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Catfish and Cod
Monday, July 14, 2003
Cut to the chase, please.
(via the New York Times, free and pointless registration required)

Can't the Administration get its story straight? First their claim is true, then it wasn't but it's the Brits' fault, then it's the CIA's, then George Tenet's personally (but we still trust him), and now the claim is true again. If one weren't careful, one might start to think that the story was being spun. (snort, chuckle, guffaw)

Things would be far simpler, and less damaging to the Administration, if someone with guts came out and said, "Look: this was an egregious case of exaggeration. Those responsible will be held publicly accountable. I, personally, apologize. Nonetheless, I do not believe that these sixteen words caused any difference in public policy; nor do I believe that any of our policies are wrong or should be changed as a result of their falsity."

The person with the most responsibility in the Administration is usually considered to be the President. ("The buck stops here", remember?) The President's failure to take any responsibility for his subordinates' actions is deeply shaming and will come back to haunt him in the election. As Bill Schneider said today, it's almost Clintonian.

The sixteen words are being used in Washington today as a symbol of all the exaggerations made by the Administration during their campaign to drum support. With a poorly chosen primary mandate (WMDs made a poorer case than, say, humanitarian plus al-Qaeda grounds) and extreme pressure (from realpolitik French and Russian politicians), it's no wonder that people's BS detectors started to go off as far back as last year. But it's still the Administration's fault for slipping up on the facts, and restitution has yet to be made.