Thursday, July 24, 2003

Ok, as it would appear somewhat necessary, I'm going to pull the "grab a former post from CalPundit's comment archives trick, regarding one (minute)man's lonely quest to build a case for the defense in the Plame affair.

Although I'm usually not that critical of the Minuteman (except for the reflexive Krugman bashing), I somewhat think that Tom Maguire's trying to cover for Bush.

When I first mentioned the story he was quick to attack Wilson's credibility on a story about his own wife's safety, the fact that the CIA apparently confirmed it (leaving aside the question of whether the administration officials did it or not) and whether or not she really was an agent (focusing on Wilson's refusal to "out" her himself as proof of this, despite his other attacks on Wilson's credibility).

Now that her job is confirmed, he's hairsplitting over "administration" vs. "governmental" which, while accurate, may not have been as carefully thought out in the other pieces on the subject (including Novak's.) He claims that there was a careful distinction made, but look at this paragraph from the Time story:

Government officials are not only privately disputing the genesis of Wilson's trip, but publicly contesting what he found. Last week Bush Administration officials said that Wilson's report reinforced the president's claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa. They say that when Wilson returned from Africa in Feb. 2002... The Administration claims Wilson reported that the former Nigerien official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales.
The topic sentence of this paragraph mentions "government officials", and the paragraph itself continually refers to "administration officials". Yes, there is a later section where they use the term "government officials" to refer to Tenet, but the damage is already done. Sorry, but either the Time people think that administration=governmental, or they're far, far too lazy to rigorously make that distinction. Either way, any argument of Tom's based on that article is riddled with holes.

Okay, original content again. The big problem here is that Maguire is assuming that journalists are going to be incredibly careful about what most people would consider a hairsplitting difference. Even a quick interview with anybody involved in these sorts of issues knows that journalists aren't that careful, and the original Novak piece can be interpreted in more ways than Tom seems to think. Besides, Novak remains a supporter of the administration in most respects, and almost certainly did not intend for this to blow up into a huge scandal. He may not be a big war backer, but I doubt that he's going to want to be instrumental in the downfall of the Bush administration. That would probably have an, um, somewhat noticeable effect on his career.

For all that I don't agree with him (and think that the Krugman bashing is Quixotic) I'm actually relatively fond of Tom's work and his blog. Plus, he likes Jon Stewart. I would almost prefer that his interpretation be correct as well, because if the allegations are true this goes far beyond misleading speechmaking, naughty Oval Office cigar games, or breaking into hotel rooms. Still, I don't think either is the case... I don't see the reason why the CIA would out its own agent, and intra-CIA conflict pales compared to the hatred the Agency now has for the Bushies.

Oh, and one more thing: since Time wasn't making the distinction properly, Tom, Krugman was right. It's fine, I don't need the apology, but I'm sure the good Professor would be fine with an apologetic email.

(Or perhaps a nice fruitcake? Lots of those going around right now.)

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