I just re-read the Rice piece in the Post again and it's really pretty devastating. You read it and it's hard not to come to the conclusion that Rice is either really incompetent or really ... well, less than honest in a few of the answers she's given on the Niger debacle. Or maybe it's fifty-fifty? In any case, it ain't good.
The only serious beef I have with the article is that the authors -- Dana Milbank and Mike Allen -- mocked a line I'd been planning to mock for several days. But they mocked it in a sufficiently understated manner that, if you'll indulge me, I'm going to try to get a little more mileage out of it.
Back during Steve Hadley's ritual sorta-kinda defenestration last week, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett, who was there to oversee the event, piped in to dispute one of the alleged instances in which the CIA tried to warn the White House off the Niger claims.
He said ...
There is a conspiracy theory out there that there was some protracted negotiation, or that this was information that was in a clandestine way being forced into the speech by various factions of the administration. It's simply nonsense.
Now, as I've said before
a number of times, calling something a 'conspiracy theory' has become what amounts to the lazy man's way of discrediting an argument. In fact, I recently experienced this myself.
Just before the war, I wrote an article ("Practice to Deceive") which claimed that the administration wasn't leveling with the public about its real reasons for going to war. Out of nowhere a gaggle of giddy smear-meisters popped out of the woodwork accusing me of hatching a conspiracy theory and smearing all manner of upstanding gentlemen to boot.
Now, maybe I was right; maybe I was wrong. But it was never quite clear to me how any of this amounted to a conspiracy theory.
As it happens, one of these smackdowns came on the Wall Street Journal editorial page website. And, interestingly enough, last week the same folks ran an OpEd saying more or less exactly what I said four months ago. Only now they're celebrating the deception as key to success.
Why did President Bush play the WMD card rather than just level with the American people about the real reason for the war, asks Steven Den Beste. Simple, he says ...
Honesty and plain speaking are not virtues for politicians and diplomats. If either Mr. Bush or Mr. Blair had said what I did, it would have hit the fan big-time. Making clear a year ago that this was our true agenda would have virtually guaranteed that it would fail.
It's always bracing to see how quickly the party line can change, ain't it? It sort of reminds of Gene Genovese's line about getting kicked out of the Commnunist Party when he was in college "for having zigged when I was supposed to zag."
But, alas, I digress. Back to Mr Bartlett.
Bartlett was talking about the conversation between CIA officer Alan Foley and NSC staffer Bob Joseph about the uranium line in the State of the Union speech. Foley says the two haggled about the line after he raised the Agency's concerns with Joseph. (Bear in mind too that he apparently also said this before a congressional committee; thus, presumably, under oath.) Joseph, a lot less convincingly, says he has no recollection of Foley raising these concerns.
In any case, according to Bartlett, believing Foley rather than Joseph amounts to a buying into a 'conspiracy theory.'
Hey, weren't we going to get lunch?
Yeah, remember, I called. We were going to meet at noon at ...
Stop with your conspiracy theories!
In any case, if Bartlett is going to live up to true Fleischerian standards of press browbeating and intimidation, won't he have to learn how to pull off the bullyboy tactics without sounding like such a goof?