President George W. Bush, under siege for "misleading" the country into war against Iraq, received some help from an unusual source -- former President Bill Clinton.
"When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for . . . it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks . . . " said Clinton recently on "Larry King Live." Also, Clinton said he never found out whether a U.S.-British bombing campaign he ordered in 1998 ended Saddam's stockpiles of or his capability of producing chemical and biological weapons. "We might have gotten it all, we might have gotten half of it, we might have gotten none of it. But we didn't know," said Clinton.
Presidential contender Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., actually suggested impeachment of the president over Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech reference about an Iraqi-Africa uranium connection. But Clinton said, " . . . The White House said . . . that on balance they probably shouldn't have put that comment in the speech. What happened, often happens. There was a disagreement between British intelligence and American intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence that said it. . . . British intelligence still maintain that they think the nuclear story was true. I don't know what was true, what was false. . . . Here's what happens: every day the president gets a daily brief from the CIA. And then, if it's some important issue -- and believe me, you know, anything having to do with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons became much more important to everybody in the White House after September the 11th -- then they probably told the president, certainly Condoleezza Rice, that this is what the British intelligence thought."
About the gravity of the president's "error" -- never mind that the British still stand by the Africa/uranium assertion -- Clinton said, "You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president. I mean, you can't make as many calls as you have to without messing up once in a while. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do right now."
Why does Clinton, a consistent and persistent critic of this administration, suddenly leap to Bush's defense? After all, polls show Bush's popularity coming down from the post-major-Iraqi-war-operations peak. And the White House appears off-balance in their defense of Bush's speech reference to Iraqi attempts at purchasing uranium in Africa. Furthermore, Americans quite understandably show concern over the almost daily headlines of anti-American Iraqis ambushing soldiers.
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