Its usually a bad


It’s usually a bad sign when a criminal defendant has half a dozen defenses against the same charge. You know the drill: I couldn’t have been there. I have an alibi. But if I was there I didn’t have my glasses. And if I did have my glasses, then I saw someone else do it. And if I did it, well, let me tell you what happened to me when I was three …

Needless to say, this brings us to Mr. Ari Fleischer.

An alert reader just brought Richard Stevenson’s article in the Times‘ today to my attention — and in particular this quote …

But Mr. Fleischer said Mr. Wilson’s report was vague and did not specifically address the main problem with the intelligence, that documents purporting to document Iraq’s efforts were almost certainly forged.

“He spent eight days in Niger and concluded that Niger denied the allegation,” Mr. Fleischer said. “Well, typically nations don’t admit to going around nuclear nonproliferation.”

Let’s take this one step at a time.

First of all, Fleischer is lying. Wilson didn’t conclude that Niger “denied the allegation.” He concluded, after investigating the allegations from a number of vantage points, that the purported sale was close to impossible, or at least quite unlikely. The reasoning turned on the structure of Niger’s uranium consortium, how the uranium is accounted for, and how much Iraq was alleged to have purchased. (Why Stevenson didn’t note this, shall we say, ‘discrepancy’ I have no idea.)

Fleischer is lying — there’s no other way to describe it — about what Wilson’s report said to make it seem less significant than it was. (If Fleischer had said Wilson’s reasoning was flawed or his investigation incomplete, then you could say he was spinning or distorting. But saying he said something completely different from what he said means he’s lying.) He’s making it seem less significant than it was to make it appear less culpable that the White House ignored his findings. But the White House’s story is that it never heard about his findings. So why the need to discredit his report?

The answer is obvious. They’re trying to set up multiple lines of defense.

We didn’t hear about it. But if we did hear about it, it didn’t amount to much so we ignored it.

Let’s have one defense and stick with it, okay?