Here’s a News Flash

Ron Fournier of the Associated Press doesn’t like Dick Cheney. That’s pretty much the content of Fournier’s latest hit piece. And Fournier is, perhaps because of his animus toward the Vice-President, no stickler for accuracy. He writes:

The latest disclosure also raises fresh questions about the vice president’s credibility, long-ago frayed by inaccurate or questionable statements on Iraq.

Really? It would be interesting to see how many such inaccurate statements Cheney made, that were not also made by John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

Cheney told NBC on Sept. 14, 2003, that he didn’t know who sent Wilson on a mission to Niger to explore claims that Iraq was seeking nuclear material. “He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back,” Cheney said at the time. “I don’t know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn’t judge him. I have no idea who hired him.”

He made those remarks months after the reported conversations with Tenet and Libby, where he would have learned about Wilson and his wife.

Fournier clearly implies that there is a contradiction between Cheney knowing that Wilson was married to Valerie Plame, and his statement that he “had no idea who hired him.” But why? Here is Cheney’s full exchange with Tim Russert on Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: Now, Ambassador Joe Wilson, a year before that, was sent over by the CIA because you raised the question about uranium from Africa. He says he came back from Niger and said that, in fact, he could not find any documentation that, in fact, Niger had sent uranium to Iraq or engaged in that activity and reported it back to the proper channels. Were you briefed on his findings in February, March of 2002?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I don’t know Joe Wilson. I’ve never met Joe Wilson. A question had arisen. I’d heard a report that the Iraqis had been trying to acquire uranium in Africa, Niger in particular. I get a daily brief on my own each day before I meet with the president to go through the intel. And I ask lots of question. One of the questions I asked at that particular time about this, I said, “What do we know about this?” They take the question. He came back within a day or two and said, “This is all we know. There’s a lot we don’t know,” end of statement. And Joe Wilson—I don’t who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back.

I guess the intriguing thing, Tim, on the whole thing, this question of whether or not the Iraqis were trying to acquire uranium in Africa. In the British report, this week, the Committee of the British Parliament, which just spent 90 days investigating all of this, revalidated their British claim that Saddam was, in fact, trying to acquire uranium in Africa. What was in the State of the Union speech and what was in the original British White papers. So there may be difference of opinion there. I don’t know what the truth is on the ground with respect to that, but I guess—like I say, I don’t know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn’t judge him. I have no idea who hired him and it never came…

MR. RUSSERT: The CIA did.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Who in the CIA, I don’t know.

As far as I know, every word that Cheney said was true, and there is no contradiction between those statements and his purported knowledge that Wilson’s wife worked for the agency.

Later in his hit piece, Fournier again goes after Cheney on Iraq:

It was Cheney who all but made a direct link between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 attacks, then denied that he had ever done so.

Really? Those words “all but made” are suggestive. Fournier never quotes Cheney where he “all but made a direct link” between Saddam and the September 11 attacks; the reason is that Cheney never did it. Fournier is just passing on an urban legend, under the auspices of the Associated Press. As far as I know, Cheney has consistently discussed the relationship between Iraq and September 11 as he did in the same Meet the Press interview quoted from above:

MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. [Ed.: Russert misrepresents the Washington post poll. In fact, respondents were asked how "likely" they thought it was that Saddam was involved. 32% said "very likely," 37% said "somewhat likely."] Are you surprised by that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn’t have any evidence of that.
***
With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.

As a certified liberal, Fournier subscribes to the dogma that Iraq couldn’t possibly have anything to do with al Qaeda:

[Cheney] also insisted there was a link between al-Qaida and Iraq.

But of course! No one could possibly deny, in light of all of the revelations both before and after Saddam’s downfall, that there were links, connections, relationships–call them what you will–between Iraq and al Qaeda. We have discussed them many times. It is possible to debate the extent and significance of the links between Iraq and al Qaeda, but for Fournier to imply that they didn’t exist is absurd.

I once heard Ari Fleischer describe Fournier as one of the best of the White House press corps. God help us if that’s true.

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