changing the subject

Glenn says that we should "forget" the Plame issue, because the "real" story is Joe Wilson:

Forget Valerie Plame, the big scandal is why anyone in the Bush Administration would ever have tasked a guy with Wilson's views[1] with an important mission... Regardless of the rest of the story, heads should roll for that.

Look, I understand that some people believe that the war on Iraq was justified and that anyone espousing a different view is fundamentally wrong. I happen to have almost the precise view. And at least people who disagree on this can agree with (for example) Howard Dean that having invaded Iraq, we have to succeed there. So I respect Glenn's view and am able to agree with him on the far more important issue of what we do now despite our disagreement on how we got to this point.

But claiming that Wilson's views about Iraq are even relevant to the Plame affair - let alone being more important - is ultimately tantamount to Bush apologism. Unwitting, perhaps, but apologism just the same, because it simply helps the Administration political partisans fan smoke to cover their tracks. It's like a Clintonista talking about blowjobs instead of perjury.[2]

Note that the conflict of interest of having Justice investigate the White House leak has already materialized to the detriment of the public interest, by giving the perpetrators a 12-hour advance warning in which the criminal leakers could conceivably have destroyed documents:

The [Justice] department notified Gonzales about 8:30 p.m. Monday that it was launching an investigation but said he could wait until the next morning to notify staff and direct them to preserve relevant material, McClellan said.

I think it's simply wrong to try and shift the issue from who outed Plame, who we know to have been an actual CIA undercover operative specializing in finding hidden weapons of mass destruction, to a political attack on Wilson's credibility. It's unrelated to the actual crime that has occurred.

Still, just for the record, I will address Glenn's statements that the "real scandal" is Wilson's views. Why would someone with Wilson's views be assigned to such an important mission?

Well, the Post reports that he had a significant (and unimpeachable) sponsor:

This toughness impressed President George H.W. Bush, who called Wilson a "truly inspiring" diplomat who exhibited "courageous leadership" by facing down Hussein and helping to gain freedom for the Americans before the 1991 war began.

Also, note that during the previous Bush presidency, Ambassador Wilson served in Baghdad as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy. During Operation Desert Shield he was the acting Ambassador negoitiated the release of several hundred American hostages. He was a member of the U.S. Diplomatic Service from 1976 until 1998His African assignments include Niamey, Niger, 1976-1978; Lome, Togo, 1978-79; the State Department Bureau of African Affairs, 1979-1981; and Pretoria, South Africa, 1981-1982.

The man was qualified. Finally, for a detailed account of what Wilson actually did in Niger to investigate the claim, read the TPM interview and judge for yourself.

[1] Glenn links to Bill Hobbs, who tries to argue Wilson is lying when he claims he has an apolitical interest in the issue of Iraqi uranium. Hobbs makes a number of critiques of Wilson's statements, but all of these are for his policy opinoins on the Iraq war, drawn from his own experience and contacts. He doesn't attack the GOP, or President Bush, or argue a partisan case here in any way. He strongly critiques the Administration for its policy. This is the very essence of being apolitical - focusing on policy, not on partisanship.
[2] Comparisons to other Presidential scandals are of course currency of the realm. But it's worth noting that the head of the RNC has rightfully conceded that if there is truth to the Plame affair, it's far more serious a matter than Watergate.:

Hardball (MSNBC - 9/30/03):

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Don't you think it's more serious than Watergate, when you think about it?

RNC CHAIRMAN ED GILLESPIE: I think if the allegation is true, to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative -- it's abhorrent, and it should be a crime, and it is a crime.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: It'd be worse than Watergate, wouldn't it?

GILLESPIE: It's -- Yeah, I suppose in terms of the real world implications of it. It's not just politics

That's why I am not using the tired -gate suffix but calling it the Plame Affair in its own right.

No comments: