Normally, I refrain from publicly disagreeing with Kevin and Paul, as it really is rather gauche behavior. But Paul's piece last night about the Downing Street memo has prompted me to put out my own take on the matter.
First of all, I don't disagree a whit with what Paul pointed out last night -- the memos being cited are now of completely inadmissible status in any court. By the journalists' own admissions, they are third-generation (at best) reproductions (not even copies) of the originals. Their legal value is zero.
That being said, I have to agree with the guys over at Powerline. I believe that the memos released are, for the most part, accurate representations of actual official documents. But the significance of those memos have been vastly overstated. They are the OPINIONS of one person on what other people THOUGHT other people were THINKING. It's speculation piled upon presumption.
Further, the wording itself is open for interpretation -- the key word the left focuses on, "fixed," has several meanings. The definitions of "repair" and "get revenge" doesn't seem to apply here, so that leaves "attached or based on a single point" and "arrange for a predetermined outcome." And with the phrasing of "fixed around," that pretty much leaves out the latter meaning. Besides, that definition is far more of an Americanism than a Britishism.
But to that I say, "so what?" Removing Saddam from power had been the clearly-stated goal of the United States for years at that point, endorsed by two Presidents, the Congress, and numerous government officials of both parties. And if the cause of WMDs was being faked, why did the memo express such concern about dealing with their potential use?
The questions Paul and others raise about the memos are good questions, but ultimately only relevant if there is a trial where they would become evidence -- such as an impeachment hearing. At that point, the prosecutors would have to try to obtain the originals from the British government, because the versions seen so far are worthless. And I wouldn't bet a plugged Euro on the likelihood of the British government agreeing to release highly secret government documents to be entered into public record.
And if they did, again, so what? They prove absolutely nothing that even comes close to impeachable. Certainly they show that Bush was convinced that it would take military force to remove Saddam from power, and was preparing to do so, but that's abundantly clear from a variety of other sources. It's the sort of thing that you argue over, that you wage fierce political battles over, but nowhere near the kind of thing you impeach a president over (unless that president is Andrew Johnson).
The left wants the Downing Street Memos to be the "smoking gun", much like the Watergate tapes where Nixon agreed to cover up the ties between the burglars and his administration. As one of their recent presidents might say, "that dog don't hunt."
In a nutshell, both Paul and I think that the Downing Street Memos are, politically, crap. He thinks they're bull crap, while I think they're chicken crap. In either case, they're hardly the sort of things you'd want to lay before a judge.