The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Mon. Oct 17, 2005

Valerie and the Flames, "I Told You So"

The web is a-buzzin’ about the fact Judy Miller and the New York Times finally “showed us what they got,” and the reaction has been a bit like the one a stripper would get at a frat party if she unclothed to reveal … a beige full body suit. “That’s all you got? What a ripoff.”

And I decided I’d also take the opportunity to look back at the only articles I’ve written about the Wilson-Plame Affair, from two years ago when it first raised a stench. And there may be a closing chorus of “I told you so’s.”

The main article in the New York Times, The Miller Case: From a Name on a Pad to Jail, and Back, is several thousand words long, but much of it is summed up in this one sentence: “In two interviews, Ms. Miller generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written account of her grand jury testimony or allow reporters to review her notes.

You can read her own lengthy self-serving BS, My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room, but be prepared to take a magnifying glass to read between the lines. Still, after all this hub-bub, with Miller clear of potential indictment and legally free to tell all, she stiffs her colleagues, and the readers of the Times. She provides a partial and self serving account that contradicts any high moral claim of having gone to jail for the First Amendment.

She was the conductor of a train wreck, and no one, no one comes out of this with one atom of gain.

Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher writesAs the devastating Times article, and her own first-person account, make clear, Miller should be promptly dismissed for crimes against journalism — and her own paper. And her editor, who has not taken responsibility, should apologize to readers.

Jay Rosen, who has been all over this recently, addresses Miller’s Professional Senior Moment:

Miller cannot recall where the name at the center of the case came from? Wowzer. Sure to be the center of controversy over the next week. Claiming memory loss about the most important fact in the story is weak. Very.

Miller actually subtracts from public knowledge in this part, a feat. She introduces into the narrative a new “source” who must have been around to plant the name on her, and then promptly tells us she cannot remember anything about him.

Which absolutely pegs the BS meter. Miller claims, well, it was two years ago. Uh-uh. Within a week of her last talk with Libby, it was hot news. Within a month, Joe Wilson made his quote about frog marching Karl Rove out of the White House. Does she truly expect us to believe that within one week to one month of this becoming a huge story, she’d forgotten who told her Plame’s name?

No one buys it.

And I don’t buy much of anything from the New York Times any more. Heck, their columnists are behind a firewall, and they let Judy Miller build her own little firewall, too. At their cost. If she’s ever paid to write another word for them, they will have burned the few tattered shreds of credibility they have remaining after this fiasco.

While Judy’s peers have already cast judgement, it’s still uncertain if any actual indictments will come from all this. The case has morphed so much over the past two years, it’s simply impossible to say, despite the fact many seem so certain. But I said it two years ago, and it’s just as true today; for me, it was never about any law.

I started off in September of 2003 by calling it Premeditated Felonious Stupidity:

First of all, all reports indicate it was two people in the White House doing the leaking, which means it wasn’t some “lone rogue.” It was a premeditated act, decided upon by someone who is so used to running their own arena that they didn’t feel the need to get their boss’ approval.

That’s somebody pretty darn high up the chain.

Let’s see; Vice President’s Right Hand Man, Libby? Check. President’s Right Hand Man, Rove? Check. Next?

There is no way to spin this as representative of “smarts” in the White House. This was flat stupid. And ineffective.

Of course, the best thing a politician can do in this kind of circumstance is to get out in front of it, quickly police your own house, and thus grab control of the news cycle. Given the alleged discipline and loyalty to the The Leader in the White House, surely the culprits are willing to step forward and say, “yep, we did something really stupid, and the President had no idea. Now excuse me, but I’ve got to go pick up my unemployment check.”

Game over. Before the opposition even gets fully suited up.

Of course, that won’t happen. Bush is also known for his loyalty, and I’m not sure he knows when to cut his losses. Rather than one big mea culpa, quickly and under their own control, they will now suffer a thousand cuts, for months, with no control.

A thousand cuts, for months? Well, I was wrong about that. It’s been years. Between this and other more recent debacles, they’re nearly bled out now.

But imagine ... if they’d had a Oval Office pow-wow and accepted “we’re gonna lose a man on this one.” They could have mitigated this two years ago by having Libby fall on his sword. If he’d resigned while admitting he’d spilled the beans to reporters, there probably never would have been a special prosecutor. Rove could have juked right around any culpability with the cover of a scapegoat, and stuck around to help get Bush re-elected. “Game over. Before the opposition even gets fully suited up.”

And in that alternate reality, the Bush administration might still be battered by the same forces they have been over the past two months … minus the cloud of potential indictments that has seemingly paralyzed them of late. That whole “PlameGate” thing would have been resolved and forgotten old news.

Oh sure, you say, that’s easy to predict with 20/20 hindsight. Um, no, that’s my point. My suggestion above was in September of 2003, and all I lacked was the names we know now. In the White House, they knew who was involved.

But the Bush administration personifies the phrase “loyal to a fault.” And rather than lose one man and put the issue to bed two years ago, they now have “contingencies” to lose them both:

Even before testifying last week for the fourth time before a grand jury probing the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity, Bush senior adviser Rove and others at the White House had concluded that if indicted he would immediately resign or possibly go on unpaid leave, several legal and Administration sources familiar with the thinking told TIME.

Resignation is the much more likely scenario, they say. The same would apply to I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the Vice President’s chief of staff, who also faces a possible indictment.

Time: Contingency Plan

But there may be no indictments at all. And if that happens, there will be thunderous chest beating about complete innocence and much ado about nothing. Sorry, no sale here. The reason I stopped writing about this affair two years ago is because I’d already made my judgement. I already had all the facts I need to make it.

Because all the microscopic parsing of whether Suspect A or B used the phrase “Joe Wilson’s wife” or the actual name “Valerie Plame,” or whether she was a covert operative, or who knew what when and where did they hear it … all obscures and obfuscates my original indictment, one that has nothing to do with law:

Even if Joe Wilson is the Devil, and his wife wears a red dress, there was a wrong committed here. This was not a “defense” drawn from the playbook of Compassionate Conservatism. Some are saying this was a use of national security information in an attempt to gain political advantage.

Maybe. But I’m not going to gum up the works with such complications. For me, it’s pretty simple. At least two people in the Bush administration wanted to damage an “enemy’s” credibility so bad … they went after his wife.

Go ahead, defend that.

The Daily Whim: Defending Premeditated Felonious Stupidity

And they didn’t have one shred of shame about it. No sense of the irony that they’d just toppled a dictator who loved the tactic of going after the families of those who opposed him. No, Karl Rove told a reporter that Wilson’s wife was “fair game.”

Even more ironically, when the spilling of her name became a controversy, it quickly became clear how unnecessary it was:

Meanwhile, right now, Joe Wilson is being tarred, feathered, and painted as a Liberal Moonbat by all kinds of Bush defenders. In a matter of 72 hours or so, Joe Wilson’s credibility has been quite tarnished, using only tightly edited versions of his resume and opinions.

It’s a shame no one had the smarts to think of that back in July, instead of going after his wife, eh? Then we wouldn’t be in this mess. If you’re on the side of the administration on this one, you really ought to think about the lack of savvy displayed, then and now (why shotgun it to 6 reporters, when one well placed nugget would accomplish the same thing without leaving a large trail?)

And that’s the bottom line I keep coming back to. There were dozens of options to propagandize Wilson, as so many have proven this week. But they didn’t go after him on the basis of his position, his background, or his beliefs; they tried to use his wife to get to him.

I’ve asked here and elsewhere if someone would please come forward to defend the tactic of going after the family of those you deem your enemy (Saddam, are you out there?), but everybody seems to be too busy parsing whether she was an “analyst” or an “operative,” “overt” or “covert,” etc. Which entirely misses the point of what she was: the “wife” of their target.

The Daily Whim: Leaking Irony

And it’s a point that continues to be missed today. If you bring it up, you’ll be told, “well, that’s not illegal.” No, but if someone who didn’t like you decided to go after your wife, in order to get to you, would you just shrug and say she’s fair game? Or would you be more inclined to go looking for some cowardly nuts to kick?

If you bring it up, you’ll also be told “That’s just the way politics is.” And that is true, in the way that you might respond to an initiation murder, “well, that’s just the way street gangs are.” But it doesn’t mean it is acceptable. Moral. That there shouldn’t be a price for it.

As I wrote in Sliming Yourself, I contrast “A ‘compassionate conservative’ who vows ‘to restore honor and integrity to the Oval Office,’ versus an administration that says ‘his wife is fair game’ and then proceeds with a strategy of ‘slime and defend’” ... and I think there should be a price for that.

For four years, I’ve seen an administration that regularly speaks of a high moral calling and hopes to propagate “American Values,” yet their actions befoul and betray their rhetoric. And I think there should be a price for that.

If I look at the law and the stretched and strained “facts” of this case as others have seen fit to reveal them to us, I’d almost call it a toss up. My brain says indictments are a 50-50 shot. But I also have to factor in karma, if only because I believe in it more than I do politics (which ain’t sayin’ much). I definitely believe it offers me more hope than the political world does (which ain’t sayin’ much).

And I think there will be a price for this. There already has been. They’ve bled from a thousand cuts for two years over this, due to their own inaction and lack of transparency from the start. This could have been over, at their own hand, and not on the terms of a special prosecutor … years ago. But now at a critical time when they are beset from every angle, and hardly have the capital to push a pebble up Capitol Hill, this black cloud still hangs over them.

Karma doesn’t require indictments.

Peanut Gallery

1  Scott Chaffin wrote:

And if Fitzgerald indicts someone besides the ones you’ve already found guilty, what then?

2  Reid wrote:

Who have I found guilty of breaking any law?

I wrote “If I look at the law and the stretched and strained ‘facts’ of this case as others have seen fit to reveal them to us, I’d almost call it a toss up. My brain says indictments are a 50-50 shot.”

I’m directly suggesting that I think the odds of someone even being charged are 50% or less, never mind anyone being found guilty of breaking a specific law.

The only clues I have about who Fitzgerald might indict are the same ones you’ve read or heard, and the two top contenders appear to be Rove and Libby. Those aren’t names I pulled out of a hat. If he indicts others, well, I’m all ears. Who are you betting on?

As for my personal moral indictment, yes, I did find them “guilty,” based on facts freely admitted by all involved. Not only is there no punishment to be issued, no one has even stepped forward in two years to defend the concept of attacking the wife of your opponents. In the political world, that’s simply a stipulated fact of life that no one even sees as worthy of debate.

Certainly, no one will be charged with it. In fact, I’m the only one who seems to be going on about it at all.

Which is exactly my point. We’ve reached a political point where, rather than take on an individual’s position based on facts (which happened with Wilson only after “The Outing”), you can simply go after their wife, and people will just shrug.

Personally, I think anyone who goes after an opponent’s family rather than take on the individual themselves is a coward. But there’s no law against that.

3  Scott Chaffin wrote:

My point, such as it is, is that you (seem to) presume Mrs. Joe is not “fair game.” I don’t think such a presumption is supported. If Mrs. Joe were employed by someone other than the CIA and in the workgroup/directorate that provides the basis for the entire context of the last two years of hubbub, you’re correct. That ain’t the deal, though. And I think the silence in the face of valid criticism such as yours is typical of someone(s) with certainty that their position will be proven to be truthful.

Which is why my play-money is on an indictment of not WH or admin peeps, but CIA and CIA-attached peeps. Probably my contrarian nature kicking in, but with every bit of speculation centering on Rove and Libby, I think the axe will fall elsewhere.

Or not.

4  Reid wrote:

Listen, it’s hard to defend all of the recommendations made by George “Slam Dunk” Tenet’s CIA, you’ll get no argument from me there. But in this case, we know (and the Bush administration has admitted) the Niger information was bad. As far as has been publicly revealed, the involvement of “Mrs. Joe” (I like that) was that she was asked by others at the CIA if their idea of sending her husband on a trip to answer an inquiry by the VP’s office was a good idea. She told them, yes, he’s got contacts and experience in that part of Africa.

So he went, and brought back a report that contradicted the assertions of the administration. They fought it hard for months, but later admitted it was correct.

To this day, I fail to see the sin here. Other than it violated the well established principle that you simply don’t send bad news or things they don’t want to hear up the chain to the White House. But while Tenet was otherwise saying this was a slam dunk case (i.e., telling them what they wanted to hear), in this instance you had some folks who said “this one’s a foul ball.” And they were right. Wasn’t that their job? The one Tenet failed at?

And while you very well could be right about “surprise” indictments, you lose me when you say it could be CIA-attached peeps. The entire investigation has focused on who told the reporters what and when. And the answers have all been someone at the White House.

There are two exceptions. One, Judy Miller claims she can’t remember who told her “Flame’s” name, so I guess it could have been the CIA. Or Santa Claus. Who knows? Only Judy, not anyone who can file an indictment based on it.

The other exception is the real Sphinx in all this, Robert Novak. With decades of contacts, I suppose he could have gotten it from someone at the CIA. But the juicy scuttlebutt I hear is that he got it from … Judy Miller. Who can’t remember where she got it from.

At which point I suppose the prosecutor can only chase his tail.

I just have to point out again … once this “outing” heated up, scads of folks on the right smeared Joe Wilson quite effectively, using just his own history. It would appear that two people at the White House chose the much easier route of going after him via his wife.

It was lazy and cheap. And it blew up in their face so hugely that we’re still talking about it two years later. To me, that is both cowardly and stupid. And those offenses cannot be prosecuted in a court of law.

5  Scott Chaffin wrote:

There’s been a lot of speculation that Mrs. Joe was considerably more complicit in sending Joe to Niger. Granted, it’s just speculation and dot-connecting which might prove out as nada, and of course it could be rank frantic partisan conspiratorializing. But it provides a fair basis for naming Plame, if it’s true (which would be most Ludlum-ish but not out of the question given the strained nature of WH-CIA relations). Now, that line of conjecture requires a bunch of reporters to dig far deeper than they have so far, and I’m not holding my breath for our hallowed press to go after the less-than-obvious Woodward-Bernstein story.

(You understand that I’m not disagreeing with you about attacking an innocent party to get back at another, right?)

6  Reid wrote:

Of course, you’re suggesting she’s not as innocent a party as I believe she is. And admittedly, neither of us knows for sure the exact extent of her involvement. I don’t know that we ever will.

I suppose it is possible that many months prior to anyone knowing Bush would use those fateful 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union speech, the Wilson duo already had it all sussed out, and set out to trap Bush with hubby’s trip.

After all, she’s one of those shifty types that works for the CIA. But the motives often claimed would require some psychic sense, wouldn’t it? I mean, a conspiracy would have been a plan to deliberately feed false info to the administration, and then anonymously leak the real facts to burn them publicly, right? But Wilson reported to them the truth as he knew it, with no foreknowledge of a speech by Bush that hadn’t even been written yet. He then again asserted the truth as he knew it after the speech, in his NYT editorial. This truth has since been admitted by the administration.

So, no matter what they chose to do to go after Wilson, it was to shut him up and discredit him … for telling the truth. Meanwhile, George “Slam Dunk” Tenet gets a medal, and a comfy retirement.

So, if their idea was to discredit Wilson by laying accusations of nepotism/cronyism on someone, um, that’s a tough sell these days coming from anyone in the Bush administration, isn’t it? Plus, after two years of smearing, it’s easy to forget that Joe Wilson was put in charge of the Baghdad embassy after our ambassador (the infamous April Gillaspie) was recalled … by Bush’s father. And when Saddam threatened to hang Western hostages, Wilson wore a hangman’s noose to his next press briefing in Baghdad. If you read “Live From Baghdad,” Robert Wein’r’s account of CNN’s days there during the First Gulf War, you’ll find a portrait of Joe Wilson completely contrary to the pro-Ba’athist anti-Bush one we’re shown today.

My larger point is that going after Mrs. Joe, rather than the very effective smearing of Wilson himself that occurred soon thereafter, was a foolish, lazy, and cheap mistake. One that is still biting them hard on the ass more than two years later.

And as I noted, I stopped writing about this two years ago, because I was done with it. It’s a shame for the Bush administration that no one else feels that way today. Because it was right there in their hands, under their own control. Back then.

7  Addison wrote:

” But in this case, we know (and the Bush administration has admitted) the Niger information was bad. ”

But not from what Wilson’s provided. In fact, Wilson was told exactly the opposite.

“So, no matter what they chose to do to go after Wilson, it was to shut him up and discredit him … for telling the truth. Meanwhile, George “Slam Dunk? Tenet gets a medal, and a comfy retirement.”

I’m not supporting Tenet’s decoration – but Wilson’s “report” has so many veracity issues as to not make it anywhere near the “slam-dunk” that you’re portraying it.

On a quick Google – the best synopsis I can find is on NRO:

And as I recall, when Wilson testified – his story changed greatly from his “report”.

So as to whether his wife was fair game or not… The whole Miller story doesn’t make sense presuming this is Rove or Libby. As to falling on swords, why do it when there’s no reason to? I’m not sure there is a reason – Miller’s testimony may well not be what we’re expecting it to be.

Wilson, Plame, and the CIA acted in very bad faith – and this has me greatly concerned… The scandal that the CIA was willing to damage a sitting president – and through a transparant method like this – (which isn’t being covered) – there’s something much more interesting at work here.

8  Scott Chaffin wrote:

Real quick-like:

the Wilson duo : bigger than that, goes the conspiracy speculation; there was some other number of CIA leaks about the “true” nature of the intelligence, and there were an equal number of “swear on my mother’s grave” statements about the opposite “truth.” It’s not outside the realm of possibility, and given the wacky nature of what’s been revealed, it’s as good as assuming that it was naught but a cheap shot. Occam’s Razor favors your argument, though.

nepotism/cronyism : that’s a bit reductionist. I don’t think anybody’s said that. Maybe there’s a subtle implication that I’m skating right by, though. It’s not my point, anyway.

Time will tell if it was a cheap mistake. My prediction is that it will be a long time, given the classified nature of most of this. Which, to address your argument for a mea culpa two years ago—that only works if you’re culpable of making a cheap mistake. Which, to regress—you’ve already convicted them of that. Which, in the great circle of blog comments, I’ve now eaten my own tail, I think.

9  Reid wrote:

Occam’s Razor favors your argument, though.

Since we’re dealing with governmental bodies, Hanlon’s Razor may be more appropriate: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

10  LadyNiniane wrote:

Heinlein again comes to the forefront (read the info on the Hanlon’s Razor link). I keep telling you, his Future History is becoming all too true.

“If This Goes On…..”

And I do agree with you, Reid, that attacking someone through their spouse/kids/family is despicable – something far more fitting for a Saddam.

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