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CHALLENGING SENATOR STRAIGHT-TALK! A famous solon talked some trash. But uh-oh! Matthews challenged: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JULY 22, 2005

FLASH! PARSING THE PEACOCK: Some have noticed a reported contradiction in recent Leakgate leaks. Quoting Josh Marshall: “Libby reportedly told the grand jury that he heard of Plame's identity from Tim Russert. But Russert told the grand jury that that's not so.” Here’s the original source.

Uh oh! Obviously, we don’t have the slightest idea who might have said what to whom. Nor would it necessarily have been wrong if Russert inquired about something he’d heard. But Russert testified to the grand jury last August—and NBC released a statement that could be viewed as heavily parsed. Here’s how Richard Schmitt reported it in the Los Angeles Times:

SCHMITT (8/10/04): NBC issued a statement saying the network made Russert available under an agreement where he was not required to appear before the grand jury and was not asked questions that would have required him "to disclose information provided to him in confidence."

"Mr. Russert told the special prosecutor that, at the time of that conversation, he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative, and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby," the NBC statement said.

"Mr. Russert said that he first learned Ms. Plame's name and her role at the CIA when he read a column written by Robert Novak later that month."

Hmmm. According to the NBC statement, Russert didn’t know Plame’s name when he spoke to Libby. And he didn’t know she was a CIA operative. As we’ve seen, “operative” can be viewed as a technical term, and others have played word-games with the simple term “name.” Technically, this statement says less than it might seem. Did Russert already know that Wilson’s wife (name unknown) worked at the CIA? Parsed hard, this statement doesn’t say. Meanwhile, what did Russert learn from Novak’s column? According to this statement, he learned Plame’s “role at the CIA.” He may already have known that she worked there—just not in what capacity.

We have no idea who said what to whom. But could it be that the peacocks were parsing when they issued this slippery statement? We have no earthly way to know. Eventually, we suspect we’ll find out.

AGREEMENT, THEN AND NOW: Remarkable! In a remarkable passage in today’s Post, Juliet Eilperin describes a growing consensus about global warming. Good grief! Even Craig has signed on:

EILPERIN (7/22/05): Several committee Republicans, including some who had questioned climate change predictions in the past, said they agree the world has reached a scientific consensus on global warming.

"I have come to believe, along with many of my colleagues, that there is a substantial human effect on the environment," said Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), who has opposed mandatory curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and voted against last month's "sense of the Senate" resolution on climate change.

Some GOP senators, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), went further. In an interview, Murkowski said that "there's an emerging consensus we've got to deal" with climate change, adding it would be "tough" to cut greenhouse gases sufficiently through voluntary programs alone.

Again, we thought of Candidate Gore—and, again, we thought of the way Karl Rove wormed his way into the White House. Gore, of course, wrote the book on warming (Earth in the Balance, 1992), having pioneered the topic in the Congress during the 1980s. But what was said about his book when he ran for the White House? Of course! The key talking-point, accepted by all, was a bit of brainless ridicule. In March 1999, the War Against Gore was in its first days. So “Kit” Seelye rushed the spin-point into the Times—Al Gore wants to get rid of cars!
SEELYE (3/16/99): Republicans have poked fun at Mr. Gore for directing a Presidential campaign to such seemingly small issues as lost bags at airports and such seemingly local issues as traffic congestion. Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee, has been particularly scathing, accusing Mr. Gore of trying to "do away with the internal combustion engine, the automobile," and calling him "an apologist for the President; he's a wasteful dreamer.”
Al Gore wants to “do away with the automobile!” Seelye repeated Nicholson’s claim, but absent-mindedly forget to mention how blatantly idiotic it was. And over the course of the next twenty months, this was the press corps’ Standard Way to handle Earth in the Balance. Gore wants to ban internal combustion! Gore wants to do away with the car! Indeed, a silly variant of the idiot claim even survives in John Harris’ new book, reminding us that the insider press corps never gives up its faux tales.

Today, the parties approach agreement on warming. But Gore, the guy who sounded the call, was ridiculed for his insight during Campaign 2000—the campaign that transformed American life. And did your fiery liberal heroes complain about this drumbeat of ridicule? Of course not! At THE HOWLER, we discussed this point again and again, but go ahead—just find someone else who did so! Today, they pander to you about Rove, then ask you to please send them twenty-five dollars. But their silence during that twenty-month war is what put King Karl into the White House. When you hear them yell about Rove today, remember what they did when it mattered.

Everyone agrees on warming—today. But then, everyone agreed during Campaign 2000 as well! Everyone agreed to mock Candidate Gore—and your heroes agreed to keep quiet.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: As of 1998, every major car CEO agreed with Gore’s widely ridiculed (and misstated) assessment (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/29/99). But so what? The ridicule continued for the next twenty months, driven by the Post and the Times—and fiery liberal heroes kept quiet. That’s why Rove is where he is. By the way, won’t you send them thirty dollars so they can pander to you a bit more?

Special report: Equal-but-opposite panders!

CHALLENGING SENATOR STRAIGHT-TALK: No, Joe Wilson didn’t really say that Dick Cheney sent him to Africa. “In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report,” he wrote in his famous New York Times piece. “The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.” On a different point, Wilson did go badly wrong (for the rest of the year!) when he kept insisting that Cheney had surely seen a report on his all-important trip. But everyone agrees—Cheney’s office did ask the CIA, and this did lead to that now-famous trip. Wilson’s statement was semi-misread by some (by ABC News, for example; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/13/05). But regarding the pre-trip actions of Cheney’s office, his statement was essentially accurate.

But so what? Bush’s White House wanted to claim that Wilson-said-that-Dick-Cheney-sent-him. That would help them explain why Rove told Matt Cooper that Wilson was sent by his wife. (This is why they’ve been trashing Wilson for the one misstatement he really didn’t make.) And so, WTF! They began to say it: Wilson said Cheney sent him to Niger! No, it really wasn’t true, as you could see if you read Wilson’s column. But you know how those bleary-eyed TV hosts are! For the past two weeks, we’ve seen big hosts stare off into air as this claim keeps getting repeated. RNC spokesmen knew they could say it. TV hosts flat didn’t care.

Well, last night, someone finally was challenged. And guess what—it was Senator Straight-Talk! We know exactly what you’re thinking—no one’s more honest than this upright man! Despite that, the great man, guesting on Hardball, repeated the standard misstatement:

MCCAIN (7/21/05): We all know why Karl Rove spoke to the reporters, because—at least we know this, that he believed Wilson was putting out false information concerning whether Dick Cheney sent him to Africa, which he didn’t; whether there was actually contacts between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Niger on yellowcake, which the British still maintain that there was; and several other subjects that were just simply, according to a study by our Intelligence Committee, were false, statements that Ambassador Wilson made. And so it’s understandable why Rove would say to a reporter, “Hey, look, the Vice President did not send Wilson to Niger, it was done at the request of his wife, etcetera etcetera.”
No, that wasn’t exactly true. But so what? Chris Matthews ignored it. But uh-oh! Later, Straight-Talk recited again—and this time, Matthews piped up. (We think this was the first time we’ve seen anyone challenged about this standard misstatement.) And go ahead—enjoy the weasel words Straight-Talk employed when his host unexpectedly spoke:
MCCAIN: As we said earlier in our conversation, [Rove] was trying to refute allegations that Ambassador Wilson made that turned out to be not true. And he knew they were not true—well, I’m talking about Karl Rove knew they were not true. Because the Vice President did not send Ambassador Wilson to Niger—

MATTHEWS: No, but he raised the question to the CIA—

MCCAIN: —and Ambassador Wilson said that the Vice President did. He did—

MATTHEWS: But he did raise the question. The CIA sent somebody down to check on it.

MCCAIN: —say that.

MATTHEWS: Nobody ever said that he authorized the trip. They said—I thought Wilson’s argument was that the Vice President raised this question about the purchase of uranium ore from the government of Niger and the CIA subsequently sent him down to check it out.

MCCAIN: My understanding is—my understanding is that Wilson intimated that it was the Vice President that sent him.

How’s that for good old-fashioned straight talk? McCain’s “understanding” was that Wilson “intimated” that Dick Cheney sent him! On Monday, Jon Meacham used a similar weasel-word, and even old Imus had stepped up and challenged (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/19/05). But Matthews knew he had gone far enough. Just like that, he changed the subject, letting Straight-Talk discuss Wedding Crashers. “Let me ask you, did you like your role in that movie?” the slick host now cleverly said.

Let’s face it, readers. Everyone knows how totally honest Senator Straight-Talk actually is. And that’s why certain Hardball viewers may have found his weasel-words surprising! “My understanding is that Wilson intimated that it was the Vice President?” Does Straight-Talk ever get off his ass and read the columns on which he opines? Before he went on cable TV to express his “understanding” about what Wilson “intimated,” did he ever consider finding out what Wilson had actually said?

Matthews knew to move right on. He knew he’d already said too much. But here at THE HOWLER, we weren’t surprised by what Straight-Talk had said. On Wednesday morning, we marveled when Straight-Talk appeared on Imus. Weird! On that occasion, neither he nor David Brooks could imagine what Rove even might have done wrong! As fiery liberals overstate the things they know about this case, we were struck by the equal-but-opposite panders thrown at poor Imus this day.

TOMORROW: McCain and Brooks can’t imagine.

THE REQUISITE PANDER: Weird! “Straight” talked trash about what Wilson said—but he didn’t seem to have done any homework! And yes, this was odd, because everyone knows how ethical the great solon is. Earlier, in a requisite pander, Matthews remembered to mention it:

MATTHEWS: You are known to have a higher ethical standard than most politicians.

MCCAIN: I hope.

MATTHEWS: That’s a fact. I want to know what your ethical standard is here...

“I hope,” the solon modestly said. But we wonder about the ethical standard that lets you vent on a major topic without even doing elementary homework. Is it time for a solon to get off his ass and begin to walk the straight walk?