The Corner

Thinner Gruel

Salon.com has a “defense” of Joe Wilson. For the most part, the piece is a dull, he-said she-said about the controversy so far, generally sympathetic to Wilson, with some sneaky bits hid in the dull prose in order to make them seem more reasonable. For example the author, Mary Jacoby, says “But no sale of uranium ever took place, Wilson reported, and that conclusion is not in dispute.” That’s true, but Bush never said Iraq purchased the uranium, he merely said Iraq sought it. Wilson said Iraq didn’t and that his cryptic sweet-tea swilling conversations proved it. That’s the part that’s in dispute. Nobody sent Wilson to Africa because they thought Iraq actually obtained the uranium. This is a back-handed way of bolstering Wilson’s “credibility” in an area where it was never questioned. Wilson, by the way, also contends that Africa is by and large a very hot contintent with many exotic animals. That conclusion is not in dispute either.

Another minor cheap bit is the author’s positive gloss on the memo from Plame touting her husband. Jacoby writes:

The report also quotes an internal CIA memo written by Wilson’s wife, Plame, stating: “my husband has good relations with both the PM (prime minister) and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” Based on Plame’s internal memo and other evidence, three Republicans — Roberts and Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Kit Bond of Missouri — wrote additional views appended to the report, concluding that “the plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested” by Plame.The three GOP senators criticized their Democratic counterparts on the panel for refusing to endorse this conclusion.

In his letter to the committee, Wilson disputed the Republican senators’ characterization. “There is no suggestion or recommendation in that statement that I be sent on the trip,” he wrote. A CIA spokeswoman declined to comment. In an interview, Wilson said that his wife was stating facts about his background, not pushing that he go to Niger.

Two things: First, if I declare I really need a great personal assistant and someone sends me an email saying “My husband can type 150 words per minute. He’s very well organized, sharp and has great research skills” — that would strike me as an effort to push her husband for the job. Second, Jacoby notes that Wilson disputes the memo’s significance. What about “the other evidence” used to draw the conclusion Plame touted Wilson for the job?

Anyway, there are a few other clever sentences like that in the piece. But the only truly annoying assertion is in the opening. The author begins:

Choreographed editorials and Op-Ed pieces on Thursday in the Wall Street Journal and National Review and by conservative columnist Robert Novak signaled the revving up of a Republican campaign to discredit former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his claims that President Bush trumpeted flimsy intelligence in the drive to invade Iraq.

“Choreographed”? Where does Jacoby get this? Where is the evidence? Consider the irony for a moment. The whole debate about “Bush lied,” WMDs, etc. is about whether or not various facts and developments were intentional or not. Were all of the CIA mistakes actually lies? Was every thing which went wrong done on purpose? And here Salon blithely asserts that conservatives colluded to attack Wilson upon the release of this report.

I know, I know, the Salon style manual seems to insist that all inconvenient arguments from the Right are coordinated for maximum effect. Sidney Blumenthal is their Washington Editor after all. But, seriously, where is the evidence for this? As someone fairly deep inside the “right wing attack machine” or whatever those guys call it this week, I can tell you for a fact that I saw no coordination. Most of the reaction was initially driven by bloggers (including yours truly). Salon should know that you can’t “choreograph” bloggers. And I defy them to prove that Bob Novak was being choreographed. That’s just flatly dumb and defies common sense. Is Jacoby lying on orders from Blumenthal? Or is she simply imagining things? I mean, come on, there is some actual merit to the case that Wilson deliberately lied for partisan reasons about some of the most serious issues imagineable. That’s pretty much been proven. The case that Bush lied, meanwhile, continues to fall apart.

UPDATE Jacoby was Wes Clark’s press secretary.

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