The press take a whack at him and all kinds of….well, mostly crap falls out:
Q But they say — the 9/11 Commission is saying, not only is there no evidence to support that or any collaboration in any other attacks on America, but no evidence to support any kind of collaborative relationship which you have claimed.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, if you go back and look at what Secretary Powell said, and look at what Director Tenet said — let me point out what Director Tenet said, as well, let me read you facts because you’re talking about impressions, let’s talk about the facts. I think you need to look at the facts, and look at exactly what was said prior to the decision to go into Iraq and remove that regime from power.
Here’s Director Tenet to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in a letter October 7, 2002:
“We have solid reporting of senior-level contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda going back a decade. Credible information indicates that Iraq and al Qaeda had discussed safe-haven and reciprocal nonaggression. Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.”
So those are the facts. And I think if you go and look back at what the September 11th Commission report said yesterday, it’s consistent with that report.
Q Scott, let me try to take a stab at this because I think one of the things that you’re asserting there is a statement from the Director of Central Intelligence, who has since resigned, who apparently was the same one who told the President that it was a slam-dunk case.
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s not trying to say he resigned for reasons other than were personal reasons.
Q People can make up their own minds.
MR. McCLELLAN: As he cited, for family reasons.
Q Okay, but they can make up their own minds.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, well, you’re trying to lump it all together, though.
Q I’m pointing out that he resigned. And he also said — you quoted him as saying that — he’s also the one who told the President that it was a slam-dunk case that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Today — as of today, there are not. And isn’t the issue that whatever the intelligence was about ties, any kind of relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq, that for the Vice President of the United States two days ago to assert deep, long-standing ties is, at its most charitable, an overstatement of what the evidence shows?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, he’s actually referring to exactly what Secretary Powell outlined before the United Nations and what Director Tenet outlined in open session to members of Congress. So, again, I would go back to what we stated were the facts and what we knew. And if you —
Q But that’s in direct contradiction to what the 9/11 Commission has found.
MR. McCLELLAN: And if you look back at what we said, we said that — we said all along that Saddam Hussein’s regime supported and harbored terrorists, and that there were ties to terrorism — including al Qaeda. And if you go back and look at what was outlined before the United Nations — Secretary Powell goes to talk about how there was support for suicide bombers in the Middle East who sought to undermine the peace process, who sought to undermine the road map.
Q But, Scott, you’re trying to make such a technical —
MR. McCLELLAN: Director Tenet —
Q — argument, cherry-picking what you want to see.
Q Not Iraq.
Q And not only that, this President has said that he thought that Saddam Hussein would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army, as one of his forward armies. The 9/11 Commission is saying, contacts a relationship don’t make.
MR. McCLELLAN: David, you’re just ignoring the facts. You’re not looking at what Director Tenet said. You’re not looking at what Secretary Powell said before the United Nations.
Q Scott, do you really think people buy this?
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think that you can seek to drive a wedge, but there is no wedge there between what the September 11th Commission said and what the facts —
Q Between what the facts are and what the reality is.
MR. McCLELLAN: — and what the facts are. You’re talking about impressions; I’m talking about facts.
Q No, I’m also talking about facts. The President said he thinks that al Qaeda would like to be a forward — that Saddam wanted to use al Qaeda as a forward army — his words from, I believe, October 2002 at a Michigan rally.
This commission has said after its own investigation, and you were the ones who set up the commission, that there was no collaborative relationship. So the conclusion — the question and conclusion seems to be that administration overstated the evidence that exists.
The whole thing is friggin’ great.