President Obama said as late as October 2013 that Iran was a year or more away from “breaking out” to a nuclear weapon, an assertion that contrasted with actual administration assessments that Iran was in fact just two to three months away from the bomb, according to Bloomberg.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Tuesday declined to offer a definitive response to the story, saying he hadn’t read it – even though it had been published nearly seven hours before the start of the briefing. Not reading the story would give Earnest the excuse, which he used during the briefing, that he needed to take a look at the piece before giving a detailed answer.
Obama is traveling Wednesday and so Earnest can avoid answering questions about the story on camera at the White House, since there is no briefing when Obama travels.
Earnest, while dodging most of the questions, did say that Obama’s statements are based on the information he has. He of course didn’t admit Obama had deceived anyone.
In the Bloomberg piece, author Eli Lake posits a reason for the changing estimate. When Obama said in 2013 that the breakout time was more than a year, he was trying to get skeptics, including the Israelis, to give him more time to reach a deal with Iran. But now the “two or three months” timeframe is being used to create a sense urgency around approving a nuclear deal with Iran that is almost complete.
Unless “two or three months” is itself misleading or no longer operative, of course.