Based on a strange sequence of events in July 2003 and a mysterious missing press gaggle transcript, it seems likely that former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is the another "leaker" in the current White House scandal. On July 6, 2003,...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 07/18/2005

Based on a strange sequence of events in July 2003 and a mysterious missing press gaggle transcript, it seems likely that former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is the another "leaker" in the current White House scandal. 

On July 6, 2003, Joe Wilson published his now famous Op-Ed piece in the New York Times in which he discredited claims made by the President about Iraq's nuclear weapons program.  The end result of the Wilson piece was that it convinced much of the country that President Bush had lied to build a case for invading Iraq.

Looking at the White House website press briefings in the weeks following Wilson's essay, we see a strange sequence of events.

At the July 7, 2003 press gaggle, the frame articulated by Fleischer was that the President had made a "broad statement."  This was an attempt by the White House to head off Wilson's claims that there was no Iraq yellow cake deal in Niger by simply saying the President had never specified Niger.

The next day, President Bush took his much publicized trip to Africa at which time we now know that Secretary of State Collin Powell carried with him a memo that detailed the information that would later appear in Bob Novak's July 14, 2003 piece "Mission to Niger."

Four days goes by before the White House has another full-fledged press conference and this time it's in the back of Air Force One. 

But the July 11, 2003 press gaggle is different this time because the President's Foreign Policy adviser, Condoleeza Rice is there.   She takes over the press conference, hardly letting Ari Fleischer talk at all.  It is in this press conference that Condoleeza Rice builds the case that the White House relied on the CIA to vet the President's speeches.  In other words, they accepted blame for the inaccuracy in the President's State of the Union speech, but pinned it on the CIA.

The next day, on July 12, 2003, Ari Fleischer holds a press gaggle in the National Hospital in Abuja, Nigeria.  Fleischer is clearly agitated in this session.  His argument that there is a "bigger picture" about Iraq wanting to get nuclear weapons is not working.  Fleischer uses the word "flap" multiple times to describe the scandal over the yellow cake, arguing that the "flap" is obscuring the bigger picture.

The next day, on July 13, 2003, Ari Fleischer holds a press conference in which he says that the Wilson "flap" is a "bunch of bull."  This transcript is mysteriously absent from the White House website.

On July 14, 2003, Ari Fleischer gives a long press conference and then announces his retirement.  He leaves the White House at the end of the press gaggle.  Fleischer's retirement had been previously announced on May 17, 2003.

That same day, Bob Novak publishes his essay "Mission to Niger" which contains information about Wilson's wife Valery Plame.   This is one of the key essays that publishes the "leak" of a CIA agents name.

July 22, 2003, new Press Secretary, Scott McLellan, answers question about Novak in which he says that "this White House" would never leak information that way.

From that point forward, the scandal about the leak begins to distract attention away from the original scandal over President Bush's remarks about Iraq's nuclear weapons program.

Was Ari Fleischer the other leaker?

Well, it's hard to say for sure.  It seems very likely that the White House damage control team could have seen his departure as an opportunity to carry some dirty laundry out the back door.

If Fleischer was the second leak, it seems likely that he was involved in an effort to distract the country away from the President's State of the Union address by leading them down the path to a White House leak.  Short sighted, perhaps.  But up until this week, very few people have been talking about the President having misled the country to war on false fears of a nuclear attack.  Instead, the country has been obsessing over who leaked what to whom and when. 

But "President lies to sell country on war" was the big story before Ari Fleischer resigned--or took the fall--for the President.

© 2005 Jeffrey Feldman

© Jeffrey Feldman 2005, Frameshop

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