UPDATE: McClellan also said Bush did coke. Did Politico not READ that part? Whatev. Some new excerpts of the Scott McClellan Bush propaganda ministry tell-all have hit the internet — I put my fave after the jump — that sort of underscore the thing that is so compelling about this guy. I mean, McClellan always seemed like a naive idiot. His observations in no way conflict with that. In fact, they're probably much better for it, since McClellan seems like the sort of guy in whose presence more corrupt men would feel comfortable committing serious felonies, because he's either totally stupid or a complete pussy, maybe both…And at the same time, other stupid people felt comfortable saying things dramatically revelatory of their own stupidity to him. I'm talking about Bush… [WSJ]

Bush clung to the same belief during an interview with Tim Russert of NBC News in early February 2004. The Meet the Press host asked, "In light of not finding the weapons of mass destruction, do you believe the war in Iraq is a war of choice or a war of necessity? "

The president said, "That's an interesting question. Please elaborate on that a bit. A war of choice or a war of necessity? It's a war of necessity. In my judgment, we had no choice, when we look at the intelligence I looked at, that says the man was a threat."

I remember talking to the president about this question following the interview. He seemed puzzled and asked me what Russert was getting at with the question.

This, in turn, puzzled me. Surely this distinction between a necessary, unavoidable war and a war that the United States could have avoided but chose to wage was an obvious one that Bush must have thought about in the months before the invasion. Evidently it wasn't obvious to the president, nor did his national security team make sure it was. He set the policy early on and then his team focused his attention on how to sell it. It strikes me today as an indication of his lack of inquisitiveness and his detrimental resistance to reflection, something his advisers needed to compensate for better than they did.

Most objective observers today would say that in 2003 there was no urgent need to address the threat posed by Saddam with a large-scale invasion, and therefore the war was not necessary. But this is a question President Bush seems not to want to grapple with.