John Kerry's call for completion of "phase two" in a letter to the Intelligence Committee's chairman and vice-chairman. "But Kerry could only garner signatures from nine colleagues, despite circulating the letter to the entire Democratic caucus," the Globe added.
On October 13, the New York Times reported on the release of an earlier, non-congressional review of Iraq-related intelligence. In an aside, the story mentioned that Jay Rockefeller and other Democrats have complained about the Republican-led Intelligence Committee's failure to produce a second-phase report. But again, no sense of seething outrage. And that's it -- until a few days ago.
New York Times Hyde Park Corner columnist Frank Rich, who is always seething, last Sunday called the Intelligence Committee's investigation into prewar intelligence "a scandal" for failing to produce a "Phase 2." Joseph Wilson, who apparently hadn't discussed Phase II before, did so during the (scripted?) Q&A after his speech at the National Press Club on October 31. Now everyone has gotten with the program.
What a difference a single indictment -- and a single SCOTUS appointment -- can make. But that's better left for phase two of this investigation.
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