In his new book The Assault on Reason, Al Gore wrote that Bush’s efforts to connect Iraq to 9/11 were an example of the administration’s willful “deception” of the public:
When the administration is told specifically and repeatedly by the most authoritative sources that there is no linkage, but then in spite of the best evidence continues to make bold and confident assertions to the American people that leave the impression with 70 percent of the country that Saddam Hussein was linked to al-Qaeda and was primarily responsible for the 9/11 attack, this can only be labeled deception. [p.108]
This afternoon, White House press secretary Tony Snow took issue with this passage. “[Bush] has never tried to make” the connection between Iraq and 9/11, Snow said. “And what [Gore] is doing, it’s been tried by a lot of other people, which is to take something the president hasn’t said, expose it as a, quote, lie, and then beat him up for it. … The president’s been straight about the intel.”
Snow attacked Gore’s book, saying, “I don’t know if they’re going to do a reprinting of the book to try to get the facts straight. The fact-checkers may have to take a look at it.” He added, “These are highly complex publishing issues and I can’t be an expert on them.” Watch it:
To justify the war, Bush informed Congress on March 19, 2003 that acting against Iraq was consistent with “continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”
As ThinkProgress has repeatedly documented, Vice President Cheney cited “evidence” cooked up by Douglas Feith and others to claim it was “pretty well confirmed” that Iraq had contacts with 9/11 hijackers.
More generally, in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, the administration encouraged the false impression that Saddam had a role in 9/11. Bush never stated then, as he does now, that Iraq had “nothing” to do with 9/11. Only after the Iraq war began did Bush candidly acknowledge that Iraq was not operationally linked to 9/11.
UPDATE: In a conference call this afternoon, Vice President Gore responded to Snow’s attack, saying: “Unlike the President’s State of the Union address, this book was actually fact checked.”
QUESTION: Could I have one more Al Gore book quote?
The president deceived the public by suggesting that Iraq was involved in 9/11. He says when the administration continued to, quote, make bold and confident assertions that leave the impression with 70 percent of the country that Saddam Hussein was linked to Al Qaida and was primarily responsible for the 9/11 attack, this can only be labeled deception.
SNOW: Unfortunately, the vice president probably has been listening to people who have deliberately misled him.
The president has made it clear over and over and over that there was no relationship between Saddam Hussein and September 11th. And, again, from my own personal experience, when we would go in the day of the State of the Union address, the State of the Union address in 2002, I guess, or 2003, the question arose, Do you think that Saddam’s linked to September 11th? The president said, No, we have no intelligence to link Saddam directly to September 11th.
So he has never tried to make that tie.
And what the vice president is doing, it’s been tried by a lot of other people, which is to take something the president hasn’t said, expose it as a, quote, lie, and then beat him up for it.
The president told the truth. So I don’t know. Perhaps — I don’t know if they’re going to do a reprinting of the book to try to get the facts straight. The fact-checkers may have to take a look at it. These are highly complex publishing issues and I can’t be an expert on them.
QUESTION: Tony, you also realize Mr. Cheney had talked about an operational link perhaps between Al Qaida and Saddam, talked about Mohammed Atta having a meeting.
SNOW: Right. But that’s an entirely separate issue from the quote that was read.
QUESTION: Some people don’t view it as a separate issue if it contributes to a view in the general public that there was some Iraq tie to 9/11.
SNOW: Well, yes, you had Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on Iraqi soil. You had reports that there were, in fact, Al Qaida members on Iraqi soil before the war began. That’s in the intel that you saw before the war.
Again, I think what happens is the people are trying to, you know — if at first you don’t succeed, try to figure out another angle by which you can go after the president, where everybody saw the same intel and at least in those early days after September 11th, they all basically agreed to what they had seen. The president’s been straight about the intel.