In Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Senator-elect James Webb attributed the release of his infamous exchange with President Bush to the White House:
Q: You have seen President Bush, with whom you had a famously tense exchange at a White House reception shortly after the election.
A: I think that was vastly overblown.
Q: Bush, according to the story, asked you about your son, a marine serving in Iraq. You replied that you’d like to get the troops out of Iraq, prompting Bush to say: “I didn’t ask you that. How’s your boy?”
A: I think what I said was appropriate.
Q: Yes. I was surprised that it erupted into a national debate about manners and etiquette, which seems so trivial compared with the issue of ending the war.
A: This was something that emanated from the White House. I did not say anything about this for two weeks. I said nothing publicly at all.
Q: Why would the White House release the information so long after the event?
A: Probably as an attempt to try to define me between the election and the beginning of the Congress. And that’s all I am going to say.
However, there were the two primary stories that recounted the conversation that were both apparently published on the same day. The Washington Post version contains no obvious clues to the sourcing, stating that Webb "confirmed the exchange between him and Bush" and that "The White House declined to discuss the encounter." The version of the exchange published in the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill, however, specifically attributed the story to "a person who heard about the exchange from Webb."
So did the White House leak the Post story first? Did the person who "heard about the exchange from Webb" leak it? It's impossible to say...