What a Difference a Day Makes
First, take a look at Talking Points Memo for an excerpt from Ari Fleischer’s press conference yesterday as he tries to argue that the uranium statement in the State of the Union speech was not incorrect. For example:
Q: Do you hold that the President – – when you look at the totality of the sentence that the President uttered that day on the subject [of uranium], are you confident that he was correct?
FLEISCHER: Yes, I see nothing that goes broader that would indicate that there was no basis to the President’s broader statement. But specifically on the yellow cake, the yellow cake for Niger, we’ve acknowledged that that information did turn out to be a forgery.
See, because Bush’s exact statement was vague, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa”, Fleischer initially tried to maintain that it was generally true even though the Niger claim was false and the administration was told that it was false.
White House officials issued a statement in Mr. Fleischer’s name that made clear that they no longer stood behind Mr. Bush’s statement.
How Mr. Bush’s statement made it into last January’s State of the Union address is still unclear. No one involved in drafting the speech will say who put the phrase in, or whether it was drawn from the classified intelligence estimate.
I think it’s a good thing that the administration is admitting the mistake finally. But I also think that the vagaries and unanswered questions in the admission–not saying how the mistake was made or who made it–means that the issue probably won’t die in the press as quickly as the administration hopes. And rightly so.