If there is not an orchestrated effort among Democratic leaders and the mainstream press to discredit President Bush concerning Iraq, there might as well be. The irony is that the president's accusers are damaging U.S. credibility far more than he has.
Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe charged, "This may be the first time in recent history that a president knowingly misled the American people during the State of the Union address."
McAuliffe was referring to a 16-word statement contained in President Bush's address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
It was later learned that part of the basis of this "intelligence" was a forged document. The British, notably, still insist their intelligence is accurate. Nevertheless, the administration has conceded that the statement should not have been included in the president's speech, though there is confusion about who caused the mistake. The CIA has taken responsibility for it, but some believe CIA Director George Tenet is just covering for the president.
Democrats and many in the press have been hammering this issue for months, and it's finally getting some traction. It was the primary subject of the network and cable Sunday shows, the subject of a rant by Senator John Kerry and fodder for any number of newspapers.
The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt wrote: "The phony Iraq-Niger deal may be the smoking gun in what was a pervasive pattern of exaggeration and distortion to justify the war against the Iraqi dictator."
A Los Angeles Times editorial unquestioningly accepted as true Terry McAuliffe's allegation that President Bush "knowingly misled the American people." The editorial mentioned the claim without examining its veracity, then went on to discuss the pattern of "White House manipulation of intelligence" that has gone on since Theodore Roosevelt. The writers conclude, "Given the historical record of the presidents who came before, it would have been more surprising if Bush had not manipulated the evidence." Talk about manipulating evidence. This august paper cites allegations of deceit by previous presidents as evidence of Bush's deceit.