MONDAY, JULY 14, 2003
STRANGE-CASE SCENARIO: If youre a high official in the Bush Admin, you really have to bungle your brief to get Foxs all-stars down on your case. But thats what happened when Condi Rice did yesterdays Fox News Sunday. Fred Barnes, who began the panel discussion, was openly puzzled by Rices performance. In fact, he criticized political bungling by the entire administration:
BARNES: I mean, they have a sort of a strange case. In your excellent interview with Condoleezza Rice today, I mean, she says, the British still think its true, and we have other evidence thinking the statement is true about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium in West Africa, yet it was a mistake to put it in the presidents speech? I thinklook, they have to take one position or the other. If its true, just defend it.Tony Snow was dissatisfied too. Like Fred, Im a little perplexed by the argument that it was true but it should never have gone in, he said. But then, how confusing was Rices presentation? Here is Audrey Hudsons amusing construction in this mornings Washington Times:
HUDSON: Both [Rumsfeld and Rice] yesterday said the British intelligence that said Iraq was trying to purchase nuclear weapons material in Africa was accurate, but should not have been used in a presidential address.How confusing was Rices presentation? According to Hudson, the statement was accuratebut shouldnt have been used! Hudson makes it sound like the Bush Admin now has a rule against accurate statements!
At any rate, Barnes and Snow were scratching their heads after watching Rices performance. This is unfortunate, because the Admin position isnt all that confusing. In fact, its quite easy to state:
So what produced the press corps confusion? Rices Condilesque performance, in which she kept insisting that Bushs statement was accurate. The statement that [Bush] made was indeed accurate, she said, right at the start of her FNS interview. The British government did say that. But Condoleezza Rice simply doesnt know if Bushs statement was accurate, and the confusion voiced by Barnes and Snow stemmed from her refusal to say so.
What did Bush say in his State of the Union? Here is the statement in question:
BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.Did Saddam seek significant quantities of uranium from Africa? Bush didnt say that the Brits believe this. He didnt say that the Brits have made such a claim. Instead, Bush said that the Brits have learned that this happenedand as such, he implied that the Brits claim was true. Bushs statement may even turn out to be accurate, but at this point, Rice doesnt know if it is. She was bending itbending it goodin her Fox News Sunday performance. And Barnes and Snow were in the weeds because of her shape-shifting work.
Unfortunately, your press corps logical skills are limited. In this mornings New York Times, James Risen goes in the weeds himself about Rice and Rumsfelds presentations:
RISEN: While continuing to acknowledge, as the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency did last week, that the phrase should not have been uttered, [Rice and Rumsfeld] emphasized today that the British had indeed, as Mr. Bush said, reported Iraqs interest in acquiring African uranium.But Bush didnt say that the Brits reported such an interest. He said the Brits had learned of such efforts. As such, Bush vouched for the accuracy of the British reportand to this day, Rice and Rumsfeld simply cant say that the Brits report really is accurate.
On Fox News Sunday, Rice was trying to have it all ways. Even Barnes and Snow said she made a strange case. For the next few days, well continue to review Rice and Rummys Condilesque performances Sunday. And well review the work of the high-profile hosts who took part in these strange-case scenarios.
TOMORROW: When Rumsfeld appeared on Meet the Press, a feared bulldog slept in the sun.
SPELLBOUND: Lets spell it outBarnes was puzzled by Condis confusions. Lets review what he said:
BARNES: I mean, they have a sort of a strange case. In your excellent interview with Condoleezza Rice today, I mean, she says, the British still think its true yet it was a mistake to put it in the presidents speech? I thinklook, they have to take one position or the other. If its true, just defend it.But by their own account, the Bush Admin doesnt know if its true. That is why they cant defend it. Rices outing created a lot of confusion. Lets repeat that key word: Condilesque.