Condi Ducks Questions on Downing Street Minutes

In an interview taped for MSNBC’s Hardball tonight, host Chris Matthews asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice whether she recalled having the meetings with the British officials that were discussed in the Downing Street Minutes. Here was her response:

SECRETARY RICE: “Well, of course David Manning is a fine public servant, and an extraordinary foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Blair, and we had a number of conversations. I don’t remember this one in particular “ [MSNBC Hardball, 6/13/05]

So let’s recap. When asked about the Downing Street Minutes, the White House Press Secretary 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.” When Bush was asked, he said he too hadn’t read the full memo but did not dispute its authenticity nor the charges contained it it. And now, Secretary Rice claims not to remember the conversations at all. These are hardly the types of answers that should put the charges to rest. But that’s in fact what Chris Matthews tried to do in the interview last night:

MATTHEWS: Before we go on, that second memorandum that has been talked about, the one that was originally dubbed the “Downing Street Memo,” said that the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy. What do you make of that word “fixed”? Is that an assertion that we were “fixing” the argument, making a case for intel that said there was a connection with al-Qaida, a connection with WMD, just to get the war started?

RICE: Well, I don’t understand. I can’t go back and judge what was said.

MATTHEWS: What happened with that word “fixed”, which is like “fix the World — fix the World Series”-

RICE: Right.

MATTHEWS: There’s a British sense, which means just put things together.

RICE: Put things together.

It’s a pretty hard-hitting interview when you ask and answer your own questions. The newly-revealed British Briefing Papers yesterday showed that the British had grave doubts about pre-war intelligence on Iraq, and they lend further support to the idea that “fixed,” as stated in the Downing Street Minutes, meant the U.S. was manipulating the intelligence to make the case for war.


UPDATE:Vice President Cheney was asked about the Downing Street Minutes yesterday as well. He claimed not to have read the two-page document.

Cheney: “I haven’t seen the so-called Downing Street memo.” [Remarks at Ford Journalism Awards, 6/13/05]