The Corner

Smearing Wilson

In arguments with readers and others I keep hearing the same argument: Why would the White House go to such lengths to smear Wilson if what he was saying wasn’t true?

I just don’t get it. At all. First of all, What lengths? Was I out of the country when the White House mounted a full bore assault on Wilson? When I ask for examples from people peddling this the answer invariably is “They outed Valerie Plame!”

Well, that’s actually the subject of considerable debate, no? Novak’s source wasn’t charged with anything. Novak himself was an opponent of the war, so why would he be the go-to guy for a smear campaign? The conversations Libby allegedly had were brief. The evidence that the motive of her outing was punishment as opposed to a desire to rebut Wilson has never been presented. The fact that a smear is usually associated with saying something untrue as opposed to true — as was the case here — is often overlooked as well.

But, whatever, we will be debating that for a long time. But where is the rest of the smear campaign? Is the entire list taken up by the Valerie Plame outing? Is that all there is?

Moreover, let’s assume I just missed this smear campaign and it really took place. Why does it follow that the White House would only come down on Wilson like a ton of bricks if he was telling the truth? Doesn’t it make exactly as much sense to come down like a ton of bricks on a guy if you think he’s lying? Especially when those lies are undermining the war? Indeed, there’s vastly more evidence that Wilson launched — with the aid of a still pliant media and the Kerry campaign — a smear campaign against the White House. Is it really so outrageous that the White House would respond? Particularly given the larger political climate? I just don’t get it.

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