The Tom Edsall article

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The Tom Edsall article in today’s Washington Post contains all you need to know about the state of play of the Ted Olson question — especially Orrin Hatch’s statement, relayed through a senior aide, that “It comes down to what the definition of the Arkansas Project is.”

We could spend a few moments mocking this “depends what the definition of is is” sort of line. But let’s keep our eye on the ball.

Olson and his defenders, it seems, don’t really deny much of anything that has been alleged. They’re just playing on a very restrictive definition of the ‘Arkansas Project’ and the word ‘involvement.’ To most observers, the ‘Arkansas Project’ was the American Spectator’s organized effort, funded by moneys from the Scaife foundations, to dig up dirt and possible scandals on Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Now we’re told, however, that the term ‘Arkansas Project’ only applied to one portion of the American Spectator’s organized effort, funded by moneys from the Scaife foundations, to dig up dirt and possible scandals on Bill and Hillary Clinton. The ‘Arkansas Project’ was only a very tightly delineated enterprise which didn’t involve most of the people involved in what we all thought was Arkansas Project activity.

Still with me?

So when Olson himself was hired by the magazine in 1994 “specifically to determine the potential criminal exposure of the Clintons in light of the magazine’s reporting” this didn’t mean he was involved in the Arkansas Project. This was just “legal research” in Olson’s words, “not for the purpose of conducting or assisting in the conduct of investigations of the Clintons.” And by no means part of the ‘Arkansas Project.’

The Olsonites are telling us that their man is not lying because the question wasn’t posed precisely enough. Pat Leahy should have asked: “Were you involved in, or aware of, the Arkansas Project, or any similar activities conducted by the American Spectator magazine which might seem to us rubes on the outside to be part of the Arkansas Project, but which you and the employees of the Spectator know not to have been part of the ‘Arkansas Project’ because the term ‘Arkansas Project’ only applied to one portion of the magazine’s effort to dig up scandals on the former president?”

Or to put the point more baldly, Olson’s off the hook not because he knew little or nothing about the Arkansas Project, but because he knew quite a lot.

Do we really have to put up with this crap? It’s up to Pat Leahy.

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