An earlier edition of this article appeared with a different headline.
Headlines on a Sept. 30 article mischaracterized the White House reaction to revelations in Bob Woodward's new book, "State of Denial." The White House disputed certain assertions and conclusions in the book but did not deny that then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. tried twice to persuade President Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. A photo caption that accompanied the story mischaracterized Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's response to the book as well. Through a White House spokesman, she called reports that she had regular disputes with Rumsfeld "ridiculous," but she did not directly address Woodward's report that she supported Card's efforts to replace Rumsfeld.
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New Book Fuels Election Year Debate Over Bush, Rumsfeld
"The president himself is out of touch with reality, is in denial as to what is happening in Iraq," Pelosi said. "That could be the only explanation for why he has withheld the truth to the American people."
Rumsfeld, traveling overseas, said he has not read the book, and he declined to discuss it. A spokesman said the Pentagon would have no comment. Card, Hadley, Gerson and the first lady's office declined to comment or did not return telephone calls. But Snow, speaking on behalf of Laura Bush, said the first lady's office called Woodward's account "flatly not true." And Snow quoted Rice as saying of her reported dispute with Rumsfeld: "This is ridiculous, and I told that to Woodward."
Card confirmed to ABC News yesterday that he suggested replacing Rumsfeld with Baker after the 2004 election as part of broader changes to the Cabinet, but he denied to news services that he led "a campaign" to oust the defense secretary.
"To say that it was a campaign or an orchestrated effort would be wrong," he told Reuters. "But were there times that we talked about potential changes in the Cabinet? Yes. Did they center around Rumsfeld? Not necessarily. They were in a broader context." He denied that Laura Bush encouraged an effort to remove Rumsfeld. "Mrs. Bush and I never discussed it," Card told the Associated Press.
The book also reports that then-CIA Director George J. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, grew so concerned in the summer of 2001 about a possible al-Qaeda attack that they drove straight to the White House to get high-level attention.
Tenet called Rice, then the national security adviser, from his car to ask to see her, in hopes that the surprise appearance would make an impression. But the meeting on July 10, 2001, left Tenet and Black frustrated and feeling brushed off, Woodward reported. Rice, they thought, did not seem to feel the same sense of urgency about the threat and was content to wait for an ongoing policy review.
The report of such a meeting takes on heightened importance after former president Bill Clinton said this week that the Bush team did not do enough to try to kill Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said her husband would have paid more attention to warnings of a possible attack than Bush did. Rice fired back on behalf of the current president, saying the Bush administration "was at least as aggressive" in eight months as President Clinton had been in eight years.
The July 10 meeting of Rice, Tenet and Black went unmentioned in various investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks, and Woodward wrote that Black "felt there were things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn't want to know about."
Jamie S. Gorelick, a member of the Sept. 11 commission, said she checked with commission staff members who told her investigators were never told about a July 10 meeting. "We didn't know about the meeting itself," she said. "I can assure you it would have been in our report if we had known to ask about it."
White House and State Department officials yesterday confirmed that the July 10 meeting took place, although they took issue with Woodward's portrayal of its results. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, responding on behalf of Rice, said Tenet and Black had never publicly expressed any frustration with her response.
"This is the first time these thoughts and feelings associated with that meeting have been expressed," McCormack said. "People are free to revise and extend their remarks, but that is certainly not the story that was told to the 9/11 commission."
Tenet and Black did not respond to messages yesterday.
Staff writer Glenn Kessler contributed to this report.