Skip to comments.TREASON (AND I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT ANN COULTER)
Posted on 07/22/2003 6:14:18 AM PDT by frithguild
I smell another New York Times retraction coming up. And a big one. Paul Krugman has made a statement in his Times column today which -- if it had been directed against a private individual rather than public officials -- would almost certainly trigger a libel suit. It's an extraordinarily serious allegation, tantamount to accusing Bush administration officials of treason.
"...Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative. That happens to be a criminal act..."
Krugman has been raking President Bush over the coals for his "16 words" in the State of the Union address -- so now, let's do a little raking with these "18 words" of Krugman's. Let's start by putting Krugman's 18 words in context (which is more than Krugman ever does when he quotes President Bush):
"And while we're on the subject of patriotism, let's talk about the affair of Joseph Wilson's wife. Mr. Wilson is the former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the C.I.A. to investigate reports of attempted Iraqi uranium purchases and who recently went public with his findings. Since then administration allies have sought to discredit him it's unpleasant stuff. But here's the kicker: both the columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine say that administration officials told them that they believed that Mr. Wilson had been chosen through the influence of his wife, whom they identified as a C.I.A. operative.
"Think about that: if their characterization of Mr. Wilson's wife is true (he refuses to confirm or deny it), Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative. That happens to be a criminal act; it's also definitely unpatriotic."
Okay, let's look at this statement under the microscope, and watch a lie being born.
We'll start with the first sentence: "And while we're on the subject of patriotism, let's talk about the affair of Joseph Wilson's wife." First, we're not "on the subject of patriotism." It's a peculiar error for a newspaper well known for being heavily copy-edited, but other than the title of the column -- "Who's Unpatriotic Now" -- there's was no reference to patriotism in the column whatsoever. And similarly, there's no "affair of Joseph Wilson's wife" -- these two paragraphs are the attempt to invent one.
The second sentence: "Mr. Wilson is the former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the C.I.A. to investigate reports of attempted Iraqi uranium purchases and who recently went public with his findings." What a coincidence -- it just so happens that Wilson "went public" by publishing an op-ed in none other but the New York Times itself on July 6. Considering that Krugman's Times column is a defense of copyrighted material that appeared in the Times, journalistic ethics demand that this potential conflict of interest be disclosed. But then...
The third sentence: "Since then administration allies have sought to discredit him it's unpleasant stuff." What's the "unpleasant stuff"? Krugman never says -- so are left to imagine a vicious smear campaign that does not, in fact, exist. CIA director George Tenet discussed Wilson's report (without naming Wilson) in his courageous statement in which he expressed regret that the Niger intelligence had been cited in the State of the Union address. While Tenet argued that the report was both incomplete and that elements of it partially supported the Niger intelligence, he said nothing whatsoever disparaging of Wilson. Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said in a press briefing the day after Wilson's Times op-ed that there was "zero, nada, nothing new here." And in another press briefing the day after Tenet's statement, Fleischer forcefully argued that Wilson was presenting a one-sided view of his investigation for the media. But there was no "unpleasant stuff" whatsoever. About the most "unpleasant stuff" I can find is the fact that Bush and security advisor Condoleezza Rice affronted Wilson's pride by not having read his report prior to the inclusion of the "16 words" in the State of the Union -- a regrettable omission that they freely admit.
The fourth sentence: "But here's the kicker: both the columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine say that administration officials told them that they believed that Mr. Wilson had been chosen through the influence of his wife, whom they identified as a C.I.A. operative." Isn't it remarkable that Krugman would quote conservative icon Robert Novak as an authority on anything more important than the time of day? Well, partisan punditry make strange bedfellows. Here's what Novak said in a July 14 Chicago Sun-Times column:
"Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me his wife suggested sending Wilson to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. 'I will not answer any question about my wife,' Wilson told me.
And here's what Time reported in a July 17 story:
"And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched [sic] Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore, sometimes referred to as yellow cake, which is used to build nuclear devices.
"In an interview with TIME, Wilson, who served as an ambassador to Gabon and as a senior American diplomat in Baghdad under the current president's father, angrily said that his wife had nothing to do with his trip to Africa. 'That is bulls__t. That is absolutely not the case,' Wilson told TIME. 'I met with between six and eight analysts and operators from CIA and elsewhere [before the Feb 2002 trip]. None of the people in that meeting did I know, and they took the decision to send me. This is a smear job.'"
This is a "smear job"? To suggest that Wilson's wife "suggested" or "was involved" in Wilson's trip? For one thing, who's to say it's not true -- according to Novak, the CIA agrees Plame was "involved" -- and if it is true, is it still a smear? And what if it's false -- what exactly is the "unpleasant stuff" here? Is it the implication that Wilson's wife finagled an all expenses paid trip for her hubby to Niger? Now maybe if he were investigating Iraqi uranium purchases from Maui I could see the point, but it seems to me the most "unpleasant" element of it is that it suggests that Ms. Plame must not like her husband very much.
Now on to the fifth sentence: "Think about that: if their characterization of Mr. Wilson's wife is true (he refuses to confirm or deny it), Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative." Huh?! When did "their characterization" of Ms. Plame go from being an "operative" (per Novak) or an "official" (per Time) to being a "covert operative"? That's Krugman's characterization. That's not reporting... that's not commentary... it's just plain old making stuff up. Apparently the Times has learned nothing about fact-checking from the Jayson Blair scandal -- or perhaps Krugman longs for the same kind of Pablo Picasso-like "retirement" from the Times that former executive editor Howell Raines told Charlie Rose he intends to enjoy -- now that he's been chucked out onto the hard pavement of 43rd Street.
Okay, we're almost there -- one sentence to go: "That happens to be a criminal act; it's also definitely unpatriotic." Well, there we have it. It's one thing for Krugman to use every dirty trick in the book to disagree with the policies of the Bush administration (though even there, only an utterly amoral partisan would agree that his end justifies his means). But this is something far worse. He has accused the Bush administration of endangering the life of a "covert operative" by exposing her. He has, in essence, accused the Bush administration of a conspiracy to commit treason.
If that's not what he really means -- if that's not what the New York Times means -- then it is most urgent that a retraction be immediately forthcoming.
This makes complete sense because they don't want their reporters or columnists to engage in such time-wasting activity. They were embarrassed over the Jayson Blair scandal only because their affirmative action baby blew up in their faces, not because he was not checking his facts.
Couric had an indignation party with Wilson on Today. Barf up your Cheerios alert.
Excellent comment! Krugman Truth Squad PING!
I no longer see Luskin's work at NRO... thanks for posting!
I wouldn't call what he does economics. Like Robert Reich, he is a pseudo-economist. Thanks for the post!