Sunday, July 17, 2005


A Fair and Balanced Summary of Rovegate

As I read this Washington Post article that purports to "step back from the rapidly unfolding events of recent weeks and clarify what is known about the Plame affair", my bias detector is going off like a car alarm in a hailstorm.

It all started in the early days of 2002 with Joseph C. Wilson IV, a flamboyant ex-diplomat who had left government for a more lucrative life of business consulting.
Flamboyant? Is that a code word for "self-aggrandizing" or "attention-seeking"? Are we being told here that Wilson is an opportunist and therefore shouldn't be trusted? (Wilson's demeanor, the times I've seen him on TV, has been far from what I'd call "flamboyant".)
Wilson spent a week in Niger chatting with locals about the allegation, coming to the conclusion that the yellowcake charges were probably unfounded.
Does this sound to anybody else like Wilson barely went through the motions, made only a very superficial effort at finding out the truth? And so we shouldn't trust his findings?
Wilson set out to discredit the charge, working largely through back channels at first to debunk it. He called friends inside the government and the media, and told the New York Times's Nicholas D. Kristof of his findings in Niger.
"Discredit" is an odd word to use here. It means to damage someone's credibility, and it often has the connotation of "he said/she said, there's no way to know the truth for certain, choose whom you want to believe". In this context, the word suggests that Wilson didn't have a factual basis for challenging the yellowcake charge.
The Bush team spread word to reporters that Wilson was a Democrat, a supporter of Bush's political opponents who was sent on an inconclusive mission that people in power knew nothing of.
At this point it would be appropriate to tell the readers whether these assertions are true. Was Wilson a Democrat? He grew up as a conservative Republican and served both Democratic and Republican administrations, earning praise from George H. W. Bush and retiring during Bill Clinton's administration. Was he a supporter of Bush's political opponents? He endorsed John Kerry for president — after the Bush administration launched its all-out attack on him. He was not active in politics before then. The reporters, however, leave the assertions unchallenged, leaving the readers free to believe falsehoods. The rest of the article is a fairly straightforward account of how the criminal investigation began and has proceeded. So why were the reporters so "careless" when they wrote about Wilson that their odd word choices — and failure to rebut the Bush team's attack on Wilson — tend to (you should pardon the expression) discredit Wilson?
Yep, that's the little brown pile.

I also liked the questions at the end as well as the mention the Plain Dealer's gutless cowardice.

Pablum. Brown pablum.
The "chatting with the locals" line is also the subtle reworking of the GOP's "it was just a vacation junket!" lie. Somehow, if I wanted my all-powerful wife who was really just an office girl to force Dick Cheney into sending me to a place for a tourist junket, I'd try to pick a spot where I wouldn't be too likely to get malaria or meningitis.
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