At a few minutes after noon, I'm watching Mr. Di Rita giving yet another round of spin about al Qaqaa. Uncharacteristically, he looked like he was on the verge of a panic attack through most of his introductory remarks. And with what followed, it's not hard to see why. The line Di Rita led off with (and I just jotted this down from hearing it once over the air, so perhaps I've got a word or two wrong) was this: "It has not been our desire to tell a particular story, only to tell the facts."
I believe this man protests too much.
The only thing accurate about this claim is that it's true that Di Rita has not been intent on telling a particular story. He's been willing to tell any story -- and has -- so long as it's a story that exonerates the White House. Even if it's a different story every day.
It's a touchy point. But it's time for someone to start making the point that the Pentagon Public Affairs office isn't supposed to be used as a formal arm of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. And for that matter if Di Rita's going to use it that way, he should at least be doing a better job of it.
Today Di Rita brought out an Army major who says his unit removed and destroyed roughly 250 tons of equipment, ammunition and explosives from somewhere in the al Qaqaa facility in early April 2003 -- that would be after the first US troops arrived but prior to the arrival of the news crew that apparently filmed much of the explosives on April 18th.
Was it the stuff in question? Di Rita kept trying to answer the questions on the major's behalf. But the major made clear that he had no idea. Did he see any IAEA seals? No, he said, he didn't.
The Fox reporter at the news conference tried to coax the major into saying more than he was saying. But to no avail. He would only say what he knew. And there was very little that he knew that pertained to the relevant question.
The other reporters on hand, apparently weary of being lied to all week, preferred to put their questions to the major directly, rather than to Di Rita. And he, the major, was straightforward enough to say that all he knew was that he had taken stuff from somewhere at al Qaqaa and destroyed it.
What does that mean? Almost nothing.
This was an unfortunate stunt, put on by Di Rita and the politicals at DOD Public Affairs. And given how it turned out, I suspect it's one they quickly regretted.