Bush: I'm Not Corrupt, Just Dangerously Incompetent
Democrats incredulous over Bush's account of Iran report
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden on Tuesday said he can't believe President Bush hasn't known for months about a recent intelligence estimate that downplays the nuclear threat from Iran.
Joe Biden says "he refuses to believe" that Bush didn't know about a new assessment of Iran's nuclear program.
Other Democratic candidates also slammed Bush for continuing to ratchet up the rhetoric against Tehran.
On Tuesday the president acknowledged he had given a speech warning that Iran's nuclear development risked "World War III" about two months after his intelligence chief told him a reassessment of Tehran's nuclear ambitions was under way.
Bush told reporters during a White House news conference that he was not told the details of the new assessment until last week and he said the new report, which found that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons work in 2003, will not change U.S. policy toward Iran.
"Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," Bush said, pointing out that Tehran continues to try to enrich uranium for civilian purposes and therefore develop technology that could be used for a weapon.
"They had the program. They halted the program. It's a warning signal because they could restart it," he said. Video Watch President Bush call Iran 'dangerous' »
Bush told reporters that he was told of "new information" about Iran in August during a briefing by Adm. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence.
"He didn't tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze," the president said. He said he wasn't briefed about the new information until the new intelligence report was prepared last week.
The Democratic presidential candidates were incredulous that Bush did not know about the assessment's new finding.
Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called that explanation "unbelievable."
"Are you telling me a president that's briefed every single morning, who's fixated on Iran, is not told back in August that the tentative conclusion of 16 intelligence agencies in the U.S. government said they had abandoned their effort for a nuclear weapon in '03?" Biden asked in a conference call with reporters.
"I refuse to believe that," he added. "If that's true, he has the most incompetent staff in modern American history, and he's one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history."
Time and time again the defense that the Bush administration offers against charges of corruption are no better than the charges that they're defending themselves against. We are to either believe that the Bush administration knew that Iran did not have an active nuclear weapons program but continued to promote war is the only available option for the US to this nonexistent threat.
Or that the President of the United States, the Commander in Chief, the Decider, wasn't in the loop on the most up-to-date intelligence in a matter of vital national security that directly related to the possibility of going to war with another nation that would endanger the lives of Americans, Iranians and many thousands of others throughout the Middle East. And that, while he was enthusiastically speaking of the Iranian nuclear weapons program threat nobody in his administration who knew better came forward to counsel him otherwise. And that he didn't already have in place systems for gathering, assimilating them being briefed on the most critical, up-to-date and relevant intelligence pertaining to one the largest decisions than any president can ever undertake - the decision to go to war. And that he didn't accept personal responsibility for asking for - no, demanding - the best available information.
He either knew and lied. Or he didn't care to know. I'm honestly not sure which is worse.