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Daily Howler: Wilson has been a wreck from the start. But libs only want to be dumb
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JOE WILSON’S CREDIBILITY! Wilson has been a wreck from the start. But libs only want to be dumb: // link // print // previous // next //

WOODWARD AND REHM PLAY THE RUBES: It’s hard to believe, but yes, he said it. Here was Tom Friedman, speaking to Imus about the Plame investigation:
FRIEDMAN (7/12/05): You know, there’s something just to me, you know, nutty about the fact that my colleague, Judy Miller, is the only person in jail right now—and she didn’t even write a story! And for the life of me, I just can’t quite figure that out.
Can anyone take this man seriously? Why is Miller “the only person in jail right now?” Duh. Because she’s the only person ordered to testify who then refused to do so! A second-grader could “figure this out”—but people like Friedman just keep pretending that they’re baffled by the logic. But then, no one serves their own self-interest like the stars of the Washington press corps. Consider yesterday’s Diane Rehm Show, in which Bob Woodward and Diane Rehm puzzled hard, pretending that they too couldn’t fathom the logic of the puzzling Plame probe.

We thought their exchange was simply remarkable. Here’s the start of the silliest passage (about twenty minutes in). The pair pretend that they just can’t imagine what the probe is about:

REHM (7/12/05): I don’t understand what law has been broken in this Judith Miller case and in the Matt Cooper case.

WOODWARD: I don’t either, and I have not seen any evidence that a law has been broken...

Duh. As everyone understands, it may turn out that no law has been broken; that’s what the grand jury is trying to determine! But everyone knows what laws may have been broken—everyone except these clueless scribes, who brazenly pimp their cohort’s self-interest. As Woodward continues, he blames the whole thing on that out-of-control special prosecutor:
WOODWARD (continuing directly): Remember, this is the special prosecutor. This is not a case where the White House or the Justice Department on their own have said, “Oh yeah, go after reporters.” I think the White House and Karl Rove, now that he’s in the spotlight, dislike the special prosecutor in this whole process as much as the press does....
Double completely non-secret duh! Of course Rove doesn’t like this prosecutor; he may end up charging Rove with a crime! But at any rate, the spinning continued. Woodward bragged about Bush’s great restraint in such delicate matters:
WOODWARD (continuing directly): I’ve sat with President Bush and interviewed him for books I’ve done for hours and raised incredibly sensitive subjects, and he’s squirmed in the chair and said, “Where’d that come from? How did you find out about that?” and so forth, but he never has called the Justice Department or, you know, the FBI and said, “Investigate.”

REHM: So why did it happen in this case?

You have to listen to the tape to appreciate Rehm’s tone—a tone of total incomprehension. In response, Woodward explains the facts of the case as if Rehm has just flown in from Neptune:
WOODWARD (continuing directly): Well, a series of events led to the appointment of a special prosecutor. And we found in the, in the Clinton matter—I mean, there’s still special independent counsels working on Clinton cases now!

REHM: Bob Woodward, and his newest book, all about Deep Throat, is titled The Secret Man.

We don’t know if we’ve ever heard two people feign incomprehension so fully. You really have to play the tape to appreciate the depth of the clowning.

A few minutes later, Woodward is saying that the investigation is “abusive” because it has lasted two years. In a follow-up, he compares the grand jury’s attempt to interview Miller to the part of Casablanca where the crooked Inspector Renault says, “Round up the usual suspects.” (“That’s exactly what’s happened here,” he says. “Let’s take every reporter in Washington, or in the country, or Diane, you can get in line...Let’s line everyone up.”) Whatever one thinks of the current probe, we’re not sure if we’ve ever heard two people play dumb so completely.

Did Rove or someone else break a law in this matter? We don’t have the slightest idea. But everyone knows how this investigation began; everyone knows what sorts of laws may have been broken; and everyone knows why the special prosecutor wants to hear from Cooper and Miller. Everyone, that is, except Woodward and Rehm (and Friedman), who seem to have jetted in from Pluto, so puzzled are they by all these events. They don’t understand what law has been broken; they don’t see that any law has been broken; and they don’t know why the probe is occurring. “Why did [an investigation] happen in this case?” Rehm exclaims, completely confused and hopelessly bollixed. Readers, listen to the tape, and see if you can hear what she’s actually saying. Can’t you just hear Rehm’s secret message? Can’t you hear it? Hey, you dumbing f*ckin’ rubes!

TOMORROW: Those blanket waivers! (More tales of the press corps’ self-dealing.)

Special report—That virus keeps spreading!

JOE WILSON’S CREDIBILITY: In the seven years we’ve been doing the HOWLER, the New York Post’s Deborah Orin has rarely “gotten it right.” But libs and Dems have now caught a virus; many are displaying the same kooky traits that talk-show conservatives have long displayed. Result? Amazingly, even some of Orin’s claims are more accurate than those of many liberals! On Monday’s Hardball, for example, Orin made the following statement about sainted liberal icon Joe Wilson (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/12/05). The scribe was stretching in several places, but uh-oh! She was basically right:

ORIN (7/11/05): There is an issue of whether Karl Rove told the truth and the whole truth. But what`s more important is, it is clear that Joe Wilson didn`t tell the truth. We have a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report that says, on virtually every point that Joe Wilson made, starting from denying his wife had him sent on the trip, which turns out to be not true—

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Right. She did.

ORIN: She did. And to claiming that he found that there was no ties with Iraq and that he reported that, which he did not report—he reported, if anything, the opposite. To claiming that he reported there were forged documents, which was not true, because he never even saw the documents. So Joe Wilson`s credibility is seriously in question. And what we now see is, what Karl Rove appears to have been doing was to be pointing out to Time magazine that Joe Wilson could not be trusted, rather than trying to get even with Joe Wilson.

“Joe Wilson`s credibility is seriously in question.” Yes, Orin was stretching on several points—but her judgment on Wilson was basically right. From Day One, Wilson has been an extremely shaky messenger, although liberals and Dems have refused to admit it. Here are a few basic problems with Wilson’s performance—problems that will continue to affect the way the Rove story plays out:

First, Wilson never seemed to understand the simple logic of the Niger matter. In his 2003 State of the Union Address, Bush uttered those famous sixteen words: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Six months later, Wilson published his famous New York Times op-ed piece—and quite literally, he didn’t say a single word about Bush’s actual claim. What happened on Wilson’s trip to Niger? “It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place,” he wrote—and his statement was surely right. But Bush never said a transaction took place; he only said that uranium had been sought. But from Day One, Wilson didn’t seem to grasp the logic of the claim he thought he was refuting. None of this stopped him from the grandiose, self-puffing claims that have characterized his woeful performance from that day to this.

Second, Wilson didn’t seem to understand the basic logic of his own report to the CIA. As Orin noted, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported on this matter last summer—and the unanimous committee (nine Reps, eight Dems) savaged Wilson’s performance (for example, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/20/04). Indeed, the committee found that Wilson’s report bolstered suspicion that Iraq sought uranium. In the Post, Susan Schmidt penned an accurate account of what the committee unanimously said:

SCHMIDT (7/10/04): Wilson's reports to the CIA added to the evidence that Iraq may have tried to buy uranium in Niger, although officials at the State Department remained highly skeptical, the report said.

Wilson said that a former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, was unaware of any sales contract with Iraq, but said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him, insisting that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq—which Mayaki interpreted to mean they wanted to discuss yellowcake sales. A report CIA officials drafted after debriefing Wilson said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to UN sanctions on Iraq."

(CORRECTION. See below.)

Excitable liberals will quake and rail, complaining that Schmidt is a Big Proven Liar. But Schmidt’s report was perfectly accurate. Indeed, the unanimous committee report included the following statement: “For most analysts, the information in [Wilson’s] report lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal.” All eight Democrats on the committee agreed with that assessment. According to the unanimous committee, Wilson hadn’t debunked Bush’s claim. “For most analysts,” Wilson’s report gave the claim more credibility, they all said!

There’s no way to revisit all of Wilson’s stretches, outright misstatements and howlers. The unanimous committee savaged Wilson in various ways; for a review of some of his long string of groaners, we’d recommend Matthew Continetti’s 7/26/04 report in the Weekly Standard. (True-believers will refuse to read such a source. But as Orin noted, Wilson told a string of scribes that he discovered the problems with those famous forged documents—documents he never even saw. The committee slammed him for those remarkable misstatements too.) In truth, Wilson has been an extremely shaky messenger from Day One of this two-year episode. This doesn’t mean that others were free to “out” his wife, if that actually did occur. It means that liberals and Dems who want the truth must be careful about Wilson’s stories. Such libs will understand why many Americans will be suspicious of Wilson’s claims—although true believers all over the web will assure them that Wilson’s a hero.

Yes, some libs have now caught a virus from the kooky talk-show right. In the process, we’re developing our own gang of pleasing blowhards—and they’re singing the praises of Wilson.

THE GRAND INQUISITOR: Lucky liberals! All over the web, Grand Inquisitors are telling you tales that keep you excited and energized. Good news! Your tribe has been perfectly right from the start! And the other tribe has been evil and wrong! Your blood has raced—at last you’ve felt justified—as you’ve read these pleasing tales. But uh-oh! These scribes have been playing the time-honored role perfected by pseudo-con hacks of the 90s. They’re filling your heads full of pleasing tales in which your side is eternally right. Unfortunately, Wilson’s performance has been so bad that, in the matter of Plame and Rove, many of these tales are just wrong. But no matter! You can still believe them if you wish—if you want to be played for a sucker.

Consider Josh Marshall’s misleading post about a current dispute. Question: Is it possible that Rove was trying to debunk a false story when he spoke to Matt Cooper that day? Marshall, throwing feed to the herd, says that he is shooting down “egregious mumbojumbo” about that. But uh-oh! The alleged “mumbojumbo” isn’t so bad—and Marshall’s claims are misleading and wrong. It’s hard to do, but Josh is spinning so hard he makes Orin seem right by comparison!

Could Rove have had a reasonable motive when he spoke to Cooper that day? Marshall quotes this passage from an AP report about RNC chairman Ken Mehlman:

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (7/12/05): Rove "was discouraging a reporter from writing a false story based on a false premise," said Mehlman. Cooper's e-mail says that Rove warned him away from the idea that Wilson's trip had been authorized by CIA Director George Tenet or Vice President Dick Cheney.
According to Marshall, Mehlman’s claim is “egregious mumbo-jumbo.” Here’s his response to that quoted passage:
MARSHALL: The argument, as elaborated by others, is that Rove was warning Cooper off Wilson's phoney story because it was about to be debunked by a soon-to-be-released statement George Tenet.

A great argument. Only Wilson never said that. He said that the CIA, following up on a query from the vice president, sent him on a fact-finding mission to Niger.

Was Rove warning Cooper about a bum story—about the claim that Cheney authorized Wilson’s trip? “Wilson never said that,” Marshall says. But uh-oh! That statement by Marshall isn’t quite true. And it’s irrelevant any way.

In his post, Marshall quotes Wilson’s 7/6/03 op-ed, in which Wilson doesn’t exactly claim that Cheney authorized his trip. But Wilson did stress the alleged involvement of Cheney’s office—and you know how that Washington press corps can be! By the time of that evening’s World News Tonight, ABC’s Geoff Morrell was saying this:

MORRELL (7/6/03): Ambassador Joe Wilson says, at the request of Vice President Cheney's office, the CIA sent him to Niger in February 2002. He spent eight days there investigating a British intelligence report that Iraq tried to obtain from Niger yellowcake uranium, which can be used to build a nuclear weapon.
It wasn’t exactly Wilson’s fault. But viewers might start to believe something false; they might start to believe that Cheney’s office sent Wilson off to Niger. And the following morning, Wilson’s juices were clearly flowing when he glad-handed (and semi-misstated) on CNN’s American Morning:
BILL HEMMER (7/7/03): Ambassador Joseph Wilson is back with us here on American Morning live in D.C. Good to have you back! Good morning to you!

WILSON: Hi, Bill, and welcome to Soledad [O’Brien].

HEMMER: Well, it's great to have her.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

HEMMER: It's a wonderful day for us here at American Morning! You went to Niger several years ago. You concluded essentially that Iraq could not buy this uranium from that country. Why not?

WILSON: Well, I went in, actually in February of 2002 was my most recent trip there—at the request, I was told, of the office of the vice president, which had seen a report in intelligence channels about this purported memorandum of agreement on uranium sales from Niger to Iraq.

Was Wilson trying to mislead viewers? We wouldn’t make that charge, but Republicans had every right to correct a misimpression that clearly was out there—the misimpression that Cheney’s office had sent Wilson off to Niger. ABC made the claim that Sunday night—and Wilson seemed to say it the next morning. And by the way, Wilson was wildly misstating something else about Cheney, as he himself would later admit. He kept insisting, in every forum, that Cheney must have seen a report about his trip to Niger; a year later, the Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously agreed that this wasn’t true, and Wilson admitted that he had been wrong to make this claim all over the land. At any rate, many Americans were getting the impression that Cheney had sent Wilson off to Niger. The White House had every right to correct this impression at the time Rove spoke with Cooper. If the shoe had been on the other foot, Dems would have corrected it too.

What were Rove’s motives in speaking with Cooper? We don’t have the slightest idea. But the impression was going around that Cheney had sent Wilson off to Niger, and the White House did have every right to correct this false impression.

One more question: What did the White House think of Wilson at this time? Again, we have no way of knowing. But right from Day One, Wilson has been pompous, grandiose and extremely unreliable. He made endless misstatements, and he didn’t seem to grasp the simple logic of the matter at hand. He was savaged in that Senate report—and none of the Dems stepped up to defend him. Almost surely, Rove thought Wilson was a kook and an asshole. Unfortunately, it isn’t clear he was wrong.

But so what? To this day, Wilson’s a Sainted Liberal Icon. Today’s liberal want to be happy but dumb—just as dumb as pseudo-conservatives have been for the past several decades. He wants to be fed stupid tales, in which his side is always right, and the other side is wickedly wrong. And no, he doesn’t want ambiguity! Luckily, liberal Grand Inquisitors, with their own mumbo-jumbo, are there to throw sweet feed to the herd. As stampeding liberals munch the sweet hay, can you hear what the herders are saying?

CORRECTION: We originally included an erroneous paragraph from Susan Schmidt's WashPost article. There is a correction on the Nexis post, but it's at the bottom, and we didn't see it. For full explanation, see Atrios. He saved the day.

COMING FRIDAY: Why are we annoyed—indeed, sometimes disgusted—with Marshall, who has done so much excellent work? Come Friday, we should discuss that.