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Sunday, August 21, 2005 

Trent Lott says Bush set his sights on Iraq soon after 9/11

I had Meet the Press on this morning, as I was waking up, and couldn't believe my ears. Did Trent Lott just admit, in a seemingly off the cuff remark, that President Bush had set his sight on Iraq "not too long after 9/11"? Did he really just say that? As you know, we here at DowningStreetMemo.com, and many others, have been saying that for quite some time. Now one of the President's closest friends and allies is saying the same thing? (Remember, Lott was not forced to resign from his leadership post until a year after 9/11, in late 2002.)

The full transcript is available already at MSNBC.com. You can also watch a Windows Media Player video of the exchange here (7.8 MB).

The Senator quickly tried to backpedal, but he clearly over did it. Right after saying "even in private discussions, it was clear to me that he thought Iraq was a destabilizing force, was a danger and a growing danger, and that we were going to have to deal with that problem" Lott turned around and claimed "How can I say what was in his mind?" NBC's David Gregory suggested the obvious answer for him, "Based on your conversations." You know, the conversations where you just said it became "clear to me that he thought Iraq was a destabilizing force, was a danger and a growing danger, and that we were going to have to deal with that problem"? If the President tells you what's on his mind, you don't need ESP to "say what was in his mind." He just told you himself what was in his mind! No telepathy required.

From the Meet the Press transcript:

MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to something that you wrote in your book about Iraq and put it on the screen: "In the summer of 2002...the president began lobbying for an open-ended resolution empowering him to wage war on Iraq.... Bush had made clear his intentions to wage war on Iraq in several of our private meetings."
What are you speaking about precisely, Senator?

SEN. LOTT: Well, beginning in August that year and into the fall--in fact, beginning not too long after 9/11--as we had leadership meetings at breakfast with the president, he would go around the world and talk about what was going on, where the threats were, where the dangers were, and even in private discussions, it was clear to me that he thought Iraq was a destabilizing force, was a danger and a growing danger, and that we were going to have to deal with that problem.

MR. GREGORY: He has described going to war in Iraq as the last resort that was a war of necessity. Are you suggesting here that, in fact, before much of the diplomacy had begun, that the president thought or believed in his mind that war was an inevitability?

SEN. LOTT: How can I say what was in his mind? But I..

MR. GREGORY: Based on your conversations.

SEN. LOTT: I think he was very much concerned about Saddam Hussein and the--what he was doing to his people and to his neighbors and the threat of, you know, weapons of mass destruction.


This isn't the first time Senator Lott has slipped up and revealed his private conversations with the administration. There was also this quote from Fox News Sunday in October 2001, which might be referring to one of those conversations he had with Bush about Iraq "not too long after 9/11." You decide. From the Daily Telegraph:

The Senate Minority Leader, Trent Lott, a Republican, said action against Iraq could follow the military operation against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

He said proposals to strike Iraq, made by senior Washington officials but played down in recent days, had not been entirely abandoned by the Bush administration.

"One adviser that we have met says to remember that revenge is better eaten cold," Mr Lott told Fox News Sunday before the strikes. "In other words, take your time, have a plan, go after your first target, second target.

"Somewhere down the line we're going to have to deal with Iraq. Clearly, they have their own form of terrorism, and they still have Saddam Hussein. So we're going to have to contend with that problem, but probably a little later down the line."

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