Smearing Wilson

Ken AshfordIraq, PlamegateLeave a Comment

I honestly don’t give a crap about Joe Wilson.  What he did or didn’t do is irrelevant.  It’s certainly not an excuse to out his wife as a covert CIA agent.  I know this because I’ve read the statutes and there is no "Joe Wilson Is A Liar" exception.

Still, Bush supporters somehow think that Libby’s behavior can be justified because Wilson is a "liar".  You see these editorials all over the place.  They start out talking about Libby, and in a matter of paragraphs, the piece turns into a smear piece on Joe Wilson, as if one had to do with the other.

Here is a typical example.

The Boot editorial is mindboggling facile in its irrelevant attacks on Wilson.  For example, (after starting out about the Libby indictments, Boot writes:

Joseph C. Wilson IV has retailed more whoppers than Burger King.

The least consequential of these fibs was his denial that it was his wife who got him sent to Niger in February 2002 to check out claims that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence later stated, in a bipartisan report, that evidence indicated it was Mrs. Wilson who "had suggested his name for the trip." By leaking this fact to the news media, Libby and other White House officials were merely setting the record straight — not, as Wilson would have it, punishing his Mata Hari wife.

Really?  So the White House — Libby, Rove, etc. — went into full court press mode, and called up reporters left and right, merely to correct a "least consequential" "fib" about how Wilson got the Niger gig?  That doesn’t pass the laugh test.  Let’s not pretend that the White House was going all out to make sure the media (which hadn’t reported the story yet) was going to this very inconsequential fact correct.

Boot continues:

Much more egregious were the ways in which Wilson misrepresented his findings. In his famous New York Times Op-Ed article (July 6, 2003), Wilson gave the impression that his eight-day jaunt proved that Iraq was not trying to acquire uranium in Africa. Therefore, when administration officials nevertheless cited concerns about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions, Wilson claimed that they had "twisted" evidence "to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." The Senate Intelligence Committee was not kind to this claim either.

That simply is untrue, or at least a gross overstatement.  It’s straight from the Rove talking points about Wilson.  But, according to Bloomberg:

Yet the Senate panel conclusions didn’t discredit Wilson. The committee concluded that the Niger intelligence information wasn’t solid enough to be included in the State of the Union speech. It added that Wilson’s report didn’t change the minds of analysts on either side of the issue, while also concluding that an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate "overstated what the Intelligence Community knew about Iraq’s possible procurement attempts.”

Boot’s swarthiness continues:

The panel’s report found that, far from discrediting the Iraq-Niger uranium link, Wilson actually provided fresh details about a 1999 meeting between Niger’s prime minister and an Iraqi delegation. Beyond that, he had not supplied new information.

That’s right.  And the meeting between Niger’s prime minister and an Iraqi delegation does not mean uranium was changing hands.  Countries meet all the time.  Hell, Donald Rumsfeld met with Saddam in 1985.  So was Ronald Reagan in cahoots with Saddam?

But what Boot and his cohorts seem to forget is this: in July 2003, the White House conceded that the uranium assertion should not have been included in the president’s speech. Several administration officials have accepted responsibility for allowing it into the speech, including Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser and now secretary of state; Stephen Hadley, then Rice’s deputy and now the national security adviser; and then-CIA Director George Tenet.

Doesn’t that end the debate?  Doesn’t the White House admission close down the debate?  Wasn’t the crux of Wilson’s criticism that the White House overstated the Niger-Iraq correction, you know, shown to be correct?

UPDATE:  I’ve only scratched the surface.  There’s waaay more to this that meets the eye.  If you want to wade deep into this, go here.