Dianne Feinstein: On second thought, forget what I said about intel leaks coming from the White House

Pitiful twice over. Once because this is wholly unconvincing, and twice because she and her own staff can’t get their story straight about why she’s walking this back. The official statement:

“I am disappointed by the statements made by Mr. Romney today regarding a question I was asked yesterday at the World Affairs Council.

“I was asked whether the White House might be responsible for recent national security leaks. I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information. I shouldn’t have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don’t know the source of the leaks.

“I’m on record as being disturbed by these leaks, and I regret my remarks are being used to impugn President Obama or his commitment to protecting national security secrets. I know for a fact the president is extremely troubled by these leaks. His administration has moved aggressively to appoint two independent U.S. attorneys. There is an investigation under way, and it is moving forward quickly.

“I know we are in a campaign season, but I hope the investigation proceeds without political accusation or interference from anyone.”

Conspicuously absent here: Any suggestion that she doesn’t actually believe the White House is leaking, apart from a mild self-admonishment that she shouldn’t be speculating. Clearly she does believe it — just watch the clip of her remarks yesterday — but she felt obliged to issue some sort of lame, perfunctory walkback, no doubt under heavy pressure from The One. (The RNC gleefully accuses O of “Cory Booker-ing” her.) And in Feinstein’s defense, there’s every reason to think she’s right. Re-read this post from early June about Obama’s funny little habit of vigorously pursuing low-level leakers but not the people who leak hugely significant yet flattering stories about him kicking terrorist ass to papers like the Times. The big bombshell about O’s personal oversight of the terrorist “kill list” cited no fewer than three dozen advisors as sources. None of them work in the White House? And that was only the most recent major scoop; there’d been significant leaks about Stuxnet before that. Yet only on June 8, after an outcry by the GOP, did Obama finally get around to appointing two prosecutors to investigate the leaks (one of whom donated to his campaign, natch). Do those sound like the actions of a man who isn’t terribly concerned about White House leaks that make him look good in the middle of an election campaign?

Meanwhile, here’s the latest from Feinstein’s staff, which obviously hasn’t conferred with their boss on this:

Asked for more detail about the senator’s comments, a Feinstein aide says that when she said the leaks were “coming from its ranks,” the senator was referring to the Obama administration — the federal government — in general, not specifically individuals in the White House. The aide also said that the senator does not know who the leakers were; she was assuming.

No, she was quite obviously referring to individuals in the White House, not the government generally. If she meant the government generally, she would have said that in her statement this afternoon. In fact, to read her comments yesterday in that light makes them nonsensical. Of course the leaks are coming from inside the government. Obama’s already “doing something” about that by appointing the two prosecutors to investigate, and Feinstein knows it. What she said only makes sense if you understand her to mean that they need to look at the White House itself as a possible source. I realize this is paint-by-numbers spin to make a Kinsleyan gaffe go away, but at least spend five minutes on making it semi-plausible. Sheesh.