Tuesday, June 15, 2004

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Follow the bouncing ball, please:

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that Saddam Hussein had "long-established ties" with al Qaeda, an assertion that has been repeatedly challenged by some policy experts and lawmakers.

The vice president offered no details backing up his claim of a link between Saddam and al Qaida."He was a patron of terrorism," Cheney said of Hussein during a speech before The James Madison Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Florida. "He had long established ties with al Qaeda."

Of course, President Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell and National Security Advisor Rice have all, at some point, said the opposite. Bush, in September of 2002, actually went out of his way to publicly correct the vice president.

As quipped on Air America's "Unfiltered" this morning (I'm paraphrasing), it's as if the administration has one message for the New York Times, and another for the campaign trail.

But, please, follow the bouncing ball.

What folllows is s a partial transcript from today's press conference with Bush spokesman Scott McLellan.

Q Can I ask about Vice President Cheney, because yesterday he repeated what is a very controversial claim. He said that Saddam Hussein had long-established ties with al Qaeda. Does the President believe that Saddam Hussein had long-established ties with al Qaeda?

MR. McCLELLAN: We certainly talked about the ties with terrorism between the -- between the regime that was removed from power, and we talked about those ties prior to the decision to remove that regime from power. So that was well-documented. Secretary Powell went before the United Nations and talked about some of those ties to terrorism, as well. And Zarqawi is certainly a senior al Qaeda associate who was in Iraq prior to the decision to go in and remove the regime from power.

Q There's also al Qaeda in the United States. That does not mean the United States is cooperating with those members of al Qaeda. Just by the presence of someone does not mean there's a cooperation.

MR. McCLELLAN: But, remember, we're talking about an oppressive regime that was in power in Iraq that exercised control over that country. And go back and look at what we documented, Norah. We documented all this, and I think that's what the Vice President was referring to.

Q So today you're saying the President does agree there were long --

MR. McCLELLAN: We stand by what we've said previously, in terms of the regime's ties to terrorism, yes. And I think that's what the Vice President was referring to.

Q The President said there were no ties in the run up to the war.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, Helen, that's a mischaracterization. There were clear ties to terrorism between the regime --

Q He said there were no ties with al Qaeda.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- certainly supporting suicide bombers in the Middle East.

Q Are you repudiating what the President said?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you're talking about September 11th.

Here's my question: Is the only thing preventing impeachment hearings the fact that there's a Republican House and Senate?

David

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