The truth really is inconvenient

Tony Snow tries to spin away Cheney's role -- and Gore's charge -- on Iraq.

Published May 22, 2007 8:02PM (EDT)

In his new book, Al Gore accuses the Bush administration of making "bold and confident assertions" that left a majority of Americans thinking that Saddam Hussein was linked to al-Qaida and had a hand in the attacks of 9/11.

Asked about the charge at the White House today, press secretary Tony Snow said that Gore must be "listening to people who have deliberately misled him" because the president never suggested any such thing.

OK, then, a reporter asked, what about the vice president? Didn't Dick Cheney maintain that there was an operational link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein? Didn't he raise the specter of a pre-9/11 meeting between Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence official?

"Right," Snow said, "but that's an entirely separate issue" from the charge that Gore is making.

Really? When Tim Russert asked Cheney in September 2003 about a poll showing that 69 percent of the American public thought Saddam was involved in 9/11, Cheney said he wasn't surprised that so many people had reached that conclusion. Among his reasons: "With respect to 9/11, of course, we've had the story that's been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we've never been able to develop any more of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don't know."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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