WHAT DID DICK CHENEY KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?….Last week, while Time and Newsweek were featuring Iraq and Uranium-Gate on their covers, U.S. News & World Report decided to go instead with the 100th anniversary of the airplane. This week, in an effort to make up for this appallingly poor news judgment, their cover features….a ranking of the best hospitals in the United States.

Sheesh. On the other hand, they do have an interesting tidbit in the current issue about the person who, despite almost certainly being right in the middle of the uranium controversy, has so far managed to keep his hands remarkably pristine ? Dick Cheney:

U.S. News has learned that a document prepared by Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, at almost exactly the same time as the State of the Union address omitted any reference to Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from Niger. The chronology of events is puzzling–even to insiders: On Saturday, January 25, just three days before the address, officials gathered in the White House Situation Room to vet intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs and its links to terrorism. Libby made the presentation. After several hours, Libby summarized the conclusions of the meeting and turned them into a written case for war against Saddam.

Libby’s document was sent to Secretary of State Colin Powell; it was intended as the “script” for his presentation to the United Nations on February 5. The puzzler: The charge that Iraq sought uranium from Niger was not in Libby’s paper. Why not? “The agency had so discredited it,” says one participant, “they didn’t want to bring it up.”

Puzzling indeed. If I were President Bush, I’d be pissed. Apparently Cheney and Libby figured that Powell was too smart to let the uranium claim sneak into any speech he was reading, but that Bush would happily recite whatever they put in front of him. That’s not a very pretty picture, is it?