On ABC’s This Week, George Stephanopoulous asked Condi to respond to allegations in the Downing Street Minutes. Here’s what she said:
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, there has also been a lot of talk back here in the United States about these Downing Street memos, the minutes of a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in the spring and summer of 2002, where they discussed their meetings with the United States. I want to show you what one mother, Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier, had to say about that memo this week: “The so-called Downing Street memo dated 23 July 2002 only confirms what I already suspected: the leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry-picked intelligence.” How do you respond to Mrs. Sheehan?
RICE: Well, I can only say what the President has said many, many times. The United States of America and its coalition decided that it was finally time to deal with the threat of Saddam Hussein.
That doesn’t answer the question. Secretary Rice had ducked a similar question earlier by saying she didn’t remember the meetings referred to in the memos.
For whatever you believe about the Downing Street Minutes and the British Briefing Papers (whether it’s the smoking gun or not), everyone should at least acknowledge some level of discomfort over an administration that refuses time and again to even answer questions regarding such damaging allegations. No Bush administration official has officially disputed the memos’ authenticity or rejected the claims contained therein.
To recap, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan first said he hadn’t read it, and then later urged people to “go back and look at all the public comments over the course of the lead-up to the war in Iraq.” President Bush then said he hadn’t read the full memo but did not dispute its authenticity nor the charges contained in it. And Vice President Cheney said he hadn’t “seen the so-called Downing Street memo.” Why has it become so difficult to get an answer to the simple question: Do you dispute the authenticity of the memo?