As they have faced questions about those absent weapons of mass destruction, Bush and his aides have repeatedly described Hussein as a “gathering threat.” In press briefings, McClellan has clung to these words the way a drowning man holds on to a life preserver. “In my language,” Bush told Russert, “I call it a grave and gathering threat.” But according to Kay, nothing was being amassed. No WMD master plan was about to come together. Kay even testified that the U.N. inspections process scorned by the Bush White House had kept Hussein’s WMD programs from breaking out. What was so “gathering” about it?
Bush realizes he can no longer get away with saying the war was fought to rid the world of Iraq’s WMDs. But he has not fully come to terms with Kay’s conclusions. Kay has said he believes that Hussein was dangerous and the war was the right move. But his disclosures undermine Bush’s gathering-threat defense. They also have put pressure on Bush to explain why he made melodramatic prewar assertions about Iraq’s WMDs that were not supported by the available evidence. Kay has even suggested that Bush’s new commission examine whether there had been “an abuse” of the intelligence by Bush and company.
By appointing his unimpressive commission, Bush has recognized something went amiss. But he is refusing to take responsibility for errors or misjudgments committed by his White House or the intelligence community he oversees. And he has been trying to muddy up the picture by misrepresenting Kay’s findings and by deploying rhetoric untethered to reality. He knows the blue dress is there. He’s just hoping it will get lost at the cleaners.