Still Wrong, Always Wrong
Kevin Drum's got some interesting stuff up today. He is one of the blogosphere's resident experts on the Plame story --- he was the go-to guy when it broke and he seems to to remember a lot of details I've forgotton (or never knew.)
He reminds us today (via Mickey Kaus) of this Howard Fineman analysis from 2003 in which Fineman speculates that the leak was really an attempt to smear Wilson and his wife as being part of a "pro-Saddam" CIA cabal. Here's the relevant excerpt:
I am told by what I regard as a very reliable source inside the White House that aides there did, in fact, try to peddle the identity of Joe Wilson’s wife to several reporters. But the motive wasn’t revenge or intimidation so much as a desire to explain why, in their view, Wilson wasn’t a neutral investigator, but, a member of the CIA’s leave-Saddam-in-place team.
I think this may very well have played into at least some of the participants' thinking at the time although since they've never made this explicit in the smear, I think it may have been meant more for beltway kids and the wingnut choir than for broad public consumption. This is inside baseball stuff.
The big players in this turf war are the neocons and Dick Cheney, who is only sort of an honorary neocon. He and Rummy are more simple craven power mongers. (He doesn't give a shit about democracy which the neocons sorta, kinda do, even though they think we should create it by force, which is incoherent.) Anyway, it's imnportant to remember that within this administration are a whole bunch of people who think that the CIA is made up of a bunch of hippies who don't understand How The World Works.
What's interesting about them is that they have always been wrong about everything. If there was no other reason not to back the war in Iraq, it was that it was being pushed by people who have either hugely overestimated every single threat this country has faced for the last 30 years or gotten the nature of the threat completely upside down.
Lawrence Korb wrote a piece about this subject in August of 2004, called "Time To Bench Team B":
The reports of the 9/11 Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence miss the real problem facing the intelligence community. The real problem is not organization or culture, but the Team B concept which began in 1976, and the real villains are those hardliners who refuse to accept the unbiased and balanced judgments of intelligence professionals about the threats facing the country.
To be sure, the intelligence community has made misjudgments. That is to be expected. But given the fact that the intelligence community has been second-guessed and publicly embarrassed when it tried to present unbiased objective assessments of threats from the Soviets, China, and rogue nations, it is not surprising that it caved in on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. While there was no formal Team B pressure, the hardliners were now back in power.
And from the Soviet threat to China to rogue states to Iraq, the neocons and hardliners were wrong each and every time. And they weren't just wrong on some details, they massively, abundently wrong about everything. Korb discusses one particular fact in his piece that I think illuminates their rather insane view about terrorism:
In 1981, after the publication of Clare Sterling's book, "The Terror Network," which argued that global terrorists were actually pawns of the Soviets, leading hard-liners asked the CIA to look into the relationship between Soviets and terrorist organizations. The agency concluded that although there was evidence that the Soviets had assisted groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization with weapons and training, there was no evidence that the Soviets encouraged or approved these groups' terrorist acts. However, hard-liners like Secretary of State Alexander Haig, CIA Chief William Casey and Policy Planning Director Wolfowitz rejected the draft as a naive, exculpatory brief and had the draft retooled to assert that the Soviets were heavily involved in supporting "revolutionary violence worldwide."
Since they never adjust to changing circumstances or admit any new evidence that doesn't fit their preconcieved notions, this was still the framework they were working from when bin Laden came on the scene. It's why the neocon nutcase Laurie Mylroie was able to convince people in the highest reaches of the Republican intelligensia that Saddam had something to do with bin Laden, even though there was never a scintilla of evidence to back it up. They simply could not,and cannot to this day, come to grips with the fact that their view of how terrorism works --- through "rogue states" and totalitarian sponsorship --- is simply wrong.
When Clare Sterling's book came out CIA director William Casey was said to have told his people, "read Claire Sterling's book and forget this mush. I paid $13.95 for this and it told me more than you bastards who I pay $50,000 a year." Wolfowitz and Feith are said to have told their staff in the Pentagon to read Laurie Mylroie's book about Saddam and al Qaeda. Richard Clarke, in "Against All Enemies" quotes Wolfowitz as saying: "You give Bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does not mean they don't exist."
This, then, is simply how they think. It's as Rob Cordry says, "the facts are biased." (That's the state of mind that led neocon Judith Miller to make her bizarre incomprehensible comment "I was proved fucking right!") They truly believe that even though they have been completely wrong about everything for the past thirty years that it just can't be so.
And no matter what, in their minds the the CIA is always trying to screw them.
So the political environment in which Valeria Plame was outed was virtually hallucinogenic. There may have really been some part of certain members of the Bush administration's dysfunctional lizard brains that really thought in July of 2003 that the CIA had been trying to set them up and used Joe Wilson to do it.
But it's not July of 2003 now, is it? It's two years later and we know for a fact that the analysts, including Wilson, who said the Niger deal was bullshit were right and we know that the analysts who doubted the evidence about Saddam's WMD were right too.
Not that this will stop the Team B neocons from insisting that "they were proved fucking right." They really are delusional and they always have been.
Karl Rove, however, is a lot of things, but delusional isn't one of them. He just put out the hit on Plame and Wilson to shut down the questions Wilson was raising. He was taking care of business. But others in the administration may have made a good case, at least in their own beautiful minds, that they were the victims. God knows these people love to be victims.
I don't know if you saw Wilson on the Today show, but I thought he acquitted himself very well --- mainly because he kept on the topic of the larger Iraq lies. I really think this is a key to making people understand this story.
There is a confluence of events right now with the bad news on the ground in Iraq, the Downing Street memos, the London bombings and Rovegate flaring up that are beginning to filter into the body politic. A new conventional wisdom is being written. I think that people are putting these things together which is why you are seeing the preciputous dip in the president's approval ratings. It's not that people know, or even want to know, the details. Only junkies like me (and you) get this into it. But the ground has shifted and people are understanding that something went terribly wrong.
The president's right hand man exposing a covert CIA agent for political puposes perfectly symbolizes the entire fetid mess.
Update: Looks like Rush got the memo. According to Bradblog:
Rush's final words at the end of the show (referring to the Press Conference scheduled by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to happen shortly): "Chuck Shumer is Joe Wilson's 'handler' in this agency plot to bring down the President."
Are the dittoheads buying this?