Thursday, June 17, 2004

Oh, Shut Up 

From the New York Times:
"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and Al Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda," Mr. Bush told reporters after a cabinet meeting today . . . .

"This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and Al Qaeda," the president said. "We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two."

At a White House press briefing this afternoon, Scott McClellan, the president's chief spokesman, said the report did not contradict the president, and he said that he was not necessarily troubled that the administration might be contributing to a misperception about 9/11 and Iraq.

"I guess I don't look at polls and look at it in those terms," he said. "In terms of this administration, we laid out the facts very clearly for the American people."
UPDATE: Eric Alterman, in his latest "Think Again" column, seems to have anticipated the administration's latest (but hardly greatest) foray into mendacity:
Let us take a moment, however, and examine the Bush administration campaign to convince Americans of something that was not true and for which they never had any convincing evidence. After all, at the moment we went to war with Iraq, a full 70 percent of Americans questioned told pollsters that Iraq had been responsible, in total or in part, for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Nearly 50 percent had actually invented the belief that a majority of the hijackers had been Iraqis. Both the Bush administration and much of the media—usually accused of being liberal, anti-war and anti-Bush—treat these beliefs as if they sprung out of thin air—as if nothing claimed by the administration or reported by the so-called "liberal media" could possibly have contributed to this widespread misimpression that paved the road for what has turned out to be a catastrophic war. Well, take a look at what the American people were seeing and hearing from their leaders, along with their alleged watchdogs charged by the First Amendment with keeping those leaders accountable.
UPDATE II: Fred Kaplan of Slate piles on here:
See? The president didn't say that Saddam was tied to 9/11. He just made some observations in a way that people might interpret them to mean that Saddam was tied to 9/11.

It makes Bill Clinton's classic line—that the answer to a question "depends on what the meaning of 'is' is"—seem forthright, by comparison.

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