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Bush and the Torture Tapes

Q: "[T]he President said, 'He didn't tell me what the information was.' But you're now saying he was told that Iran may have halted its nuclear weapons program and also that there may be a new assessment, right?"

Perinio: "Right, but he doesn't -- he didn't get any of the details of what the information, in terms of what the actual raw intelligence was.

Q: "He didn't say, he didn't tell me what the information --"

Perino: "Okay, look, I can see where you could see that the President could have been more precise in that language, but the President was being truthful. . . ."

Q: "Can I just clarify, is the President briefed every day by Director McConnell, when he gets his daily intelligence briefing?"

Perino: "I don't know if it's him every day, but he does get a briefing, sure."

Q: "But on a regular basis, Director McConnell is in the Oval Office?"

Perino: "Sure. . . ."

Q: ". . . . So from August until last week, the President never asked Director McConnell, hey, how's that going, are we getting any more on Iran? He never asked --"

Perino: "I'm not saying that. But if I --"

Q: "Well, so he did ask for --"

Perino: "I don't know exactly what the President asked in the presidential daily brief. . . ."

Q: "How about just being curious and asking, hey, is there a new assessment; I'm out there talking about World War III."

For more background: In yesterday's column, Misleading at Best, I raise many still unanswered questions about what Bush knew and when he knew it. In Wednesday's column, A Pattern of Deception, I document Bush's unexplained change in rhetoric back in August, when he simultaneously stopped speaking definitively about an Iranian nuclear weapons program, while ratcheting the rhetorical stakes up higher.

About That NIE

Jim Mannion writes for AFP: "The US reversal on Iran's nuclear weapons program has exposed a breaking of ranks within a waning administration, with US intelligence and military professionals asserting themselves on issues of war and peace, analysts said Friday.

"Senior US intelligence officials said this week they were responding to new information, subjected to more rigorous analysis than in the past, in declaring with 'high confidence' that Iran halted a covert nuclear weapons program in 2003.

"But their willingness to set aside all previous assumptions flowed from a determination not to repeat the errors made in 2002, when bogus intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction set the United States on a course to war, they said.

"And unlike 2002, when US intelligence officials complained of administration pressure to 'cherry-pick' intelligence that supported going to war, the intelligence community this time has asserted its independence."

Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler write in The Washington Post: "Senate Republicans are planning to call for a congressional commission to investigate the conclusions of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran as well as the specific intelligence that went into it, according to congressional sources."

The move "comes amid growing backlash from conservatives and neoconservatives unhappy about the assessment that Iran halted a clandestine nuclear weapons program four years ago."

Opinion Watch

The Philadelphia Daily News editorial board writes that "downplayed by the media were the confusing set of answers from the White House and President Bush on when, exactly, they learned of this intelligence. That's important, because until recently, Bush and his administration had been adamant that Iran sought nuclear weapons, and therefore, we must consider military strikes. . . .

"If the president and his administration knew there was no immediate security threat from Iran, and decided to lie and pretend there was to whip up the winds of war, it certainly would have to be at least considered to rise to the level of 'high crimes and misdemeanors.'

"We deserve the truth. Congress must begin an investigation into what the president knew on Iran, and when he knew it."

Here's MSNBC's Keith Olbermann in his "Special Comment" last night. He's very upset: "We have either a president who is too dishonest to restrain himself from invoking World War Three about Iran at least six weeks after he had to have known that the analogy would be fantastic, irresponsible hyperbole -- or we have a president too transcendently stupid not to have asked -- at what now appears to have been a series of opportunities to do so -- whether the fairy tales he either created or was fed, were still even remotely plausible.

"A pathological presidential liar, or an idiot-in-chief. It is the nightmare scenario of political science fiction: A critical juncture in our history and, contained in either answer, a president manifestly unfit to serve, and behind him in the vice presidency: an unapologetic war-monger who has long been seeing a world visible only to himself."

He's Lost the Military Families

Faye Fiore writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Families with ties to the military, long a reliable source of support for wartime presidents, disapprove of President Bush and his handling of the war in Iraq, with a majority concluding the invasion was not worth it, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

"The views of the military community, which includes active-duty service members, veterans and their family members, mirror those of the overall adult population, a sign that the strong military endorsement that the administration often pointed to has dwindled in the war's fifth year.

"Nearly six out of every 10 military families disapprove of Bush's job performance and the way he has run the war, rating him only slightly better than the general population does.

"And among those families with soldiers, sailors and Marines who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 60% say that the war in Iraq was not worth the cost, the same result as all adults surveyed.

"'I don't see gains for the people of Iraq . . . and, oh, my God, so many wonderful young people, and these are the ones who felt they were really doing something, that's why they signed up,' said poll respondent Sue Datta, 61, whose youngest son, an Army staff sergeant, was seriously wounded in Iraq last year and is scheduled to redeploy in 2009. 'I pray to God that they did not die in vain, but I don't think our president is even sensitive at all to what it's like to have a child serving over there.'"

The Subprime Backlash

Here are Bush's remarks yesterday announcing his support for an agreement negotiated by his Treasury secretary and financial companies to freeze rates on some subprime adjustable-rate mortgages.

Renae Merle writes in The Washington Post: "The agreement has sparked bitterness and anger among those who either sat out the housing boom or endured friends' snickers when they stuck with a traditional mortgage and a smaller house. To some who watched prices rise out of their reach or who moved to cheaper cities, the agreement looks like a penalty for those who didn't gamble. . . .

"The resentment is apparent on blogs that chronicle the mortgage crisis. It has some Republican lawmakers worried about a backlash."

Edmund L. Andrews writes in the New York Times: "The plan was the target of criticism from consumer advocates who said its scope was too narrow, and from investment firms, who said it went too far. Others warned that the plan, by letting some stretched homeowners off the hook, could encourage more reckless borrowing in the future."

Liz Moyer writes for Forbes: "The expected backlash to the plan started immediately after the Administration announced it. Housing advocates said it leaves millions of struggling borrowers at risk of foreclosure. Others decried it as a shameful bailout of irresponsible lenders and borrowers."

Wrong Number

Reuters reports: "U.S. homeowners who could face crippling mortgage payments will have a hard time getting help if they call a telephone number President George W. Bush recommended on Thursday -- he gave them the wrong number.

"'I have a message for every homeowner worried about rising mortgage payments: The best you can do for your family is to call 1-800-995-HOPE,' Bush said after a White House meeting with administration officials and lenders on a new plan to help.

"Unfortunately he was a couple digits off, it is actually 1-888-995-HOPE (4673)."

The number Bush gave belongs to the Freedom Christian Academy, which offers religious-based curricula for home schooling and is based in Ponder, Tex., northwest of Dallas.

Dear Leader

Helene Cooper writes in the New York Times: "President Bush, directly engaging the man he publicly called a 'tyrant,' wrote a letter to North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, in which he held out the prospect of normalized relations with the United States if North Korea fully disclosed its nuclear programs and dismantled its nuclear reactor, administration officials said Thursday. . . .

"The White House letter is a huge reversal from the veritable cold war that has existed between Mr. Bush and Mr. Kim for most of the Bush administration. In 2002, Mr. Bush referred to Mr. Kim as a 'pygmy' and compared him to a 'spoiled child at a dinner table' during a meeting with Republican senators, according to news reports at the time."

Karl Rove Watch

Speaking at an Associated Republicans of Texas fundraising dinner in Austin last night, Rove said he still talks to Bush often. Writes Peggy Fikac of the Houston Chronicle: "'He's a remarkable human being,' Rove said. 'His spirits are really up.'"

Contempt Watch

Susan Crabtree writes in The Hill: "Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday postponed a vote on contempt resolutions against former White House adviser Karl Rove and Chief of Staff Josh Bolten after Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) objected to language in the measures.

"Committee rules allow for a one-week delay, so the vote will likely take place next Thursday. Committee approval of the resolution would trigger a full Senate vote on the resolutions early next year."

Cartoon Watch

Jeff Danziger and David Horsey on Bush and the new intelligence.


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