President Bush said Monday that if anyone on his staff committed a crime in the CIA-leak case, that person will "no longer work in my administration." His statement represented a shift from a previous comment, when he said that he would fire anyone shown to have leaked information that exposed the identify of a CIA officer.
At the same time, Bush yet again sidestepped a question on the role of his top political adviser, Karl Rove, in the matter.
"We have a serious ongoing investigation here and it's being played out in the press," Bush said at an East Room news conference.
Bush, appearing with visiting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, spoke a day after Time magazine's Matthew Cooper said that a 2003 phone call with Rove was the first he heard about the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson apparently working for the CIA.
Bush said in June 2004 that he would fire anyone in his administration shown to have leaked information that exposed the identity of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame. On Monday, however, he added the qualifier that it would have be shown that a crime was committed.
Asked at a June 10, 2004 news conference if he stood by his pledge to fire anyone found to have leaked Plame's name, Bush answered, "Yes. And that's up to the U.S. attorney to find the facts."
This is a perfect example of using only the information that suits your biases. However, there is a much longer, more clearly worded statement from the President on September 30, 2003 that the AP sees fit to completely ignore:
In the longer statement, Bush clearly refers to classified information, and breaking the law, not just leaking (if Presidents fired everyone who leaked, they'd have no employees). Now, if one wants to say the President has given conflicting statements, that's one thing, but to completely ignore the much longer, far more detailed statement by the President - a statement that is widely known and has been reported at considerable length (see this post, among many I could have referenced, by Tom Maguire), is not a case of sloppy reporting. It is intentionally putting the worst possible spin on a story, and a clear indication of bias, as the statement doesn't appear in an 'opinion' piece, but instead in a straight news story.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of.
I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true and get on about the business.
...Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing.
And again I repeat, you know, Washington is a town where there's all kinds of allegations. You've heard much of the allegations. And if people have got solid information, please come forward with it. And that would be people inside the information who are the so-called anonymous sources, or people outside the information -- outside the administration. And we can clarify this thing very quickly if people who have got solid evidence would come forward and speak out. And I would hope they would.
And then we'll get to the bottom of this and move on. But I want to tell you something -- leaks of classified information are a bad thing. And we've had them -- there's too much leaking in Washington. That's just the way it is. And we've had leaks out of the administrative branch, had leaks out of the legislative branch, and out of the executive branch and the legislative branch, and I've spoken out consistently against them and I want to know who the leakers are.
And people wonder why conservatives think the media is biased...
And while we're on the subject of the Plame investigation, AJ Strata has the scoop on a most interesting link between Matt Cooper and - wait for it - Hillary!...
UPDATE 1:17 p.m. central: The New York Times repeats the lie that this is a shift in policy; if anything, it's a clarification...as Tom Maguire often says, let's not play 'gotcha' with the President of the United States...
UPDATE 4:36 p.m. central: As anticipated, Tom Maguire reminds us of the real story; also as anticipated, he's much clearer on the point than I...
UPDATE 6:50 p.m. central: Timothy Noah of Slate gets it right, and so does the NY Times...belatedly. Their latest article has been quietly edited to add this paragraph:
The president's comment today, however, was similar to one he made in 2003, when he said that anyone in his administration who had "violated law" would be dismissed.