iraq fib two-fer
The Washington Post gives Bush both barrels this morning (that darn liberal media!).
In "President Defends Allegation On Iraq," Dana Priest and Dana Milbank note that Bush's latest position is at odds with the defense his aides have used. Bush returns to the already-debunked claim that the Administration didn't know the uranium story was bogus until after the State of the Union address.
President Bush yesterday defended the "darn good" intelligence he receives, continuing to stand behind a disputed allegation about Iraq's nuclear ambitions as new evidence surfaced indicating the administration had early warning that the charge could be false.
Bush said the CIA's doubts about the charge -- that Iraq sought to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore in Africa -- were "subsequent" to the Jan. 28 State of the Union speech in which Bush made the allegation. Defending the broader decision to go to war with Iraq, the president said the decision was made after he gave Saddam Hussein "a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."
Bush's position was at odds with those of his own aides, who acknowledged over the weekend that the CIA raised doubts that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger more than four months before Bush's speech.
The president's assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring: Hussein had, in fact, admitted the inspectors and Bush had opposed extending their work because he did not believe them effective.
In the face of persistent questioning about the use of intelligence before the Iraq war, administration officials have responded with evolving and sometimes contradictory statements. The matter has become increasingly charged, as Democrats demand hearings about Bush's broader use of intelligence to justify the Iraq war.
The president's remarks yesterday came as evidence emerged that the administration had information that seemed to guarantee that Iraq probably could not acquire nuclear material from Niger. A four-star general, who was asked to go to Niger last year to inquire about the security of Niger's uranium, told The Washington Post yesterday that he came away convinced the country's stocks were secure. The findings of Marine Gen. Carlton W. Fulford Jr. were passed up to Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- though it was unclear whether they reached officials in the White House.
That's why it's always the cover-up that kills, folks; people notice when you change your story or when your alibis contradict each other. If memory serves me right, that's one of the elemnary rules of police interrogation: let 'em talk, and catch 'em in a lie.
Bartlett, discussing the State of the Union address, said last week that "there was no debate or questions with regard to that line when it was signed off on." But on Friday, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said there was "discussion on that specific sentence, so that it reflected better what the CIA thought." Rice said "some specifics about amount and place were taken out." Tenet said Friday that CIA officials objected, and "the language was changed."
Fleischer said yesterday Rice was not referring to the State of the Union reference but to Bush's October speech given in Cincinnati -- even though Rice was not asked about that speech. Fleischer said that while the line cut from the October speech was based on the Niger allegations, he said the State of the Union claim was based on "additional reporting from the CIA, separate and apart from Niger, naming other countries where they believed it was possible that Saddam was seeking uranium."
But Fleischer's words yesterday contradicted his assertion a week earlier that the State of the Union charge was "based and predicated on the yellowcake from Niger." Rice was asked a month ago about Bush's State of the Union uranium claim on ABC's "This Week" and replied: "The intelligence community did not know at the time or at levels that got to us that there was serious questions about this report." But senior administration officials acknowledged over the weekend that Tenet argued personally to White House officials, including deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley, that the allegation should not be used in the October speech, four months before the State of the Union address.
(Milbank also noted the hard time the White House press corps gave Ari Fleischer on his last day on the job.)
Meanwhile, David Broder thinks that being caught in the uranium fib may mean Bush has jumped the shark.
If President Bush is not reelected, we may look back on last Thursday, July 10, 2003, as the day the shadow of defeat first crossed his political horizon. To be sure, Bush looks strong. The CBS News poll released that evening had his approval rating at 60 percent, with solid support from his own party, a 26-point lead among independents and a near-even split among Democrats. Two-thirds of those surveyed could not name a single one of the nine Democrats vying for the right to oppose him.
But "The CBS Evening News" that night was like Karl Rove's worst nightmare, and the other network newscasts -- still the main source of information for a large number of Americans -- were not much better.
The headlines announced by John Roberts, substituting for Dan Rather on CBS, were: "President Bush's false claim about Iraqi weapons; he made it despite a CIA warning the intelligence was bad. More Americans say U.S. is losing control of Iraq. Also tonight, food lines in America; they're back and getting longer."
...Even after CIA Director George Tenet tried to take responsibility for the foul-up, the White House faces a credibility gap that reaches down into the non-discovery of the weapons of mass destruction Bush and his top associates said Saddam Hussein was amassing to threaten the United States.
And the doubts don't stop there. Two and a half months after Bush proclaimed victory in Iraq -- "mission accomplished" -- CBS reported that only 45 percent of the public now believes the United States is in control of events there. On the question of credibility regarding weapons of mass destruction, 56 percent say Bush administration officials were hiding important elements of what they knew or were outright lying.
The next day a Washington Post-ABC News poll reported that while Bush's approval score was still at a healthy 59 percent, there had been a 9-point drop in less than three weeks both in his overall rating and on the question of confidence in his handling of Iraq. Ominously, the poll found a dramatic reversal in public tolerance of continuing casualties, with a majority saying for the first time that the losses are unacceptable when weighed against the goals of the war.
...If Iraq looks increasingly worrisome on TV and in the polls, the economy is even worse. CBS found jobs and the economy dwarfing every other issue, cited by almost four times as many people as cited Iraq or the war on terrorism. On that black Thursday for the administration, first-time unemployment claims pushed the number of Americans on jobless relief to the highest level in 20 years.
And the most troubling pictures on any of the three broadcasts were those of a line of cars, stretching out of sight down a flat two-lane road in Logan, Ohio -- jobless and struggling families waiting for the twice-a-month distribution of free food by the local office of America's Second Harvest. The head of the agency said, "We are seeing a new phenomenon: Last year's food bank donors are now this year's food bank clients." Said CBS reporter Cynthia Bowers, "You could call it a line of the times, because in a growing number of American communities these days, making ends meet means waiting for a handout."
Some may say, "Well, it's one day's news," or dismiss it all as media bias. But that does not dissolve the shadow that now hangs over Bush's bright hopes for a second term.
Of course, it's important to remember that prior to July 10, all those situations were equally true; it's just that public perception of that reality seem to be taking hold. And most importantly, the so-called "liberal media" may be finally starting to wake up to the notion that the "Bush is a trustworthy straight-shooter" label they tagged him with in the election may not be entirely -- or even technically -- accurate.
Update: Tim Dunlop points out one bewildering bit of Bush-wa:
Defending the broader decision to go to war with Iraq, the president said the decision was made after he gave Saddam Hussein "a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in." [Ed: emphasis added]
This is either a barefaced lie, evidence of a man with the memory span of a goldfish or the first signs of complete mental breakdown.
...If Bush didn't lie before the war, he is now.
Update 2: Regarding Bush's bizarre statement that "we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in," CalPundit nails it: "I'm trying to figure out some charitable interpretation of this, but I just can't. What the hell is he talking about?"