When the going gets tough, Bush goes fishing
    by Gene Lyons

Be it recorded that as all hell broke loose in Iraq last week, costing
the lives of 60 brave U.S. soldiers, their commander-in-chief went
fishing. For readers naive enough to imagine that ole Dubya just slipped
on down to the fishin’ hole to ease his mind, it should be stipulated that
he was hard at work filming an episode of Roland Martin’s program for
the Outdoor Life cable TV channel—in effect, a free campaign commercial
to be shown next August.

According to The Associated Press, Martin brought his crew to Crawford,
Texas, at White House invitation. It’s even been reported that the president
landed a 4-pound largemouth, although if press accounts were as truthful as
Condoleezza Rice’s testimony to the 9/11 Commission, somebody probably
had to thaw the lunker out before hooking it to George W. Bush’s line. But
never mind, fellow rednecks. All you’re supposed to notice is that ole Dubya
phoned Condi from his official Texas good-ole-boy pick-em-up truck to say
she done good. Well, she done bad. So bad that in an administration more
concerned with reality than symbolism, Rice would be headed back to Stanford
University to compose her memoirs and preside over faculty senate meetings.

Academia is clearly where she belongs. I once taught courses at a college that
allowed itself three years to make the transition from a quarterly to a semester
system. Judging by last week’s testimony, that’d be about Rice’s speed.

With the CIA director running around Washington with his hair on fire, as they
say, and counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke demanding to know if it would
take hundreds of Americans lying dead in the street to wake up the White House,
Rice testified that she couldn’t remember if she’d told Bush about active al-Qa’ida
cells in the U.S. She’d also forgotten whether the president met with the FBI director.
Translation: Of course not. Bush was too keen to head for his Texas bass pond.

Luckily, Rice was talking about the Bush administration’s pre-9/11 failure to
comprehend the terrorist threat and not something truly important like sex.
Otherwise, people might have noticed that her testimony made Bill Clinton’s
accounts of his Oval Office exploits look comparatively straightforward.
After all, when Clinton told the nation that he "did not have sexual relations
with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," it was technically true. Sexual intercourse
hadn’t occurred.

But when Rice, smiling inappropriately like a poorly rehearsed Miss Alabama
contestant, repeatedly testified under oath that an Aug. 6 presidential daily briefing,
or PDB, "was historical information based on old reporting, there was no new
threat information, and it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the
United States," well, that wasn’t even technically true. Secure in the knowledge
that the document was classified, she even condescendingly offered to read it
aloud to Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, currently under attack by GOP
shills for being rude to darling Condi. Rice even brazenly insisted that "there was
nothing in this memo that suggested that an attack was coming on New York or
Washington, D. C." Now that the White House has yielded to pressure and
declassified the Aug. 6 PDB, however, everybody can see why Ben-Veniste
was so impatient.

In fact, New York and Washington were the only geographical locations
specifically mentioned. In only 17 sentences—short enough for even Bush
to read—the CIA warned exactly who planned to attack the U.S. and came
tantalizingly close to stipulating the how and the where. The document said the
FBI had detected "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with
preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance
of federal buildings in New York." It added that the FBI and CIA had intelligence
that "a group of [Osama] bin Ladin supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks
with explosives." This in the wake of 40 previous briefings warning the White
House, as Commissioner Fred F. Fielding put it, that "the upcoming attack would
be spectacular, something quantitatively different from anything that had been done."
Alas, we have a president who, even after the Aug. 6 document, titled "Bin Laden
Determined to Strike in U.S.," became public, blithely told reporters that it "said
nothing about an attack on America." That president has a national security adviser
who, when she wasn’t obfuscating in the commission’s face, filibustered about her
scholarly interest in "structural" and "cultural" barriers preventing White House
action. We’ve got a structural problem, all right: a president who doesn’t know
apple butter from Shinola, and a pathologically evasive national security adviser
who would evidently have to be "tasked" to call the Fire Department if her own
hair were ablaze. This White House began dissembling on Sept. 11, 2001,
proclaiming it had "no warning" of terrorist attacks. No wonder it wanted no

• Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient
of the National Magazine Award.

From watching Rice, et al tripping over this famous memo, I happened to stumble across
the following article from 2002, written in part by Woodward. All this whohaw over
declassifying is mysterious since this item was outted two years ago.....

Aug. Memo Focused On Attacks in U.S.
Lack of Fresh Information Frustrated Bush
  bBy Bob Woodward and Dan Eggen     Sunday, May 19, 2002; Page A01

The top-secret briefing memo presented to President Bush on Aug. 6 carried the headline,
"Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," and was primarily focused on recounting al Qaeda's
past efforts to attack and infiltrate the United States, senior administration officials said.


Note from Bart: That 'top secret classified' memo was also discussed in Al Franken's latest book.

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