Drooling on the Pillow

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Off With His Head 

How well I remember the end of the nineties when Bill Clinton was making conservative heads explode all over the country. There was virtually nothing bad you could say about the guy that wouldn't be believed by someone, in some cases a lot of someones. He was a drug dealer or involved with drug dealers. He had people killed. And Old Bill was just loosey-goosey, shifty and slick enough that people who should have known better believed it.

It wasn't just his obvious personal flaws and his tendency to tell everyone what they wanted to hear. It wasn't his politics, because with a few significant exceptions, his was, due to congressional discipline, a fairly conservative administration. It wasn't even his tendency to talk a problem to death and then pass it along to the next administration.

It was the fact that he won. A lot of people called him a political genius, a natural. In a way, I guess that's true, but any president who looses the House, the Senate, a majority of Governorships and a majority of state Houses on his watch has to define politics very narrowly to be called a genius.

But Old Bill was a genius at getting what Bill wanted. You couldn't pin him down, you couldn't corner him, you couldn't trap him. He was always a step ahead. And even when he lost, somehow he won. And it drove us crazy.

The headline in the Times today was that Novak had a phone conversation with Rove in which Novak talked about Plame, using her name and that Rove remarked "I heard that, too."

The headline.

Let's review.

The Vice President asked the CIA to check into stories that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear materials in Niger. Joe Wilson, well know to be stridently opposed to the President and the invasion, was sent, at the suggestion of his wife. With no staff, no budget, no investigative experience, he spent a few days there "sipping tea" and talking to a few people. He came back and filed a report.

When the president said in his State of the Union address "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," Joe Wilson was outraged and he wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Times that began "Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq? " He reluctantly concluded it had.

Talk about fixing the intelligence. The 9/11 Commission is very clear that Wilson's report supported, rather than refuted the notion of an Iraqi attempt to make a deal with Niger. Every one of those sixteen words is as true today as it was in 2003. The British have never blinked. They say it's true. And the President merely said that the British were sure.

It was in the context of a reporter's attempt to tie Cheney to what Wilson said his report concluded that sources in the Administration made clear it was Wilson's wife who suggested him for the assignment, not Cheney or the CIA Director. Wilson denied this. He lied again.

The idea that the 'outing' of Ms. Plame was 'revenge' for damage done to the war plans is pretty weak as her name, her job and her opposition to the invasion were known in Washington. And the notion that her life, much less the lives of other agents and operatives was placed in danger is child foolish.

Mr. Wilson is a self-dramatising bureaucrat who was pushed aside and was angry. But he had something that was very useful: an apparent hammer against the evil genius behind the administration.

It seems very unlikely that Rove committed even a technical violation of the law. Some would disagree. His sin is the fact that he wins.

Having lived through the '90s, this is all very familiar to me. One difference, though. We didn't have the Times pimping for us.
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