Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Rove's subtle knife dulls

I understand why Karl Rove and Co. wanted to discredit Joe Wilson. At the time he came forward he was a credible establishment voice telling the world that the White House was full of it on a key point. Wilson's subsequent outspokenness, er, that is, his compulsive self-aggrandizement has muddied the waters to some extent. But that doesn't change the fact that he was right - Niger wasn't trying to sell uranium to Saddam Hussein.

What I have never understood is the content of the White House attack on Wilson. Basically, it seems to be: Valerie Plame was involved in sending him to Niger, and this is suspect because a) it was not something Cheney ordered (though Wilson did not claim this); b) it was nepotism, or freelancing, or something else not exactly illegal or even wrong, necessarily, but still not good; c) Wilson is less a man because his wife has the higher security clearance and dispatches him to far-off locations to investigate WMD trafficking, rather than the other way round. Or something.

Some have alleged that they blew Plame's cover to get back at Wilson. That may be true. But it does seem like they believed that these talking points on their own merits were a good way to bring him down a notch.

This is suprisingly thin gruel for a guy who is a world-class, he-is-an-unstable-homosexual-liberal-traitor-who-fathered-a-black-baby-out-of-wedlock rumormonger. And this is still the spin they're using. Perhaps the sheer vagueness of the attack is itself a kind of ploy. Maybe the Rove playbook calls for sowing doubt and disquiet rather than the full-bore smear in this situation. Or maybe these guys are losing their touch for the politics of personal destruction. Unfortunately, we'll find out over the next few days.