Koch, Obama, and Saddam Hussein

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Brad Friedman has obtained an audio recording of a seminar held by the 
Koch brothers
earlier this year near Vail, Colorado, and today we’ve got a piece about the seminar up on our site. Here’s how it starts:

“We have Saddam Hussein,” declared billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, apparently referring to President Barack Obama as he welcomed hundreds of wealthy guests to the latest of the secret fundraising and strategy seminars he and his brother host twice a year. The 2012 elections, he warned, will be “the mother of all wars.”

This has prompted a lot of people to insist that Koch compared Obama to Saddam Hussein. And maybe he did. But here’s the whole passage:

But we’ve been talking about — we have Saddam Hussein, this is the Mother of All Wars we’ve got in the next 18 months. For the life or death of this country. So, I’m not going to do this to put any pressure on anyone here, mind you. This is not pressure. But if this makes your heart feel glad and you want to be more forthcoming, then so be it.

Can I offer an alternative explanation? Obviously Koch was a little muddled here and never finished his thought, so it’s hard to say exactly what he meant. But Saddam Hussein famously called the first Gulf War “the mother of all battles,” and it’s quite possible that Koch intended something like, “Saddam Hussein called the Gulf War the mother of all wars, and for us, this is the mother of all wars we’ve got in the next 18 months.”

I don’t know this for sure, any more than anyone else knows what that stray fragment meant. Koch obviously had some kind of quip in mind, but never managed to actually deliver it. But suggesting that he meant to compare Obama to Saddam Hussein is a stretch. At the very least, there’s at least one other quite plausible interpretation.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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