Strange language from Ari Fleischer:
Earlier in the spring, he had insisted that President Bush stood behind 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union address about Iraq's efforts to buy uranium in Niger.In Aussie slang, "punting" means gambling. But I assume Fleischer could be using the US gridiron slang of kicking the ball upfield? Either way, it doesn't sound very professional, does it? And how's this for histrionics?
But higher level officials he didn't name began suggesting it might be a problem to defend that statement.
"I had been told to be careful not to stand by the 16 words, that the ground might be shifting on that," Fleischer said. "You can't say yes. You can't say no. At that briefing, I basically punted. I said yes and no."
He testified that neither Libby nor Bartlett gave him any reason to believe that Plame's employment was classified.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought this information would be classified," he said.
Fleischer, who left the White House in mid-July 2003, said that in September, about 2 1/2 months after his conversation with the reporters, he saw a news account that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate a possibly illegal leak of a covert CIA officer's identity.
"I was absolutely horrified to know I had played a role," Fleischer said. "I thought, 'Oh my God. Did I play a role in somehow outing a CIA officer. . . . Did I just do something that I could be in big trouble for.' "