Sunday, October 16


While I respect Mark Kleiman's opinion on the motive behind the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, I have a different take on the affair. Here's Mark's:

A reader points out that my preference for the Keystone Kops theory instantiates Hanlon's Law: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." Actually, when dealing with Rove & Co. any explanation involving malice starts with surface plausibility, and any explanation involving a political misake (as oppposed to a policy mistake) starts trading at a discount In this case, though, the particularly unpatriotic form of malice that would have had to be involved is hard to believe, so stupidity looks to me like the better bet.

Here's mine:

Yes, it was stupid. But don't discount malice as the real motivating factor. I remember well the defense of Richard Nixon and his henchmen during Watergate, that it was just too stupid and pointless to be true that the White House ordered a break-in of DNC headquarters and chairman Larry O'Brien's offices when Nixon was so far ahead in the presidential voting polls. The defenders were correct about it being stupid and pointless. Where they missed the boat was in discounting malice. Nixon and his cronies hated the Democrats and O'Brien. They were so eager to find some dirt they could use against their perceived "enemies," and so arrogant in their belief of invulnerability, that they did it anyway.

Likewise, I believe, Rove/Libby et al (including their bosses?). Judy Miller's account describes Libby as being "frustrated and ang[ry]." And the history of the Bush administration is replete with instances of smear campaigns against those who actively oppose the administration, particularly former administration officials. Joe Wilson's history in the diplomatic service, particularly his heroic stint as acting ambassador to Iraq during the first Gulf War, which received kudoes from the first president Bush, had a credibility that, in their mind, had to be destroyed, much like Richard Clarke's and Paul O'Neill's.

Suggesting nepotism (Wilson was delegated to Niger at the suggestion of his wife, a CIA agent) as a discrediting agent for Wilson's allegations was, clearly, stupid. It wasn't true, and it didn't work. But don't discount malice as the driving force behind Plame's outing. The attitude of this administration has been, and is, "don't f--- with us, we'll get you for it."


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