Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Wednesday claimed to have evidence that the infamous ‘sixteen words’ George W. Bush uttered during his 2003 State of the Union address were actually true, going against the Bush administration’s own admission to the contrary.
King was speaking on Jan Mickelson’s radio show on Wednesday when he made the extraordinary claim. While discussing the propensity of Republican presidents to be called out for lying while positing that Democrats manage to escape such judgment, King brought up the “No new taxes” pledge of President George H.W. Bush, before seguing into what he believes is the younger Bush’s unfair labeling:
KING: And then when we get to George W. Bush, he was accused of 16 words in the State of the Union address that they said was a lie and they’re still attacking him for that. And Jan, I will tell you, I have had hands-on evidence that what George Bush said in that State of the Union address was the truth and he was still punished for it.
At the fateful State of the Union that King mentioned, on the verge of launching the war in Iraq that would stretch on for the better part of a decade, Bush declared to the world that intelligence showed Iraq was purchasing uranium from Niger. “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” the president announced, the 16 words to which King was referring. The British intelligence in question, published in late 2002 as the September Dossier, also insisted that Hussein had some of his weapons of mass destruction on such a short trigger as to be prepared to launch within 45 minutes.
It didn’t take long, however, for the British claim to begin to unravel. When the United States provided the documents in question to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog declared that they were “obvious” fakes. Former ambassador Joe Wilson fanned the flames in a New York Times op-ed in which he blamed the administration for purposefully exaggerating and twisting intelligence reports in the run-up to war. By July, the Bush administration was finally forced to admit that the intelligence was “bogus” and shouldn’t have been included.
“After the speech, information was learned about the forged documents,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. “With the advantage of hindsight, it’s known now what was not known by the White House prior to the speech. This information should not have risen to the level of a presidential speech.”
The entire affair spiraled following the revelation that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was in fact a Central Intelligence Agency operative, leading to the prosecution of White House advisor I. Scooter Libby. But it seems King managed to miss the entire sordid affair. King also offered no follow-up to his claim that Iraq actually was attempting to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger, instead moving back to his preferred subject of attacking President Obama on health care.