The Iowa Republican Senator-to-Be Who Thinks Iraq Had WMD

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 12 2014 6:41 PM

The Iowa Republican Senator-to-Be Who Thinks Iraq Had WMD

140514_Weigel_Ernst

Courtesy of Iowapolitics.com/Flickr

Around the time that the Washington Post was publishing a fairly flattering piece about how her campaign had delved into hog castration and found narrative, Joni Ernst was facing a Des Moines Register interrogation. It didn't go as well as the castrations. This is the bit Democrats glommed onto:

DMR: Do you believe there was actionable intelligence to go into Iraq?
ERNST: I do believe at that time there was. I wasn't at a level to know. Obviously, the president thought there was actionable intelligence. So, as an Iraqi War veteran I stand beside that. And I stand beside every other soldier I served with in believing we were on a clearly defined mission to go into Iraq.
DMR: Even though Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction?
ERNST: We don't know that there were weapons on the ground when we went in. However, I do have reason to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That was the intelligence that was operated on. I was not at a level to question.
DMR: Are you now?
ERNST: I have reason to believe there was weapons of mass destruction.
DMR: What is the reason?
ERNST: I will tell you, my husband served in Saudi Arabia as an Army Central Command sergeant major for a year and that's a hot-button topic in that area.

Pat Caldwell got a response from the campaign—Ernst was making "the point was that we know for a fact that Iraq had chemical weapons in the past, and had even used them." This wasn't exactly what Ernst said, and while she gets piñata'd around, I wonder if this video is much of a problem for her.

Consider: As recently as 2012, when polled on questions about the Iraq war, a supermajority of Republicans—67 percent—thought that Iraq had WMD when America went in. Consider also that Ernst's campaign thus far is pure tribalism, ads about the aforementioned barnyard skills and ads about how she keeps a pistol in her purse. She's an Iraq war veteran; if she wins the primary, she faces a Democratic trial lawyer who did not serve. Notice how her answer is 90 percent about her own service and patriotism, and how she rejects the idea that her fellow soldiers fought for a lie.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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