President Bush did nothing at yesterday's news conference to reassure those who think his administration may once again be using faulty intelligence to build a case for war. Bush spoke in the wake of conflicting, mostly anonymous administration claims of Iranian involvement in arming Iraqis with sophisticated bombs. He did back off from the claim that Teheran was directly responsible. But what reporters yesterday were essentially asking him, over and over again, CNN's Ed Henry finally asked directly: "What assurances can you give the American people that the intelligence this time will be accurate?"You'd think GW would realize that because the intel was so wrong the first time around (whether by accident or via manipulation, distortion, lies, etc.) that the scrutiny and heat would be raised substantially when the second round came along. But King George chooses the option to insist and thus it must be true. Nope, ain't gonna work again.
What was most striking about Bush's responses was not that he didn't provide any such assurances -- it was that he apparently still doesn't feel he needs to. The president repeatedly swatted down skeptical questions with precisely the kinds of assertions that have lost nearly all credibility. Just because Bush says "we know" or "I believe" isn't enough anymore.
In spite of claims made by anonymous American officials in Baghdad and then repeated by White House press secretary Tony Snow, Bush said yesterday he isn't sure of direct high-level Iranian involvement in the transfer of arms. But he proudly wielded a rhetorical question to make it sound like it doesn't matter. Just in case anyone missed it, he said it twice: "But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?" And again: "But my point is what's worse -- them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it happening? And so we will continue to protect our troops."
And yet that's a hugely important distinction. For instance, there are lots of ways those weapons could be ending up in Iraq short of a high-level decision by the Iranian government to send them. ( Spencer Ackerman lists several on TPMMuckraker.) Asked for provable facts, Bush is once again resorting to the kind of hint-filled speculation that got us into Iraq.
Not to mention that for Bush to argue that the leaders of a government are culpable for whatever happens under their watch is quite antithetical to the position he himself has adopted when it comes to taking responsibility for the torture and abuse of prisoners, the murder of civilians, and other blunders and atrocities committed in the war on terror.
Among the other highlight from yesterday's press conference: When asked if he believes Iraq is in at state of civil war, Bush suddenly pled ignorance: "It's hard for me, living in this beautiful White House, to give you an assessment, firsthand assessment," he said.
Also, when Froomkin states, "for Bush to argue that the leaders of a government are culpable for whatever happens under their watch is quite antithetical to the position he himself has adopted" -- isn't it obvious by now that what applies to other countries does not apply to us? As with most kings, double-standards are the rule.
And Bush's quote about living in the "beautiful" White House and therefore not affording him the ability to assess Iraq -- this is just classic GW. So because he lives in a nice house in DC -- as did many prior presidents -- Bush hasn't a clue what's going on in the country where he's conducting a war?
Boy, he's beyond just making stuff up, these days he doesn't even try. The lamest of ducks.