I’m getting a lot of angry email from people about the Plame stuff. Here’s the basic problem. The “left” — to use a convenient label — takes it as a given that Plame was outed with the specific intent at least to punish and intimidate Joe Wilson and at most to put Plame’s life in danger. The “right” takes it as a given that Plame was outed in order to cast light on Joe Wilson’s credibility or lack thereof — probably inadvertantly and without knowledge of her status. The problem is that, as of right now, neither of these positions are provable. I am pretty convinced of the “right” position, just as Josh Marshall & Co. are convinced of the “left” position.
But the problem with so much of my angry email is that my correspondents take it as a given that I agree with their assumptions. “You’re willing to defend anything this administration does!” shriek many. No, I can think of lots of things this administration has done I’m unwilling to defend. “You think it’s okay to out covert operatives during a war to punish political opponents!” Again, no: I don’t think that’s okay at all. I just don’t believe that was what happened. If that did happen, if Karl Rove or Mary Matalin or Scooter Libby in any way intended to have Plame harmed in order to shut up Wilson, I think that would be very, very bad. But I don’t think that happened, and all of these people calling me a partisan hack could at least take that into account when they sputter their e-spittle at me.
When you think about it, this dynamic explains most of the really nasty partisan spats in Washington. The anti-Clinton crowd often believed that the left really agreed with the right about the underlying crimes and lies but was willing to forgive them for expediency’s sake. Today, the anti-Bush crowd thinks all conservatives really secretly accept that Bush is a stupid liar but we’re unwilling to admit it because we’re partisan power-worshippers. The reality is that most — certainly not all — ideologues and even a majority of partisans argue in good faith most of the time. And both sides would be better served if they understood that.