Well, excuse 2.0 is in full swing for the Bush Administration this morning. We’ve moved beyond the "if the President releases it, it’s not a leak, it’s good for America" malarky from Scotty McClellan last Friday toward a whole new line of malarky.
Courtesy of the NYTimes, we learn this morning that President Bush ordered the declassification of the selective portions of the NIE…but that he never specifically authorized Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney or anyone else to distribute it to the media.
So he "declassified" (and I’m still not convinced that by just waving his magic Presidential Wand that he can actually accomplish a full declassification without paperwork…) the selective sections of the NIE because…..what, exactly? For fun? Because he was bored with reading them himself and decided the kitchen staff needed a lecture series? Because they needed new paper for one of the upstairs bathrooms and he liked the way the language flowed in the document?
Do they think we are going to just swallow this bit of idiocy whole?
Moreover, the disclosure seemed intended to suggest that Mr. Bush might have played only a peripheral role in the release of the classified material and was uninformed about the specifics — like the effort to dispatch Mr. Libby to discuss the estimate with reporters.
The explanation offered Sunday left open several questions, including when Mr. Bush acted and whether he did so on the advice or at the request of Mr. Cheney. Still unclear is the nature of the communication between Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. Also unknown is whether Mr. Bush fully realized what information Mr. Cheney planned to disclose through Mr. Libby or was aware of the precise use that Mr. Cheney intended to make of the material.
It has been known that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby were focused on the uranium issue in June 2003, well before Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, wrote an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, saying that nothing he had seen on a mission to Niger for the C.I.A. confirmed that Mr. Hussein was seeking uranium.
If Mr. Bush acted that early, it would suggest that the administration was growing concerned as evidence emerged that the intelligence was flawed. But the White House account also appears to separate Mr. Bush from the involvement in the selective release of the information to a few reporters, first Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, then Judith Miller of The New York Times. Both say they met Mr. Libby; neither authored articles about the disclosure after their meetings.
A separate effort was occurring simultaneously at the White House to declassify a significant part of the estimate by July 18, 2003. It is unclear why that process was necessary if Mr. Bush had already authorized the release of the information.
Oh sure, he wanted the information to be made public out of the goodness of his heart, that’s all. But he didn’t expect that Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby, who had been rumbling about the hallways of the White House demanding revenge against Joseph Wilson ever since that Kristoff column would ever just rush the information right out to the press.
Oh, woe, how could George Bush have ever forseen that a political operative motivated by anger and payback would ever do something so obvious as use selectively leaked information to their favorite reporter to get even?
Yeah, I can’t stop laughing either.
All I have to say is let the finger-pointing begin, because they have dug themselves into one ethical chasm with this political stinkbomb. And it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving crew.
In case you missed it, Crooks and Liars has the video clip up of Amb. Wilson on This Week yesterday.