Vice President Cheney was not happy about Joe Wilson.
In grand jury audiotapes played yesterday during Libby’s perjury trial, the vice president’s then-chief of staff said Cheney had been “upset” and “disturbed” by criticisms from former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV that Bush had twisted intelligence to justify the war. And Libby said that Karl Rove had been “animated” by a conversation with Robert D. Novak, in which the conservative columnist told Rove he “had a bad taste in his mouth” about Wilson and was writing a column about him.
Libby’s portrayal of the zeal to discredit Wilson’s claims, reaching to the White House’s highest echelons, reinforces Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s assertion that the criticism of war provoked such a political crisis among Bush’s top aides that it is unlikely the defendant simply forgot his role in the leak, as defense attorneys contend.
If, as the defenders of the Vice President and Mr. Libby have been saying all along, Mr. Wilson is a liar and a stooge for the C.I.A., why did they go to such efforts to discredit him? Lots of people come up with lots of wild and crazy stories about the people in the administration — any administration — and juicy gossip about the higher-ups and their nefarious doings are the currency in the outer inner circles in Washington, just like in any company town. So why did Ambassador Wilson’s op-ed piece, which has been called everything from fiction to libel by the White House, set off such a frenzy, and why did the Vice President and his staff and Karl Rove and his minions in the press set out to destroy Mr. Wilson and in the process expose his wife as a C.I.A. operative (and remember, Karl Rove said that Valerie Plame’s career was little more than collateral damage; he called it “fair game”)?
Could it have been because Ambassador Wilson was actually telling the truth?
In spite of all the irrelevant and ad hominem attacks against Mr. Wilson and his wife (“he lied to the Senate once” and “she wasn’t really undercover”) by the White House and the orcosphere, the fact remains that what Mr. Wilson wrote about in his op-ed piece in the New York Times was right; Niger wasn’t sending uranium to Iraq and the documentation that said it was was a forgery. Yet the Bush administration went forward with the claims — and the war — and set out to discredit anyone who had the temerity to suggest that maybe they got it wrong.
The vision of Vice President Cheney so obsessed with Wilson and his article — he had it under glass on his desktop — reminds us not only of the Dark Lord of the Sith on his neverending quest to seek out the young Jedi and eliminate him as a great threat to the Empire — but of the dark days of the Nixon administration when the president stalked the halls and made lists of enemies. Back then it was driven by paranoia. Now it’s driven by the fear that the truth will actually come out about why we went to war in Iraq.