"Mike McConnell came in and said, 'We have some new information.' He didn't tell me what the information was."
In the always-exciting category of How Big An Idiot Do They Think We Are?, we have a brand-new nominee, friends: the latest collection of slippery nouns and verbs from the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush.
For total mind-bending, from-the-very-moment-it-hits-your-ears implausibility -- not to mention the industrial-strength chutzpah necessary to think it was even remotely possible that he could get away with it -- 43 may be making his strongest bid yet to join Slick Old 42 in the Prevaricators Hall of Fame.
This one was a press conference for the ages, with the prez challenged from every direction on the newly released National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, and the prez demonstrating time and again that intelligence has absolutely no effect on him.
(But you knew that.)
He wasn't going to change his campaign against Iran's nuclear-weapons program merely because 16 American intelligence agencies had concluded with "high confidence" that Iran doesn't actually have a nuclear-weapons program. Hasn't had a nuclear-weapons program since 2003.
Making you wonder what all the recent fuss has been about, given that for months now, you could barely hear yourself think over the constant clatter of White House sabers.
But now the NIE is public, and one reasonable presidential response to its findings would have been: "Never mind."
Where does it say this president has to be reasonable?
One reasonable response from the citizenry, meanwhile, would be to wonder, in those stirring words from the Book of Watergate: "What did the president know, and when did he know it?"
Or more precisely, has George Bush really been pushing the world toward a confrontation with Iran even after he discovered that the Iranian threat wasn't what it had been cracked up to be? Did all that scare-talk about "World War III" come after he'd already learned from his top spooks that there wasn't nearly that much to be scared about?
Which is why those reporters meeting with Mr. Bush the other day were more than a little curious about just when it was the presidential light bulb first went on.
The president was as eager as ever to satisfy their curiosity. But they did manage to wring from him the admission that, while it was only "last week" that he'd been "briefed" on the "NIE that is now public" --
(And what about preliminary drafts, Mr. President? Did anyone brief you on preliminary drafts?)
-- he might have picked up at least a vague scent of change some time earlier. Months earlier, in fact.
"In August, I think it was, Mike McConnell came in and said, 'We have some new information.' He didn't tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze."
And we're supposed to believe that the president's Director of National Intelligence said to the president, "We have some new information," and the president said -- what?
"Hot enough for you?"?
"How about those Red Sox!"?
We're supposed to believe that the president's Director of National Intelligence didn't give the president even a hint about the subject of this "new information"? Or Option B (and hold onto your brains here): that he told the president that this "new information" was about Iran, but didn't tell him what the information was, and that George Bush, who's been thoroughly obsessed with Iran and what it's been doing and how quickly it's been doing it -- that George Bush never even asked?!
"Whenever it's convenient."
He must think we inhaled.