Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why the White House Panicked Over Joe Wilson

It's no surprise that the Libby trial shows the White House in disarray even when it's doing message control, one of the few areas where it supposedly knows what it's doing, at least sometimes. Today, Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly goes back in time to July 2005 and reminds us of a more specific reason why the White House panicked over Joe Wilson statements about the phony Niger/Iraq uranium claim that helped make the case for war in Iraq:
...Step back from Plamegate for a moment and ask yourself a broader question: why did the White House react so violently to Joe Wilson's suggestion that the story about Saddam Hussein trying to procure uranium from Niger was false? After all, as conservative apologists never tire of pointing out, Wilson didn't really debunk George Bush's words in the 2003 State of the Union address. Bush said only that Saddam "sought" uranium from Africa, while Wilson merely provided evidence that no uranium ever changed hands. The fact is, Wilson's report didn't invalidate Bush's statement.

So why did the White House go nuts? What were they so scared of that they went into full-blown smear-and-destroy mode?

One of the advantages of living in Orange County is that I have plenty of centrist and conservative acquaintances, and one thing I've learned from them is that even among Bush's own supporters it was the possibility of Saddam getting hold of nukes that really scared them. Chemical and biological weapons were a bit of a yawn. Without nukes, even Bush sympathizers were skeptical about the whole Iraq adventure.

Kevin Drum doesn't specifically bring it up but his post post is suggestive in terms of validating Libby when he says the White House made him a fall guy in order to protect Karl Rove, the architect of the public relations campaign to justify the invasion of Iraq in the first place. In fact, Drum should have pointed out that Rove, in the days after Bush's SOTU speech, was making sure the press got the more detailed version of the Niger/Iraq claim that Wilson indeed debunked. It was never about just sixteen words.

The mainstream media still has much to explain in terms of why it went along with the phony case for war. It was hypocritical, for example, for Tim Russert to give John Edwards the business the other day on Meet the Press over Edwards' admission that he made a mistake on his vote on Iraq in 2002; where was Russert at the time? Russert was pretty much helping the administration make its case for war with far too little close questioning despite available material at the time. It's important to note that one of the things that has come out in the Libby trial is that Russert was considered by the White House as one of their best go-to guys in the press. The mainstream media still has a lot of work to do in terms of cleaning up its act.

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