To the surprise of nobody, the New York Times this morning reported that, as it turns out, four White House officials - Harriet Miers, John Bellinger, Alberto Gonzales and David Addington - "took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda." The official White House line on the matter has been that President Bush - the least well informed man in the history of time - "has no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction before" December 6. So that presented a bit of a problem for White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, and it was compounded by the fact that there was no way to attack the Times' article on the merits. So, she attacked it on the semantics, taking issue with the article's subhead, which read, "White House Role Was Wider Than It Said." And so this nonsensical session of jujitsu began.
In a statement this morning, Perino mounted her "it depends on what the definition of 'it' is" defense, writing:
The sub-headline of the story inaccurately says that the "White House Role Was Wider Than It Said", and the story states that "...the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes...was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged."
Under direction from the White House General Counsel while the Department of Justice and the CIA Inspector General conduct a preliminary inquiry, we have not publicly commented on facts relating to this issue, except to note President Bush's immediate reaction upon being briefed on the matter. Furthermore, we have not described - neither to highlight, nor to minimize -- the role or deliberations of White House officials in this matter.
See? She's given us nothing, so you can go right ahead and stack all the something you want next to it, New York Times! Because something multiplied by nothing is still nothing! Multiplication! Yahtzee! And, then, as if she needed to underscore the point, Perino went out in front of the press corps and attempted to set the land speed record for not commenting.
Of course, the involvement of White House officials in labelling the New York Times' story "pernicious and troubling" is more hypocritical than Dana Perino is acknowledging. After making her pointy little point on the matter of a single verb and pronoun, she climbs up on her high horse:
It will not be surprising that this matter will be reported with a reliance on un-named sources and individuals lacking a full availability of the facts -- and, as the New York Times story itself acknowledges, some of these sources will have wildly conflicting accounts of the facts.
She's one to talk about "un-named sources" giving "wildly conflicting accounts of the facts!" The White House, after all, makes a sturdy use of such sources and such divergent accounts, and, if my memory serves me correctly, the New York Times has been only too happy to play ball.
From the November 29, 2006 New York Times, "Bush Aide's Memo Doubts Iraqi Leader":
"The president has confidence in Prime Minister Maliki," the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, told reporters. He added that the Bush administration "is working with the prime minister to improve his capabilities in terms of dealing with the fundamental challenges in Iraq."
Two senior administration officials, who insisted on anonymity in exchange for talking about a classified memo, said it was unclear whether Mr. Maliki had seen the memo this morning, but suggested its contents would be no surprise to the Iraqi prime minister, who has been in regular consultation with Mr. Bush.
One official said a "key aspect" of the meeting in Jordan would be for the two leaders to determine "where we can accelerate and expand Prime Minister Maliki's capacity" to deal with the issues outlined in the memo. "That will be a dominant subject," the official said.
Even so, the memo will undoubtedly color the meeting between the two leaders on Thursday morning. Despite the memo's suggestion that the prime minister may be ignorant of what is going on, or misrepresenting his intentions, the officials insisted the president has concluded Mr. Maliki's intentions are good. "The judgment is that it's a capability issue," one official said.
And just who were these unnamed sources offering wildly conflicting accounts from Tony Snow? Uhm...duh! Tony Snow and Dan Bartlett!