If it’s Friday afternoon in an election year, you can usually count on a bit of bad news for one political party or the other. Today, for example, we hear that Saddam Hussein had no connections to al Qaeda, despite what President Bush and other Republicans told the country as one of many crumbling rationales for going to war in Iraq. As the Associated Press reports:
There’s no evidence Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his al Qaeda associates, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence on Iraq. Democrats said the report undercuts President Bush’s justification for going to war.
The declassified document being released Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee also explores the role that inaccurate information supplied by the anti-Saddam exile group the Iraqi National Congress had in the march to war. The report comes at a time that Bush is emphasizing the need to prevail in Iraq to win the war on terrorism while Democrats are seeking to make that policy an issue in the midterm elections.
It discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam’s government “did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates,” according to excerpts of the 400-page report provided by Democrats.
Bush and other administration officials have said that the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq before the war was evidence of a connection between Saddam’s government and al Qaeda. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in June this year.
This is bad news not only for the White House, but for all Republicans. Polling has consistently shown that Americans are unhappy with Congress and President Bush, and Republicans are in charge of across the board. Democrats around the country are running on a platform that includes calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, and news like this only strengthens their position.
It’s not an accident, then, that this report was released today. If you have bad news to announce in politics, you always do it on a Friday to try to mute the effect it has for the public. As the thinking goes, fewer people watch the news on a Friday, and fewer people read newspapers on a Saturday because they are out doing other things with their weekend. There’s also less media discussion on a weekend, so any bad news on a Friday gets two days to run its course before the public starts paying more attention when the work week starts back up.
Releasing bad news on a Friday happens all the time in politics. In mid-July, the Department of Education released a report that showed public school students perform better on most tests than do private school students; the report was not what the White House would have liked to hear, because President Bush is a supporter of school vouchers under the auspice that private schools are better than public schools. When was the report released? On a Friday afternoon, of course.