Joe Conason's Journal

Bush's sorry state: He's still spinning those "aluminum tubes," and shamelessly steals a page straight from Al Gore.


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Salon Staff
January 29, 2003 10:03PM (UTC)

Down the tubes again
Doesn't anybody compile a news digest in the White House these days? Does the president get a copy? It's good use of the taxpayer's dollar because it prevents credibility-busting gaffes like last night's reference to "high-strength aluminum tubes" in the State of the Union Address.

"Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production," Bush said again, repeating the charge that he first made at the U.N. last September.

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As everyone knows who listened to (or read) Mohammed ElBaradei's report to the U.N. Security Council on nuclear research and development in Iraq, he found that the emphasis on those tubes by Bush and Condoleezza Rice was misplaced if not misleading. Today's Washington Post carries yet another story -- buried for some inexplicable reason on page A13 -- that sums up the International Atomic Energy Agency findings in Iraq so far. According to ElBaradei, who heads the IAEA, the tubes "can not be used" for the purpose of enriching uranium. He also inspected the eight buildings formerly used in Saddam's nuclear program, which U.S. intelligence -- and Bush -- have suggested were being refurbished for the same purposes. There was "no evidence" to support the president's allegations, he said.

The agency headed by ElBaradei happens to be one of the very few multilateral organizations endorsed by this administration. In his remarks to Congress last night, the president went out of his way to emphasize his support for the IAEA "in its mission to track and control nuclear materials around the world." And he quoted the agency's earlier findings concerning Saddam Hussein's earlier efforts to build nuclear weapons.

So if the president entrusts the IAEA with the critical task of controlling nuclear materials, and he believes what the IAEA reported about Iraq's nuclear program during the '90s, why doesn't he accept ElBaradei's findings now? And why won't the United States permit ElBaradei to complete his inspections before the bombing begins?

Fuel of it
Bush's sudden enthusiasm for hydrogen fuel-cell technology is laudable, of course. His proposal of $1.2 billion for additional research is also very nice. (Evidently the "free market" alone doesn't invariably produce what society needs.) He even offered a vision of a better future: "With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom, so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free."

So someone should ask Bush if he remembers who wrote this:

"We have a partnership with the American auto industry ... to develop cars that achieve three times today's mileage with the same pricing, comfort and safety; the companies and research scientists are making remarkable progress toward revolutionary change in the design and development of fuel cell vehicles.

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"I was criticized for suggesting ... that we should move away from the internal combustion engine over the next quarter-century. The attack was never more than smoke-and-fumes; I was calling not for an end to the car industry but for new types of cars."

That's Al "Ozone Man" Gore, in the revised foreword to the 2000 reissue of his 1992 book, "Earth in the Balance." Back then the Republican Party apparatchiks and all the conservative pundits ridiculed Gore's kooky ideas about replacing the internal combustion engine. (See the Daily Howler for copious details.) The moronic Jim Nicholson, then chairman of the Republican National Committee, used to stand at the fax machine all day, sending out messages that attacked Gore for wanting to do away with the internal "combustible" engine, which were duly repeated by all the right-wing hacks. They used Gore's farsighted ideas against him in places like Michigan and Tennessee, where lots of cars are built.

Now they will all tell you that Bush is simply brilliant for supporting this visionary technology. Do the math, as my friend Jack Gillis did, and it turns out that Gore's notion of replacing the internal combustion within 25 years, as he suggested in 1992, is within a year of the date now proposed by Bush for the same goal.

If Bush has any "integrity and honor," he will invite Gore to the White House to sign the legislation that funds fuel-cell research. That is, if this promise ever comes to pass.

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[9:02 a.m. PST, Jan. 29, 2003]

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