Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dick Armitage is a poor excuse.

So, what we know so far is that Deputy Secretary of State Dick Armitage was the first source for Bob Novak when he outed Valerie Plame. Here’s what the Washington Post had to say about it:
It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House -- that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue.
This is bizarre thinking, unworthy of the paper that played such a big role in uncovering Watergate. Of course, that was when Bob Woodward was into the whole Fourth Estate as a check on government abuse of power. Now, he’s more into the kissing administration asses to get the scoop, and if necessary keeping the outing of Valerie Wilson on the q.t. to suck up to his handlers.

The Post’s argument is that Armitage’s name-dropping was just a matter of sharing gossip with Bob Novak. Now, maybe the Post doesn’t know the difference between “gossip” and a secret dossier that was created to discredit Wilson, but you can bet your bippie that Armitage does. But more directly to the point, if it is true that Armitage’s loose lips were just a thoughtless act, how does that discredit the fact that the White House was engaged in a very pre-meditated, coordinated effort to respond to the Wilson article? It doesn’t.

The White House no longer denies that Karl Rove was pushing the story. Chris Matthews has said, “Karl Rove called [him] up and said that ‘Valerie Plame is fair game.’” Did Scooter Libby give up Valerie Wilson to the press? What we know so far is that his denials got him indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. We know that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has alleged, and a grand jury has agreed, that there was a concerted effort in the White House to discredit Wilson in the course of which Valerie Wilson, a protected person, had her identity made public.

Joe Conason makes the point eloquently in The Observer, but he, too, is missing a crucial ingredient in this cocktail.

How did it help the White House to out Valerie Plame? The main theories put forward are (1) that it was simply to punish Joe Wilson, (2) it made Wilson look like a girly-man because his wife got him a gig, and (3) by portraying the trip to Africa as a “junket” they could deny that there was any fact-finding mission, at all. None of these make any sense, and it amazes me that they are accepted so uncritically.

Since The Price of Loyalty, at least, we have known that these are mean bastards in the White House. But would they destroy a CIA secret operative, engaged in learning about Iranian nuclear plans, to punish Joe Wilson, even in light of the damage that it did to ongoing operations by destroying her cover and exposing her contacts? Nah. They could have punished Wilson much more directly, for example, by trumping up some charges against him for revealing his “secret mission.” That would have bankrupted him.

Did you, dear reader, have the least bit of a negative reaction to Joe Wilson upon hearing that his wife may have played a role in sending him to Africa? Me, neither. It’s absurd to think that as buffoonish as these guys are, they would think, “Hey, once people learn that this former ambassador is married to a sexy spy, who sent him on a secret mission, people are just going to just think he’s a pussy and not pay any attention to him.” And how did it work out for them?

What about after you learned that when Saddam Hussein threatened to hang Ambassador Wilson, he put a noose on as if it were a necktie, and said, “I wanted Saddam to know that if he was going to hang me, I would bring my own fucking rope.” It was for this that Geo. Herbert Walker Bush called him, “a true American hero.”

Even if it were a “junket,” so what? Does that undermine the credibility of his findings? Nope. To do that, you have to attack Wilson’s credibility. There was plenty of that, to be sure, but it didn’t necessarily involve the Valerie Wilson connection. Also, notwithstanding the fumigations of the Washington post, none of it stood up.

When the White House launched the attack on Joe Wilson the war in Iraq was pretty much a done deal. And by the time the war came, the Bushies had acknowledged that the 16 words shouldn’t have been in the State of the Union address, and pretty much dropped the nuclear threat as a cause for the war.

So why did the White House attack Wilson’s wife? It was for one simple reason: the Bushies knew that Cheney had let King George make a State of the Union speech that he knew was bullshit. It wasn’t about hurting Wilson: it was about protecting Dick Deadeye. And so it was that Rove and Scooter were sent out to make the case that they had no idea about what Joe Wilson didn’t find in Africa.

It is crucial to understand that Darth Cheney thought that the article had stated that the he had personally sent Wilson to Niger. Wilson never said that, and what he did say was true, to wit: in response to questions raised by the Vice President, the CIA sent him on a mission to Niger. And so, when the veep’s clipping service sent him Wilson’s article, he scribbled some brainstorming ideas on how he can maintain plausible deniability regarding his knowledge of Wilson’s trip. “Was it a junket?” “Is it unusual to send a former ambassador on a trip like this?” You get the idea.

In order for Big Mitch’s theory to hold, you would want to see some evidence of Dead-eye Dick actually using plausible, but false, statements to deny his knowledge of Wilson’s trip. I posted it here and here:
This is from [Cheney’s] September 14, 2003 appearance on Meet the Press:

“I don’t know Joe Wilson. I’ve never met Joe Wilson. A question had arisen. I’d heard a report that the Iraqis had been trying to acquire uranium in Africa, Niger in particular. I get a daily brief on my own each day before I meet with the president to go through the intel. And I ask lots of question. One of the questions I asked at that particular time about this, I said, “What do we know about this?” They take the question. He came back within a day or two and said, “This is all we know. There’s a lot we don’t know,” end of statement. And Joe Wilson—I don’t who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report -- that I ever saw -- when he came back.

How is that possible? Well, for an answer let’s look again at what Wilson said in the now famous article in the Times:

Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.
You may say that this concern for Dick Cheney’s credibility is rather extreme. And you would be right. But extreme times call for extreme measures. Don’t forget that the bottom line on Joe Wilson’s argument is that the claim that Iraq was trying to obtain nuclear weapons was false, and Cheney knew it. Long ago, a majority of Americans came to the conclusion that if they lied us into a war, they ought to be impeached.

What happens when you get rid of a criminal vice-president who is the main reason for not impeaching the President of the United States? Ask Spiro Agnew.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

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