Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Who told Woodward the "Slam Dunk" bit?

(Correction: At the time of writing this...I wasn't aware that Tenet ever personally admitted using the "slam dunk" line but somehow - like a klutz - I missed this link: "Those were the two dumbest words I ever said," Tenet said in a speech at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.)

It happens to the best of us (and I do mean the best):

Even Michael Jordan missed a slam dunk or two.

Not enough air can do it even if you're said to walk on air and are so damn hot that you hold the record for most points in a play-off game (63 in 1986 against Boston in a double overtime loss...go figure).

Speaking of air and hot, Bob Woodward paid a visit to Larry King's CNN show the other night (transcript) and as other bloggers point out Mr. "I was scared of being indicted" is now claiming that he didn't tell his editor about being tipped about Plame early on in the game because he was "focused" on getting his book done.

From the Larry King interview last night:

"The evidence I had first-hand, a small piece of the puzzle acknowledge, is that that was not the case. So I'm trying to find out and focus on immense questions about, are we going to go to war in Iraq? How are we going to do it? What is the nature of Powell's position? What did Cheney do? What was the CIA's role? How good was the intelligence on all of this?"


The interview in question with the "casual and off-hand" comment about Valerie Plame being a CIA analyst, supposedly took place in mid-June of 2003 after we already went to war in Iraq.

Bob Woodward can't keep his "facts" straight.

More Woody on CNN:

"I think, at this point, I was learning things like, that the CIA director, George Tenet, went in and told the president the intelligence on WMD in Iraq was a slam dunk. That was new. That was the basis of this incredibly critical decision the president and his war cabinet were making on, do we invade Iraq?"

How many people in the studio audience still think it's a slam dunk that George Tenet actually said "slam dunk" - much less said it twice and threw his hands in the air?

This blogger has his doubts and, frankly, so do I.

Did Woodward ever get a confirmation from George Tenet that that really happened like that?

According to Woodward, Tenet "later told associates he should have said the evidence on weapons was not ironclad."

On April 20th, Woodward was asked in an online forum at The Washington Post about Tenet's reaction to the "slam dunk" bit:

"Has Director Tenet made any response to the book's passage in which a seemingly skeptical President Bush questions him on the CIA's WMD presentation and the Director twice states, "It's a slam dunk?""

Woodward replied, "I'm not aware of anything Tenet has said in response to the book."

But what about a response to the attribution of the quote? Shouldn't it have been somebody's job to make sure the quote was accurate? With that "unaware" answer Bob makes it seem like Tenet was never asked whether he said that money quote. And even though it was written for Woodward's "Plan of Attack" book, The Washington Post published excerpts from it so WaPo and Downie would be at fault, too, if it's fake.

I don't think Woodward made up the quote. In fact, he's probably telling the truth about when he was "learning" it. Maybe Libby told him. June of 2003 was when the full-front assault against the CIA began in earnest and that's what the "slam dunk" bit was all about: placing the blame for bad intelligence that fueled the war on George Tenet and the CIA.

Woodward blames the CIA, too.

This is what Bob Woodward told Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes in April of 2004:

What did Woodward think of Tenet’s statement? “It’s a mistake,” he says. “Now the significance of that mistake - that was the key rationale for war.”

So poor George Tenet just didn't have the legs to finish off his slam dunk attempt. The ball bounced off the rim - if it ever even made it that far - and Tenet was told to take one for the team and announce his early retirement.

Since even Bob Woodward - himself - believes that the "slam dunk" comment had a lot to do to push an (don't laugh, fellow libs who have read the Downing Street Memo and memos) uncommitted Bush to make the decision to go to war against Iraq isn't it about time someone called him on it?

The unidentified White House official who told Bob Woodward about the "slam dunk" bit should be given the same amount of attention as who told Bob about Joe Wilson's wife in mid-June.

Do you think Downie knows who told Bobby that?

I sure don't.

(Speaking of Washington Post online chats, the one-and-only Jay Rosen from Press Think will be doing a session later this morning at 11 AM eastern so pay the professor a visit and bring your sharpest questions)


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