Dana Milbank sums up a lot of stuff pretty nicely in the Washington Post today:
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."Well, there's a new Bushwhopper: Saddam wouldn't let the inspectors in? When was that?
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.Sounds like they're having a bit of trouble keeping their story straight. Did the CIA raise doubts before or after the speech?
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.There's one for the catalog: "evolving and sometimes contradictory statements". Which, no doubt, "did not rise to the Presidential level". It's amazing how many ways there are to say "lie".
More generally, the contradictions keep piling up as the administration seems to have more and more difficulty keeping their story straight:
Bush's communications director, Dan Bartlett, said last week that Bush was not angry to learn the charge was based on flawed information. Bush himself has voiced no regret or irritation in public.
But at his briefing yesterday, Fleischer described a displeased Bush. "I assure you, the president is not pleased," he said. "The president, of course, would not be pleased if he said something in the State of the Union that may or may not have been true and should not have risen to his level."
Also, 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.