Tuesday :: Jul 8, 2003

Bush Takes a Political Bullet on the Niger Lie


by Steve

Following up on Mary's great post yesterday, if you want evidence that what happens in Great Britain with Tony Blairís travails on the WMD issue will have an effect on George W. Bush, you need look no further than todayís Washington Post and New York Times. Yesterday, the White House was forced to admit that Bush was incorrect in his SOTU when he claimed that Saddam tried to buy uranium from an African country. Again, interestingly enough, it was Walter Pincus (the CIAís best friend) of the Post who got a Page One story in todayís edition to nail Bush with this.

The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time yesterday that President Bush should not have alleged in his State of the Union address in January that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Africa to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program.

The statement was prompted by publication of a British parliamentary commission report, which raised serious questions about the reliability of British intelligence that was cited by Bush as part of his effort to convince Congress and the American people that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program were a threat to U.S. security.

Asked about the British report, the administration released a statement that, after weeks of questions about the president's uranium-purchase assertion, effectively conceded that intelligence underlying the president's statement was wrong.

"Knowing all that we know now, the reference to Iraq's attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech," a senior Bush administration official said last night in a statement authorized by the White House.

It subsequently emerged that the CIA the previous year had dispatched a respected former senior diplomat, Joseph C. Wilson, to Niger to investigate the allegation and that Wilson had reported back that officials in Niger denied the story. The administration never made Wilson's mission public, and questions have been raised over the past month over how the CIA characterized his conclusion in its classified intelligence reports inside the administration.

The New York Timesí David Sanger writes a piece that goes a step further and flat out challenges the Administrationís credibility over the Niger uranium story, pointing out that despite Ari Fleischerís best lies yesterday, the Administration waited until Bush left for Africa last night to admit they blew it.

Read the full story from Sanger to appreciate how he nailed the White House. But note that even now when the White House is still claiming that they didnít know the Niger stuff was false until later, it is also a lie, since both Ambassador Wilson and the CIA have said they told the NSC and State, as well as the Vice President that they doubted the Niger uranium claims months before the SOTU.

And from Josh Marshallís Talking Points Memo of yesterday, check out how Sanger kept after Fleischer and wouldnít let him wiggle off the hook at the press briefing yesterday.

You may want to contact David Sanger of the Times to thank him for staying on top of Fleischer and not letting him wiggle off of the hook yesterday. Sanger can be reached at dasang@nytimes.com

Folks, the media sharkpack has returned from hibernation.

Steve :: 9:55 AM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!