WASHINGTON – The source of the mysterious amnesia that struck so many Clinton officials when scandals broke last decade may finally be known. It’s apparently something in the White House water, for convenient bouts of forgetfulness have now spread to Bush officials.

It seems everyone’s drawing a blank in the State of the Uranium scandal.

We now know from an old memo surfaced by the CIA that National Security Adviser Condi Rice was explicitly warned to drop from any presidential speeches the dubious charge that Iraq was shopping for uranium in Africa.

Rice’s deputy, Steve Hadley, and Bush’s chief speech-writer, Mike Gerson, got the same Oct. 6 memo from Langley.

The day before, Hadley got another CIA memo advising the White House against taking stock in the British version of the uranium tale, because it, too, was unfounded.

Yet three months later, President Bush spread the canard in his nationally televised State of the Union speech.

Hadley, who was supposed to vet the key speech for bad intelligence, claims he just plum forgot the CIA’s earlier written warnings, which were followed up by several calls from the CIA director. It was a highly unusual move for the head of the nation’s spy agency, but apparently not the least bit memorable for the heretofore no-name aide on the other end of the phone.

“I should have recalled at the time of the State of the Union speech that there was controversy associated with the uranium issue,” Hadley only now confesses, after the memos surfaced and long after the nation was fooled into believing Iraq posed an exigent threat to America.

Well, what about his boss Rice? She got at least one of the memos he did. Why didn’t she recall the warnings? Surely they discussed the CIA’s concerns.

“Not that I can recall,” said Hadley, taking another big gulp from Lethe.

OK, then how about the president? He edited drafts of the speech, and ultimately broadcast the discredited uranium reference to the world. Surely he knew there were reservations.

“He has no memory of that,” his spokesman Dan Bartlett claimed, adding that he didn’t even remember that the same line was deleted from the final draft of his Cincinnati speech on Iraq.

Just before the State of the Union, Rice aide Bob Joseph, a neocon nuke expert keen on keeping the uranium charge in the speech, got an earful of objections from top CIA analyst Alan Foley. Surely he remembers concerns were raised.

“He has no memory of it,” Bartlett said.

Yoinks! That just leaves speech-writer Gerson, the guy who actually penned the radioactive line in the speech. He looks like a walking encyclopedia.

But the nerd doesn’t remember a damn thing.

“He had no recollection of the memo,” Bartlett maintained. “He did not recall the memo during the State of the Union process.”

Can’t recall? No recollection? That brings back memories, doesn’t it? How many times did we hear Clinton officials feign amnesia during scandals?

Congress needs to hold televised hearings to jog these Bush officials’ rusty memories. Let’s see if Hadley, Rice, Gerson, Joseph and others stick to their story of communicable amnesia under oath and under the glare of the klieg lights.

And while they’re at it, lawmakers should subpoena the CIA for the memos (the White House would merely claim executive privilege). They are several pages long, and no doubt reveal a lot more than the White House is telling.

Or perhaps Congress wants to roll over for this White House again, like it did before the war when it granted an over-reaching commander in chief blank-check authority to drag the nation into a bloody foreign quagmire under false pretenses – heaping more shame on the Constitution’s framers. Is it also now willing to abdicate its oversight role over that same rogue branch of government?

The ball is in the Republican leadership’s court. It controls the game on the Hill. Will it continue to punt away the truth?

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Previous columns:

Chronology of a cover-up

The Brits busted Bush

Anatomy of a lie

Believing Boy Scout Bush

A very curious war indeed

While Nero fiddled in Baghdad …

Yellow is for politics

The royal families

The folly of ‘liberating’ Muslims

The Iraq echo chamber

Saddam bin Laden

My Picnic with Bill

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