Former CIA director George J. Tenet, speaking last week to 2,000 members of the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan, "called the war in Iraq 'wrong,' " according to an account in the Herald-Palladium, a daily paper in St. Joseph, Mich.

This small nuclear explosion could be found tucked into the third paragraph of the article on Thursday, along with an explanation that Tenet "did not elaborate."

Probably just as well, for on Saturday we find the story needed a clarification. Seems, the Herald-Palladium said, that "after reviewing the reporter's notes (Tenet barred reporters from using tape recorders), the newspaper now believes Tenet used the word 'wrong' in the context of U.S. intelligence" on the war, not about the war itself.

Oh.

Tenet, according to the reporter's notes, said: "I did not walk in and tell the president that it (the Iraq invasion) was wrong to do. I won't say at the end of the game, when things are looking bad, that I was against it all along."

So he was for it all along? For it or against it some of the time? Maybe a tape recorder would help.

Submit, to the Contest

Don't forget to enter the Loop's quadrennial Pick the President Contest.

Simply predict the winning candidate and the number of electoral votes he will receive. The first 20 entrants with the correct candidate and number of electoral votes will win a highly coveted In the Loop T-shirt and lifetime bragging rights.

All entries must include home, work or cell phone numbers. As always, Hill and administration aides may submit entries "on background." Send entries via e-mail to loop@washpost.com or mail to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

Deadline is midnight Friday. Don't delay. Good luck.

A Mail Screen 18 Months Long

Spot some suspicious activity in your neighborhood? Do not, repeat, do not, drop a note to the Department of Homeland Security. A Loop Fan sent us a letter she received last week that was addressed to the prior owner of her home. That fellow's been gone since June -- of 2003 -- so his letter to DHS must have been written before then.

So about 18 months later, DHS replied: "Thank you for your letter. Your inquiry is important to us and we wanted to let you know that, due to the mail screening and security procedures imposed after the Anthrax and Ricin incidents, we have only recently received your correspondence.

"After careful review, your letter has been sent to the appropriate division within DHS for consideration and response if applicable.

"We thank you for your patience and understanding, and assure you that mail recently received is processed in a timely manner."

Just call the cops.

Is It Official? Budget Panel Slams Kerry

Some good-government types are looking askance at a Senate Budget Committee report that skewers Democratic candidate John F. Kerry's policy proposals. That report, prepared by no fewer than 17 Republican staffers at the request of retiring Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), came out the day after the Senate left town.

This naturally aroused speculation as to what legislative purpose the report served. The ethics rules say "Senate employees are [paid] for regular performance of official duties. They are not paid to do campaign work."

Ah, but the 13-page report says clearly "For Internal Senate Use Only," so it's obviously not a campaign-related document. We particularly liked the report's "key finding" that "Sen. Kerry has a dismal voting record on enforcing existing budget rules."

Of course, even on the odd chance that the senator from Massachusetts were to win, Nickles won't be in the next Congress to consider any policy proposals.

Unfazed by the First Phase

No matter what, the key to most everything is to be confident. For example, voters in Santa Cruz, Calif., are to decide next Tuesday on a 30-year, half-cent sales tax to pay for widening a bottlenecked section of Highway 1 -- not the scenic portion. The road improvement project has been bitterly contested for years, with enviros blocking the proposal, saying it would just lead to more sprawl.

But the highway proposal is now before the voters, along with the sales-tax increase to fund it. One question, of course, is whether that tax would be adequate.

"We're confident that [the sales tax] would fulfill the first phase [of the widening project], though we're not sure what the first phase entails," Karena Pushnik, a regional transportation planner, told the San Francisco Chronicle last week.

That's confidence.

Getting New Terms

Keeping up with well-known area folks getting recent appointments . . . President Bush over the summer named Madeleine C. Will, former assistant secretary of education for special education and rehabilitative services and former spouse of columnist George Will, to another term as chairman of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Bush reappointed to that committee the Rev. Lon N. Solomon, senior pastor of the McLean Bible Church, which has planned an $18.5 million center for disabled children. Solomon also serves as chairman of the board of the executive committee of Jews for Jesus.