In today's New York Times, a senior Bush administration official "confirmed" that the president ordered the declassification of prewar intel "to rebut critics" but "left open several questions, including when Mr. Bush acted and whether he did so on the advice of Mr. Cheney. Still unclear is the nature of the communication between Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney."
Please. The "nature of the communication" may not be confirmed but is it really unclear?
In his filing last week, Patrick Fitzgerald stated: "The evidence will show that the July 6, 2003 Op-Ed by Mr. Wilson was viewed in the Office of the Vice President as a direct attack on the credibility of the vice president (and the president)..." Note who gets relegated to parentheses-land.
Given this, choose the more plausible scenario:
That Cheney goes to (the president) and says: "Look, we gotta kneecap Wilson before this manipulated intelligence crap gets out of hand. I wanna have Scooter meet with Miller and slip her some cherry-picked and puffed-up classified info from the NIE. I know I've got the constitutional chops to declassify the stuff myself but why don't you sign off too, just to be on the safe side."
Or that (the president), a man who wouldn't testify in front of the 9/11 Commission without Cheney by his side, suddenly woke up one morning and thought to himself: "I can't allow these irresponsible, unfounded, wild, and flat-out false accusations to go unanswered. I need to selectively declassify the paragraphs at the bottom of page 24 of the 2002 NIE so we can perpetuate the myth that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium from Africa. Then I'll tell Cheney to tell Libby to tell Judy that this was a 'key judgment' of the assessment, even though the 'key judgments' actually don't mention uranium at all. Later, I'll launch an all-out attack on leaks and leaking -- just to throw them off the scent. And, if years later this mess ever comes out, I can always have my press secretary say -- 10 times -- that my decision was 'in the public interest.' Let me get Cheney on the phone and give him his marching orders."
Picture an updated version of that classic SNL sketch where Phil Hartman portrayed Ronald Reagan as a doddering doofus in public who, behind the scenes, turns into a take-charge, on-top-of-every-detail Commander-in-Chief.
Here it's Bush as uber-president -- his hand firmly on the wheel.
As implausible as that scenario sounds, the thought of Bush as our decisive Leaker-in-Chief makes me feel a whole lot better than the reality of Cheney once again calling the shots.