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For KCRW, I'm Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun with Minding the Media.
If journalism is the first draft of history, we've got our work cut out for us. So many politicians are spinning their own fantastical versions of certain events that it's going to take constant reminding by reporters and columnists to expose the truth and make it stick.
After telling us just two months ago in the most ominous terms that Iran's nuclear weapons could trigger "World War III," President Bush had to back-pedal today in a press conference after it was revealed that a new intelligence finding shows Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Nevertheless, Bush, in that funny way he has of never actually acknowledging anything, said the new finding had not altered his sense that Iran remained a danger.
The report is "a warning signal," Bush said, and the United States will retain its option of responding militarily.
Remind you of Iraq? The way the administration beat the drums for war on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had weapons mass destruction, only to change its tune and call the invasion part of the "war on terror" and "building democracy" after it became clear that Hussein had long since abandoned his mass weapons programs?
Steven Lee Myers, writing about the Iran findings in today's New York Times, says, "Rarely, if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate here."
"An administration that had cited Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons as the rationale for an aggressive foreign policy… now has in its hands a classified document that undercuts much of the foundation for that approach."
Myers says the report "will raise questions, again, about the integrity of America's beleaguered intelligence agencies…" and whether the earlier overstatements reflect "poor tradecraft or political pressure."
The White House struggled to portray the report as a validation of Bush's strategy, a contention that "required swimming against the tide" of Bush's and Dick Cheney's "occasionally apocalyptic language," Myers says.
At least Karl Rove seems embarrassed enough by the rush to war in Iraq that he's now spinning his own version of how we got there.
On Charlie Rose's PBS show, Rove claimed that Congress, not President Bush, pushed for a quick vote to go to war, a comment that can only be described as a flat-out lie.
"The administration was opposed" to voting for a war resolution in the fall of 2002, Rove claimed. "It seemed it make things move too fast."
Too fast? That was exactly what people who were paying attention said at the time about Bush, who sent Colin Powell to the United Nations to strong-arm its members with a pack of flimsy lies about WMD's that were based largely on the imagination of a single Iraqi source, since discredited.
Bush was in such a hurry to topple Hussein that he pulled out the U.N. weapons inspectors before their work was done, another inconvenient fact that the administration seems intent on spinning into oblivion.
Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card had the grace to contradict Rove's claim that it was the Democrats who pushed the president into war.
And, finally, we have Bill Clinton's statement last week that he opposed the Iraq war "from the beginning."
Well, no. Clinton himself said in a Time magazine interview in June 2004 that he "supported the Iraq thing," although Bush "should have waited" until the U.N. inspections were over.
Clinton said then that he had "repeatedly defended" Bush "against the left on Iraq."
Now, he says he was against the war all along. C'mon, Bill. Who are you spinning?
This is Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun, Minding the Media on KCRW.
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