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The White House's Weak Denials

"If the White House asked the CIA to cook up this disinformation aimed at the American people, why shouldn't the righty blogosphere, too, be up in arms? Why doesn't every American, regardless of political party, have a stake in the truth and the rule of law?

"I know, I know: that's not Chuck Todd's or Mike Allen's jobs. Unfortunately, the closest that the MSM usually comes to weighing the evidence is saying: Ron Suskind charges X, and the White House denies it. This is what is now called reporting."

A None Too Proud Tradition

Fratto's response is also highly reminiscent of some previous White House non-denials.

One of my favorites has always been former press secretary Scott McClellan's response to a British press report in 2005, to the effect that Bush had raised with British Prime Minister Tony Blair the idea of bombing al-Jazeera television headquarters. All McClellan would say about that is: "Any such notion that we would engage in that kind of activity is just absurd."

Here's McClellan in October 2003, responding to questions about the White House's campaign against former ambassador and administration critic Joe Wilson: "We -- this White House -- it is absurd to suggest that this White House would seek to punish someone for speaking out with a different view. We welcome people with different views. That's a healthy part of our democracy."

And of course here is McClellan, in September 2003, responding to questions about whether Karl Rove was involved in the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as a CIA operative: "I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place."

Bush's Trip

Bush has finally decided to speak out forcefully about China -- from Thailand.

Michael Abramowitz writes for The Washington Post: "Just before flying to Beijing for the opening of the Olympic games, President Bush plans a speech in the Thai capital that will include some of his bluntest language yet on human rights in China, saying that 'America stands in firm opposition' to China's detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists, according to a draft copy of the speech.

"'We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly, and labor rights not to antagonize China's leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential,' Bush will say in the speech, to be given at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Bangkok (10:30 p.m. Wednesday in Washington). 'And we press for openness and justice not to impose our beliefs but to allow the Chinese people to express theirs.'

"Bush will also say that 'the United States believes the people of China deserve the fundamental liberty that is the natural right of all human beings,' according to the remarks released by the White House in advance to reporters traveling with him.

"Although Bush has previously been critical of Chinese human rights practices, in particular its suppression of religious liberty, the comments go well beyond what the president has said in the run-up to the Olympic games. . . .

"Advocates have called for Bush to make a stronger statement about China's human rights practices or meet with dissidents while in Beijing. Both scenarios appear unlikely, however, in large measure because Bush has repeatedly said he is going to the Olympics to cheer on the U.S. athletes and to show his 'respect' for the Chinese people, as he put it in a news conference in Seoul on Wednesday morning."

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