Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I don't post much about Plamegate, one reason being that I feel I'd have to devote my life to it in order to run with the big dogs who've made it their special area of expertise. Y'know, all hail Jane Hamsher and her crew at firedoglake, but their tireless pursuit of this subject makes my head hurt. You know how you felt during the scene in Slacker with the JFK assassination obsessive? That's how I sometimes feel when I read the firedoglakers. It's my fault, not theirs -- I know I could get up to speed on the subject if I put a little effort into it. But I'm not very bright and I'm lazy.

What this means to you, Dear Reader, is that I've held back on saying what I think about the whole Plame mess. I've been afraid to say it because I'm afraid that somewhere, in the gigabytes of prose on the subject you've all processed and I haven't, might be the proof that I'm completely clueless on this. But I still don't know what that proof is, so here goes.

I've simply never bought into the notion that Patrick Fitzgerald has these guys just where he wants them, that they won't wriggle off his hook, that many of them are going to go down. Sure, he blew through one administration cover story. But these are some of the most vicious sewer rats in the history of American politics, many of them with experience going back decades. And if one story doesn't survive his scrutiny, they'll devise a fallback, and then another; they'll throw everything at this case to minimize the likelihood of convictions, or at least to limit them to fish who aren't very big (or who can be pardoned by the lame-duck Bush sometime after the '08 elections). Good as he is, I'm not sure he's a match for them.

Well, now we have Bob Woodward stepping into the picture.

The Washington Post tells us that Woodward heard about Valerie Plame from an administration official nearly a month before her name appeared in Robert Novak's column. This throws off the timeline that emerged at the time of Fitzgerald's indictment. This challenges Fitzgerald's credibility.

How convenient.

And note the timing:

Fitzgerald interviewed Woodward about the previously undisclosed conversation after the [senior administration] official [with whom Woodward said he first discussed Plame] alerted the prosecutor to it on Nov. 3 -- one week after Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted in the investigation.

Yes, how convenient -- that this new story emerged just after everyone had a chance to read Fitzgerald's indictment. Am I paranoid to suspect that the new story was shaped around what Fitzgerald told us he knew?

And how curious this detail is:

Woodward's statement said he testified: "I told Walter Pincus, a reporter at The Post, without naming my source, that I understood Wilson's wife worked at the CIA as a WMD analyst."

Pincus said he does not recall Woodward telling him that. In an interview, Pincus said he cannot imagine he would have forgotten such a conversation around the same time he was writing about Wilson.

"Are you kidding?" Pincus said. "I certainly would have remembered that."

I am, to say the least, extremely skeptical about what Woodward's saying. I think it's meant to undermine Fitzgerald in the court of public opinion, and to sow confusion. Possibly the strategy is for some administration official other than Libby to step up to take the hit in order to protect the key guys, Cheney and Rove. In any case, we now have a counternarrative; it may not hold up in court, but it just got much easier for the right-wing punditocracy to portray Fitzgerald as having feet of clay.

And the man responsible is Bob Woodward -- the flattering courtier who declared in May that Dick Cheney was "a serious dark horse candidate" for president in 2008. Oh yeah, he's just being a reporter in all this.

Maybe I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but this smells fishy.

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