Wednesday, July 20, 2005

# Posted 2:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOES THE MEDIA STILL BELIEVE JOE WILSON IS A SAINT? What matters now is whether or not someone in the White House committed a crime by exposing Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that this whole affair began when Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson accused President Bush of telling brazen lies to the American public.

More than twelve months after Wilson made his initial allegations, a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee exposed Wilson, not Bush, as the real brazen liar. For a devastating summary of the report, head over to Matthew Continetti's article about it in the Weekly Standard.

After the release of the report, even staunch liberals such as Kevin Drum felt compelled to admit that Wilson's
Credibility as a source is definitely tattered, but perhaps not quite as thoroughly demolished as his enemies are claiming.
If you are a liberal yourself, I strongly recommend reading the entirety of Kevin's post, which explains exactly why Wilson's accusations were so indefensible.

But all of that is ancient history, right? Who cares now whether Wilson was right or wrong? Well, I do, because it seems that certain journalists' lingering sympathy for Wilson has led them to treat Karl Rove as guilty until proven innocent when it comes to the Plame affair. My two cases in point are the cover stories in this week's editions of Time and Newsweek.

Here's the opening graf from the Newsweek cover story:
Karl Rove is a hunter. His favorite quarry in Texas is quail; in Washington, it's foes of George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rove was focused intently, with a touch of anger, on his prey. It was Monday, July 7, 2003, the day after Joe Wilson, a veteran diplomat, had launched a damaging public assault on a central administration rationale for the war in Iraq: that Saddam Hussein had been trying to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger. In a New York Times op-ed piece and a companion appearance on "Meet the Press," Wilson said he had been dispatched to the African country in 2002 by the CIA, at the behest of Cheney, to check out the yellowcake claim—and had found it flimsy at best.
That summary of the situation is "flimsy at best". Nowhere in the rest of its very long article does Newsweek even mention that Wilson's allegations were later proven to be patent falsehoods. Yet even though such facts are curiously missing, Newsweek's Howard Fineman did find plenty of time to write nasty things about Rove such as:
In the World According to Karl Rove, you take the offensive, and stay there. You create a narrative that glosses over complex, mitigating facts to divide the world into friends and enemies, light and darkness, good and bad, Bush versus Saddam. You are loyal to a fault to your friends, merciless to your enemies...

The Manichaean politics that Rove had perfected over three decades now threaten to engulf him, or at least render him as something less than what he has been to Bush: the mastermind of Republican hegemony...

It's unlikely that any White House officials considered that they were doing anything illegal in going after Joe Wilson. Indeed, the line between national security and politics had long since been all but erased by the Bush administration.
What next? Will Fineman tell us that Rove shot JFK?

Moving on, this week's covery story in Time is slightly better with regard to Wilson. On the one hand, it tells us that
When Joe Wilson emerged in July 2003 as a well-credentialed critic of the Administration's case for going to war, he placed himself squarely in Rove's sights.

Here was a former ambassador, an Africa expert, who could flaunt his pictures with past Presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike--including one with President George H.W. Bush, who had called Wilson a hero for his service as charge d'affaires in Baghdad before the first Gulf War. When Wilson wrote in the New York Times on July 6, 2003, nearly four months after the war began, that "intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat," it represented the most damaging charge yet against the Administration's handling of prewar intelligence.
Wilson was certainly well-credentialed and his allegations were damaging, but it might be useful for Time to let us know that the allegations were also false.

To its credit, Time does cast some doubt on Wilson's credibility by observing that
Wilson was also shading the story: "Valerie had nothing to do with the matter," he wrote in his 2004 book The Politics of Truth. "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip." When asked last week by TIME if he still denies that she was the origin of his involvement in the trip, he avoided answering. But he has maintained all along that Administration officials conducted a "smear job" on him and outed his wife in revenge.
Albeit important, this bit of evidence hardly makes the point that Wilson's allegations were false. Even so, it's better than nothing.

One question worth asking about all of this misleading coverage is why the media can't get it's story straight about Wilson. Although some will simply say that the answer is "liberal bias", the issue is more complex.

First of all, the media loves whistleblowers. They see themselves as brave whistleblowers struggling to expose the truth. Thus, when they get their hands on a potential whistleblower, they tend to be as uncritical his allegations as they often are of their own. It think this is true regardless of whether there is a Democrat or Republican in the White House.

By the same token, this fawning love of whistleblowers explains why the media devoted such extensive coverage to Wilson's initial allegations but only minimal coverage to the subsequent exposure of Wilson as a brazen liar.

Perhaps when there is a Democrat in the White House, we can figure out whether the media goes softer on his or her statements about national security (as opposed to say, nubile interns).

Of course, all of this talk about Joe Wilson shouldn't divert our attention from the fact that George Bush did go public in his 2003 State of the Union address with some very dodgy allegations about Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program.

Ultimately, that kind of statement coming from a president is far more disconcerting that than the lies of a second-tier operative and partisan hack such as Joe Wilson. But the media seems to cover the inaccuracies of George Bush's statements quite well, leaving it to us bloggers to expose the small fry like Joe Wilson.
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