Readers may recall that a while back the Bush administration found itself in possession of some documents (apparently procured via a possibly rogue official in Italian Military Intelligence) purporting to show that Iraq was buying uranium in Niger and that Iraq, Iran, and a host of other countries were collaborating to launch terrorist attacks on the United States. The CIA regarded these as obvious forgeries, but they were in line with the ideological preconceptions of various civilians in the Defense Department and the vice president's office and so information based on these forgeries found its way into Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. After this came to light, cooler heads at the NSC and the CIA began to prevail and admitted that mistakes were made (though not before an earlier attempt to stand by the authenticity of the forgeries led someone in the administration to burn a covert CIA WMD specialist). The result, rightly, was some bad press for the Bush administration.
The White House, then, learned the lesson not that they should start vetting speeches more carefully or fire some of the folks responsible, but rather that they should never admit to having ever done anything wrong lest it bring them bad press. Since then, they've been "digging in," arguing -- spuriously -- that the claim wasn't based on the forgeries after all, but rather on intelligence obtained from foreign governments. Those foreign sources, however, turn out to have also been based on the same forged documents. It's certainly not a more defensible pattern of behavior, and the stakes were much higher.
Jonah Goldberg responds
...Yglesias is making what some call a category error. The President of the United States isn't a newsman -- let alone the iconic personification of the establishment media righteousness. If Yglesias thinks Presidents should be judged by such standards, than I assume he thinks Bill Clinton should have been an intern at Weekly World News.
Friends, this is the ne plus ultra of political water-carrying (with a little dig at Clinton thrown in for good measure. Obsess much, Jonah?). Goldberg is so far in the bag for Bush that he is actually suggesting that the President of the United States should be held to a lower standard of evidence for information which is used to convince Americans to send their sons and daughters to war than should a newsman for information which damages the reputation of a politician. Amazing.