The knives are out

October 2, 2003 1:29 am

The knives are out for Joe Wilson.

RNC Director Ed Gillespie says Wilson is prone to “rash statements” and “is someone, given his politics, who is obviously prone to think the worst of this White House.”

Others of course are accusing Wilson of being either a left-wing fanatic or a partisan attack-dog.

Let me briefly explain why I don’t think that’s true and then, more briefly, why it doesn’t matter.

A look at Wilson’s political giving records shows that he’s pretty much a Democrat. And his views on foreign policy show more or less the same. On the other hand, he did give a grand to President Bush in 1999. And he served as an appointee under the president’s father. So that cuts against a monochromatic picture of him as a down-the-line Democratic loyalist. More to the point, contrary to what some Republicans seem to think, Democrats still are allowed to serve in the national security bureaucracy.

Partisans of the White House are now arguing that there was something fishy about the decision to send Wilson out to Niger. But I think a more credible reading of that is that it’s actually a sign that he was seen as a foreign policy professional who could be trusted to take a look at the facts on the ground and report back, his own political views notwithstanding.

My sense is that Wilson was a respected retired foreign service officer who was basically a Dem in his personal views, but in foreign policy terms a professional. He became disgruntled as he watched the administration pushing a claim that he had already discredited and then became outraged when the White House went after his wife.

It’s always seemed to me that if Wilson really had wanted to screw with the White House, he’d have come forward earlier than he did. Like, say, in February or October. (I think you can get a pretty good sense of Wilson in the lengthy interview I did with him a couple weeks back.) In any case, a couple days after Novak wrote his original column in July another reporter told me that “I think that, outside of Novak, everyone in the press who talks to Wilson realizes he is what the US gov should be all about, and wants to defend him against scurrilous attacks.” And I think that’s about right.

But let’s cut to the chase. None of this matters. It’s all irrelevant.

Let’s assume that Wilson is a hard-core left-winger who’s doing everything he can to hurt the president and help the Democrats. Would it matter? Of course, not: because we’re no longer relying on Wilson’s account for any material piece of information. Back when the issue was his uranium report, we were still relying on his credibility and the nature of his investigation — at least to an extent. But now we’re not.

If Wilson were a rabid political attack dog would it change the seriousness of blowing his wife’s cover at the CIA to get back at him? Of course, not. Are we relying on Wilson to tell us what his wife’s status is? Not in the least. The fact that the CIA made the referral to Justice tells us all we really need to know about that.

Here’s the heart of the matter: who Wilson is, what he thinks, what he’s done, what his motives are, are all irrelevant because what he says on TV about the Bush administration doesn’t matter. What’s at issue is what the White House allegedly did to his wife and, by extension, to US national security.

That’s the rub and they can’t get around it.

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