Thursday :: Jul 14, 2005

Talking Points For Treason (Part II): Joseph Wilson and Dick Cheney


by eriposte

Picking up from my previous post, another strong meme from the Radical Far Right (i.e., the GOP leadership) in their Talking Points For Treason(TM) is this:

Karl Rove Discouraged A Reporter From Writing A False Story Based on A False Premise

The False Premise Was Joe Wilson's Allegation That The Vice President Sent Him to Niger

Is this claim from the GOP accurate?

To answer that question, I'm going to address it in three parts (note: this is a long post but that's unavoidable).

A. Does the GOP's Talking Points For Treason(TM) document offer evidence for their claim against Joseph Wilson?

B. Did Joseph Wilson Make Such a Claim?

C. CONCLUSION: Is there any merit to the GOP's assertion?


A. Does the GOP's Talking Points For Treason(TM) offer evidence for their claim against Joseph Wilson?

Short Answer: NO

Josh Marshall took a look at the GOP's claim - specifically one of the extracts offered in the GOP's Talking Points For Treason(TM) to support this claim. What did he find?

But look at one of the news clips Mehlman adduces as evidence ...
Joe Wilson: “What They Did, What The Office Of The Vice President Did, And, In Fact, I Believe Now From Mr. Libby’s Statement, It Was Probably The Vice President Himself ...” (CNN’s “Late Edition,” 8/3/03)
So there it is. Wilson saying that it was the vice president himself.

Look at the actual transcript of the show Mehlman is referring to with the parts Mehlman chose to leave out in bold (we come into the interview with Wolf Blitzer talking to Wilson and about to play a tape of another interview with Condi Rice)

[...]

BLITZER: Is that true?

WILSON: Well, look, it's absolutely true that neither the vice president nor Dr. Rice nor even George Tenet knew that I was traveling to Niger.

What they did, what the office of the vice president did, and, in fact, I believe now from Mr. Libby's statement, it was probably the vice president himself...

BLITZER: Scooter Libby is the chief of staff for the vice president.

WILSON: Scooter Libby.

They asked essentially that we follow up on this report -- that the agency follow up on the report. So it was a question that went to the CIA briefer from the Office of the Vice President. The CIA, at the operational level, made a determination that the best way to answer this serious question was to send somebody out there who knew something about both the uranium business and those Niger officials that were in office at the time these reported documents were executed.

This is Mehlman's evidence for his claim that "Wilson Falsely Claimed That It Was Vice President Cheney Who Sent Him To Niger."
The other extract offered as "evidence" in the GOP's Talking Points For Treason(TM) is this one:
Wilson Says He Traveled To Niger At CIA Request To Help Provide Response To Vice President’s Office. “In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had questions about a particular intelligence report. … The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office.” (Joseph C. Wilson, Op-Ed, “What I Didn’t Find In Africa,” The New York Times, 7/6/03)
Actually if you read that specific article of Wilson's, you will find ZERO evidence of Wilson claiming that "...It Was Vice President Cheney Who Sent Him To Niger".

So, neither of the specific sources cited in the GOP's Talking Points For Treason(TM) actually prove their claim about Wilson. (Journalists, please make a note of this.)

Now, Tom Maguire of Just One Minute, in comments to one of my earlier posts, said: "Anyway, focusing strictly on Wilson's published piece is a cute way to sidestep some of the ghastly history." Well, first of all, I did not actually "just focus" on Wilson's published piece in my post. But, I agree that even though the GOP leadership is filled with lying liars, fact-checking requires me to acknowledge something that Bob Somerby has noted today (which I had not seen when I published my earlier post).



B. Did Joseph Wilson Make Such a Claim (about Cheney)?

SHORT ANSWER: It depends on what the claim is.

If the claim is that "Cheney sent him" there is evidence (above) that Wilson said the opposite. If the claim is that Cheney's office was somehow involved in his trip to Niger, then yes Wilson had said something to that effect. But this does not prove the GOP's case as I show in part C.

Bob Somerby notes:

And the following morning, Wilson’s juices were clearly flowing when he glad-handed (and semi-misstated) on CNN’s American Morning:

BILL HEMMER (7/7/03): Ambassador Joseph Wilson is back with us here on American Morning live in D.C. Good to have you back! Good morning to you!

[...]

HEMMER: It's a wonderful day for us here at American Morning! You went to Niger several years ago. You concluded essentially that Iraq could not buy this uranium from that country. Why not?

WILSON: Well, I went in, actually in February of 2002 was my most recent trip there—at the request, I was told, of the office of the vice president, which had seen a report in intelligence channels about this purported memorandum of agreement on uranium sales from Niger to Iraq.

Was Wilson trying to mislead viewers? We wouldn’t make that charge, but Republicans had every right to correct a misimpression that clearly was out there—the misimpression that Cheney’s office had sent Wilson off to Niger.

So, Somerby provides evidence for Wilson having said at least on one occasion that he was told Cheney's office made the request for his trip. Now, this is not the same as Wilson saying that he had personal knowledge that Cheney's office sent him, only that he was told that Cheney's office was involved in some way. But even if you interpret this sentence in the worst manner possible (for Wilson), the questions we have to answer are the following:
Did Wilson's claim require the revelation of Wilson's wife's secret identity to dispel the alleged inaccuracy?

Were there other even more likely motives assignable to Rove's behavior?



C. CONCLUSION: Is there any merit to the GOP's assertion?

SHORT ANSWER: NO

Item B above (which was not offered by the GOP but by Bob Somerby) provides no support whatsoever for the GOP's claim that Rove had to expose Valerie Plame's identity because of this.

Why?

1. All Rove needs to have told Matt Cooper or anyone else in the media is this:

The Vice President's Office has stated clearly that they played NO role in Wilson's trip. His trip was not made at the request of the Vice President but at the request of some "lower level" officials within the CIA.
Indeed, the GOP's Talking Points For Treason (TM) provides a quote by Dick Cheney issuing a denial on 9/14/03. When all it takes to correct an inaccuracy is to state what is accurate, there is no explanation on earth that can justify the need to expose Valerie Plame's identity to make the same point.

After all, the GOP wants all Americans, especially the ones they hope are always gullible, to believe every utterance of theirs and take them at face value. So, why attack someone using their wife as a pawn, expose the wife's secret identity and then lie to the source about the wife, in return? The last fact alone proves that honesty or setting the facts straight was not the real motive here, but we don't even need that to make the case against Rove.

Indeed, what does Wilson's wife's "suggestion" have anything to do with Wilson's claims about uranium and WMDs or lack thereof? There was no need to expose Wilson's wife to make a case against Wilson considering that the Bush administration ran the CIA and could have pulled out all kinds of "factual" debunking of Wilson's claims on their own, without having to resort to exposing Wilson's wife.

Which leads us to the real motives of Karl Rove and the Bush administration.

2. After initially acknowledging their mistake on the "16 words" (after Wilson's op-ed appeared), the Bush administration realized the damage this admission could do to Dear Leader's re-election prospects and launched a wide-ranging disinformation campaign, that was interrupted now and then by snippets revealing the disinformation. In other words, they knew they had sold Americans a pack of lies on uranium and WMDs (explained in detail here, for example) and had to find a way to save face by attacking and diverting attention to one of the key spokesmen at the time (Joseph Wilson) who, imperfect as he may have been with his facts (though far far far less "imperfect" on facts than the Bush administration), was telling America that the Bush administration went to war using misleading or false claims.

3. In addition, as I have mentioned here on this blog and as Think Progress noted:

Why did Karl Rove leak the covert identy of a CIA agent to a reporter? Here’s what his lawyer wants you to believe:
Robert Luskin, attorney for Karl Rove: “This was not an effort to encourage Time to disclose her identity. What he was doing was discouraging Time from perpetuating some statements that had been made publicly and weren’t true.”
But before getting sucked into that spin, it’s important to remember what a senior administration official told the Washington Post shortly after the leak investigation began.
“A senior administration official said that before Novak’s column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife… ‘Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge,’ the senior official said of the alleged leak.”
Revenge is certainly one of the Bushies defining traits, far more than honesty ever was or ever will be.

4. The Bushies are known inventors of post-facto fake justifications for their fakery. The 16 words issue, among many others, demonstrated that amply. So, why would anyone who is even remotely rational give them even a shred of a benefit of doubt about their real motives here?

As Dave Johnson says:

Just keep pounding on Rove, what he did, and why this is important. Rove outed a covert CIA agent working on keeping WMD out of the hands of terrorists. This "rolled up" her network of contacts, possibly getting some killed. And by exposing her he exposed her cover company, possibly causing damage to other agents and networks as well.

Rove did this at a time of war against terrorists. His act exposed all of us to increased danger of attack by those WMDs she was trying to keep away from terrorists.

Obviously, this is an extraordinary motive for lying about the real reasons why Rove exposed Plame in the first place. (Also see Digby for more).

In summary:

The GOP Talking Points For Treason(TM) do not prove that Rove did what he did to correct the record about Wilson's claim regarding Cheney.

They prove that the Republican Party leadership will go to any length to condone or justify unconscionable, borderline or actual treasonous acts (by Republicans), in order to further cover-up the real reasons for such acts -- namely, the Bush administration's use of fabricated, false and misleading claims to take this country to a war that has made this country far less safe than it was even on 9/11/01.

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