KILLJOY KRISTOL: When the Fox all-stars gather, the facts can be strained. On Fox News Sunday, Nina Easton had a remarkably odd account of Matt Coopers new revelations:
EASTON (7/17/05): If you dial this back a bit, a couple years, when this was first reported, the news reports portrayed it as administration officials out there peddling a story to undermine Joe Wilson.Say what? According to Easton, it turns out that Karl Rove...is a secondary source. And: We dont know who the primary source of these stories was. But in the Time piece to which Easton referred, Cooper specifically says just the opposite; he specifically says that he learned from Rove that Wilsons wife worked at the CIA! But so it goes when the all-stars gather. Needless to say, no other panelist challenged Eastons remark. Guest host Brit Hume stared into air.
Well, it turns out that Karl Rove, who was supposed to be frog- marched out in handcuffs, according to Joe Wilson, a couple years ago, in fact, is a secondary source. He's sort of the "Yeah, I heard it too" source for these reporters.
And in fact, Matt Cooper, this morning, says there are other sources that he didn't talk about in his Time magazine piece today but did disclose to the grand jury. So I think the spotlight's been on Karl Rove, but we still don't know who the primary source of these stories was.
So it goes when the all-stars gather— except, fairly often, when it comes to Bill Kristol. On yesterdays program, Kristol went off the reservation again. Like other all-stars, Easton was saying that Rove wouldnt likely be indicted. But Kristol took the kill-joy route. Kristol wasnt so certain:
KRISTOL (continuing directly): We know very little. That's the truth. We know a few leaks by lawyers who have an interest in leaking certain material. Fitzgerald has said absolutely nothing. They've kept pretty good secrecy on a huge amount of the grand jury testimony. People have testified repeatedly before the grand jury. Fitzgerald has had access to e-mails and phone records.Later, Kristol played kill-joy again. Fred Barnes asserted that Plame wasnt covert under terms of that widely-discussed 1982 statute. But Kristol said that might not matter:
Fitzgerald is a serious guy, and I think he is pursuing this investigation in a very big way. And I kind of doubt he would be doing this if he didn't think that he would be indicting someone at the end of the day.
KRISTOL: Remember, knowingly revealing classified information is a felony. It doesn't have to be this 1982 law. I mean, what if someone said to someone— this is the worst case for the White House— what if someone in the White House said, "Hey, I hear his wife works at the CIA." Well, that's not public. You can't say that. And then you say it. I guess Fitzgerald could claim that that would be knowingly revealing classified information.While other all-stars churned Rove-friendly stories, Kristol— omigod!— was prepared to consider the worst case for the White House.
I just think we don't know— we know so little about what has been testified to at the grand jury. Fitzgerald knows an awful lot. And that's what strikes me the most, when you really read into the case. We have no idea if Rove, incidentally, is particularly in Fitzgerald's gun sights or whether others are.
Kristol made an excellent point when he stressed how little the all-stars really know. As Kevin Drum aptly noted several times last week, weve seen an absurd degree of speculation based on tidbits of alleged information— unconfirmed tidbits brought forward by interested parties. Few of us have any idea what is happening inside the grand jury. But while other all-stars flogged party lines, Kristol was willing to consider the worst. Thats how serious analysts work. Kristol played killjoy. Good for him!
IN SEARCH OF A LIBERAL KILLJOY: But where are the liberal killjoys? Last Friday, Paul Krugman complained, in his New York Times column, that were now living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. He explained more specifically what he meant:
KRUGMAN (7/15/05): [W]ere not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern.Throughout his column, Krugman complained about the politicization of facts by conservative partisans. And he noted some of the ways this has been seen in the case of Wilson and Rove. One after another, prominent Republicans and conservative pundits have declared their allegiance to the party line, he said. They haven't just gone along with the diversionary tactics, like the irrelevant questions about whether Mr. Rove used Valerie Wilson's name in identifying her...or the false, easily refuted claim that Mr. Wilson lied about who sent him to Niger. They're now a chorus, praising Mr. Rove as a patriotic whistle-blower.
No question— conservatives pundits recited bogus claims last week, as theyve done for years and years. But today we ask a further question— is a similar habit of thought developing now on the left? Over the weekend, we were especially surprised— no, we were shocked— by a particular Josh Marshall post. Quite rightly, Josh is a prime liberal leader; for that reason, were especially troubled when we start to think that Joshs work might be helping produce a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth.
We refer to this Saturday post by Josh, which attempts to explain (away) an obvious mistake Joe Wilson made all through 2003. Throughout that year, Wilson insisted that Dick Cheney had surely seen an official report about his trip to Niger. He was absolutely convinced of this, Wilson said on Meet the Press the day his New York Times op-ed appeared. Throughout the year, Wilson battered Cheney for daring to say that he hadnt seen such a report. By now, pretty much everyone, including Wilson, agrees that no such report went to Cheneys office. In his post, Marshall was explaining (away) Wilsons mistake.
Because remember— in the America Krugman described, your side can never be wrong about anything; your side cant make a mistake. There is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth, Krugman complained; indeed, the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern. We think it would be a tragic mistake for liberals to begin behaving this way— but we were forced to think of Krugmans description when Marshall explained (away) Wilsons error.
Why did Wilson turn out to be wrong on this matter? Why didnt the CIA send a report about his trip to Cheneys office? Marshall asked this question in his post, saying this actually is a relevant fact in understanding the story. Then he gave the following answer— an answer which really did shock us:
MARSHALL (7/16/05): The explanation confected by the authors of the SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] report was the rather contradictory one that either Wilson's trip generated no substantive information or that it in fact tended to confirm suspicions of an illicit uranium traffic between the two countries. No one who's looked at the evidence involved believes that. Nor is that cover story compatible with the CIA's subsequent and repeated attempts to prevent the White House from using the Niger story.Why didnt the CIA send a report? Well summarize Marshalls full answer below. But according to Marshall, the authors of last summers SSCI report confected a cover story when confronted with that question. Just how fake was their cover story? This fake: No one whos looked at the evidence believes at least one part of their story! Josh goes on to explain his claim further (see below), but thats his claim about the Senate report. And thats the claim that we found shocking— and the claim that recalled Krugmans piece.
Why was Joshs claim so shocking? Because of what he didnt tell readers. After all, who were the authors of that confected cover story? The SSCI report was unanimously presented by seventeen senators, eight of whom are major Democrats. According to Marshall, here are eight of the people who confected a cover story to help undermine Wilson— a story that no one believed:
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)Thats right. Among others, Dick Durbin confected that cover story— the cover story no one believed. So did Carl Levin— and so did John Edwards! Edwards was running for VP at the time, trying to unseat the Bush White House. But he too confected a story that no one believed— a tale designed to damage Joe Wilson and prop up that self-same Bush White House.
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Senator John Edwards (D-NC)
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Yes, we were shocked by that paragraph. In fact, the unanimous Senate report is perfectly plausible on this matter. According to the Senate report, the CIA judged that Wilsons report didnt add substantial new information to the mix; as a result, the CIA didnt brief Cheney about it (see page 46 of the report). Yes, this story is perfectly plausible (read the whole passage), and all eight Democratic senators affirmed it. But Marshall told readers that this was a confected cover story, a cover story that no one believed. But he didnt mention the confecters names. He didnt mention that Durbin was one of the confectioners, or that Ron Wyden was another.
If you read Joshs whole post, youll see how he builds his alternate theory; its based on a comment from a single anonymous source in a single Washington Post report. An anonymous senior CIA analyst made the following statement to the Posts Walter Pincus about the way pre-war intel was handled: "Information not consistent with the administration agenda was discarded and information that was consistent was not seriously scrutinized. That quote seems fine to us as a general matter. But after citing it, Marshall concludes that, when the CIA failed to brief Cheney, this was yet another case in which unfriendly info was dumped. It cant be that Wilson simply made a mistake when he voiced his absolute certainty. No, Josh concludes that Wilsons initial judgment made perfect sense— but the CIA went into the tank, and the Senate committee confected a cover. This explains (away) Wilsons repeated mistake. Remember: In the world Krugman described, the partisans allies must be right every time. And the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern.
In fact, it would take an act of major loyalty to believe Joshs thesis— to believe that eight Dem senators confected a cover story designed to undermine Wilsons reputation. In his column, Krugman described a kooky world— the kooky world of the recent pseudo-con right. But are liberals and Dems heading down that road too? We see more signs of that slide every day— and we think it would be a vast error.