May 21, 2003

Why Oh Why Does Donald Rumsfeld Still Have a Job? II

UPDATE: The MinuteMan (and others) convincingly argue that the second quote is taken out of context. The most that can be said is that the administration said that Saddam Hussein would soon have nuclear weapons--which now appears to have been not true, but does not directly contradict Rumsfeld.

From the Washington Post, via Andrew Tobias:

"I don't believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons." -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, May 14, 2003

"We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." -- Vice President Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003

Posted by DeLong at May 21, 2003 10:10 AM | TrackBack

Comments

You mean, "Why oh why does anyone in the Washington Press Corps still have a job?"

Come visit my blog. It's one year old today and we're even talking about economic historians. What's not to like?

Posted by: Kieran Healy on May 21, 2003 10:17 AM

You mean, "Why oh why does anyone in the Washington Press Corps still have a job?"

Come visit my blog. It's one year old today and we're even talking about economic historians. What's not to like?

Posted by: Kieran Healy on May 21, 2003 10:19 AM

What makes you think Donald Rumsfeld knows Dick Cheney?

Posted by: Instahack on May 21, 2003 10:20 AM

I can't find the article on the Wash Post that he is referring to.
-Steve

Posted by: Steve on May 21, 2003 11:23 AM

The first hit to the "reconstituted nuclear weapons" quote is in the Google cache at: http://216.239.57.100/search?q=cache:sQYfQOVuPWUJ:www.msnbc.com/news/886806.asp%3Fcp1%3D1+reconstituted+nuclear+weapons+cheney&hl=en&ie=UTF-8.

The

Posted by: Brad DeLong on May 21, 2003 11:33 AM

What I was looking for was the Rumsfeld quote.
I found it wierdly after the end of this Affirmitive Energy policy article:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12382-2003May19.html

Posted by: Steve on May 21, 2003 11:50 AM

Proof that there's no God, because if there were, Rummy would have burst into flame.

Posted by: Ken on May 21, 2003 12:10 PM

The full quote from the MSNBC google cache is:

In his appearance Sunday, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the vice president argued that “we believe [Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” But Cheney contradicted that assertion moments later, saying it was “only a matter of time before he acquires nuclear weapons.”

So what we have here is, I believe, typical spoken language ellipsis -- what Cheney meant to say is that Iraq has reconsituted a nuclear weapons program or industrial capacity -- otherwise the second part of the quote makes no sense. The claim that Iraq is preserving a nuclear weapons program industrial base is still very debatable, but it doesn't strike me as crazy.

So I don't think Cheney is making the literal claim attributed to him here. Obviously the White House has an obligation to point this out and if they haven't doen so they are at fault.

Posted by: stefan on May 21, 2003 12:11 PM

"The claim that Iraq is preserving a nuclear weapons program industrial base is still very debatable, but it doesn't strike me as crazy."

Huh? Where, do tell? North Korea, yes. Iran, yes. Where was the Iraqi nuclear program? Hussein was a murderous thug, but where was the nuclear weapons program after the inspectors made sure the base had been destroyed?

Posted by: arthur on May 21, 2003 12:26 PM

Arthur:

I should have written 'doesn't strike me as crazy in the same way the claim "Iraq has nuclear weapons" would be crazy, for a claim made on March 18'. Comes down in part to what you define 'nuclear weapons program' to mean.

Posted by: stefan on May 21, 2003 12:38 PM

And if Cheney wasn't talking about existing Iraqi nuclear weapons he's not contradicting Rumsfeld, tag line for this post.

Posted by: stefan on May 21, 2003 12:40 PM

Stefan

Thanks. While I am thrilled that the barbarous Iraqi government has been destroyed, I can find no justification for the war from a self-defense stance and that was the Administration thrust. I wonder if we will manage peace in Iraq if there is not more honesty about our policies.

Posted by: arthur on May 21, 2003 01:14 PM

What's the big deal? Rumsfeld probably knew about Cheney's statement, and yet he went ahead and contradicted it anyway, in all likelihood because he knew no one in the press conference would have the balls to directly refute his statement. Again, the responsibility falls on the press to keep the people in charge accountable for what they say and do. Good luck.

Posted by: andres on May 21, 2003 01:41 PM

"I don't [emphasis]believe[/emphasis]"
"ever said that Iraq [emphasis]had[/emphasis] nuclear weapons."
"We [emphasis]believe[/emphasis] he has"

I am not big on Cheney or Rumsfeld, but come on. Rumsfeld is an old hat and leaves himself an out. Saying "I don't believe" is just a little bit different than saying "No one".

The same thing goes for Cheney's statement. Saying "We believe he has" is different than saying "He has".

Now if Cheney had said,"He has" and if Rumsfeld had then said,"No one" then there would be a story and the press should have ripped Rumsfeld to pieces.

Posted by: stephen on May 22, 2003 09:53 AM

Rumsfeld: "I've never heard of that Iraq place."

Posted by: Chris K on May 22, 2003 02:29 PM

Stefan beats me to the punch. Looks like the competition for Ari's job as Chief Spinmeister will be tough.

Here is a link to the Meet The press transcript containg the fateful remark.

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/bush/cheneymeetthepress.htm

Tim Russert's non-pounce is revealing. And I can make a decent case for "misspoke". Here we go, excerpting madly:

"...And Saddam Hussein becomes a prime suspect in that regard because of his past track record and because we know he has, in fact, developed these kinds of capabilities, chemical and biological weapons. We know he’s used chemical weapons. We know he’s reconstituted these programs since the Gulf War. We know he’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization.

...MR. RUSSERT: And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program, we disagree?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree, yes. And you’ll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of our intelligence community disagree. Let’s talk about the nuclear proposition for a minute. We’ve got, again, a long record here. It’s not as though this is a fresh issue.

...We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei [head of the IAEA] frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq’s concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past.

...And over time, given Saddam’s posture there, given the fact that he has a significant flow of cash as a result of the oil production of Iraq, it’s only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons. And in light of that, we have to be prepared, I think, to take the action that is being contemplated.


SO, his first use of "reconstituted" referred to weapons PROGRAMS. Tim's question about the IAEA referred to PROGRAMS. Cheney's answer said the IAEA was wrong, and that Iraq had reconstituted "weapons". Oops. "Programs" would have been consistent with his earlier usage, repsonsive to the actual question, and consistent with his subsequent "matter of time" comment.

And, Tim let it pass. Maybe on the video, Cheney gives some subtle signal, like a swift blow to the forehead and a disgusted shake of the head. But I think he misspoke.

Next step - the search for a follow up from the White House, or its ever-attentive press corps. But hope at least flickers that neither Cheney nor Rumsfeld have lost their minds. On this point, at least.

Posted by: Tom Maguire on May 22, 2003 07:35 PM

ANSWER: ... because he knows what he says, sticks to the facts, and delivers the victories?

The REAL QUESTION is, what does obsessive hatred of Rumsfeld reveal?

Posted by: Kalle Barfot on May 24, 2003 05:45 AM
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