12/07/2006 03:20 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bush Missed the Memo About al Qaeda

Just 10 days ago, at a press conference in Estonia, President Bush was about the civil war in Iraq. Inexplicably, the president blamed al Qaeda. "There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by, by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal," Bush said.

Except it was the wrong answer. As Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, explained to Congress shortly before the president's remarks, "Attacks by terrorist groups like al Qaeda in Iraq account for only a fraction of the insurgent violence." Maples described al Qaeda in Iraq as "extremely disorganized" and added, "I would question at this point how effective they are at all at the state level." An NBC analysis showed that, in total, the terrorist group makes up only about 2 or 3 percent of the enemy forces in Iraq.

It became yet another point of embarrassment for the White House -- by blaming al Qaeda for Iraq's civil war, Bush once again appeared confused about the problems plaguing the country. It prompted Frank Rich to write, "It's not that he can't handle the truth about Iraq. He doesn't know what the truth is.... The bottom line: America has a commander in chief who can't even identify some 97 percent to 98 percent of the combatants in a war that has gone on longer than our involvement in World War II."

Given this very recent history, and the inability of the president's aides to explain the confusion, I assumed the Bush gang would have prepped the president so he'd better understand the conflict.

I assumed wrong. The president made the exact same mistake again today.

It brings us back to the question that's been asked repeatedly for years: does the president know he's wrong and not care, or is he simply unaware? And is either answer encouraging?