Monday, October 24, 2005

The Journal's odd editorial

The Wall Street Journal's lead editorial, which I had previously cited as the editorial on Opinion Journal's site alone, bothers me. They link Patrick Fitzgerald's sprawling investigation into the political debate about the Iraq war. Somehow they also conjure Bill Clinton's name, early and often. But by making these connections they produce a bad editorial.

Clinton's reprehensible lawyerese deserves ample criticism, but an editorial should not muddle subjects as distinct and politically charged as these:

Let's stipulate that the law is the law, and if Bush Administration officials lied to a grand jury in the clear and obvious way that Bill Clinton did, they should be prosecuted. If Mr. Fitzgerald has evidence of a malicious attempt to expose a CIA undercover agent, as defined by the relevant statute, the same applies. But the fact that the prosecutor has waited as long as he has--until the last days of his grand jury--suggests that he considers this a less than obvious case. A close call deserves to be a no call.

All the more so because this entire probe began and has continued as a kind of proxy for the larger political war about the Iraq War.

Yet, by invoking Bill Clinton at this point, and later in the opinion, the editors are able to enhance their argument that this is a political tussle -- but they also state that Clinton should have been prosecuted. They continue with the political note:

Amid an election campaign and a war, Bush Administration officials understandably fought back.

Adverbs and adjectives damn more writing than any other tool in an author's kit.

Administration officials "understandably" fought back -- the very sentence condones the administration's power politics supported by intelligence that was at best dubious. The Niger report on uranium acquisition, though not completely debunked by Joseph Wilson, was called into question by the CIA and the IAEA -- the latter has since won a Nobel Peace Prize. The reference was dropped in late 2002, only to find its way into the State of the Union address in early 2003.

As for Fitzgerald's move to broaden his investigation into perjury and obstruction of justice, well:

It was granted by the man who appointed him, his friend and then Deputy Attorney General James Comey.

Apparently the Deputy Attorney General was doing his "friend" a favor. Does the Journal wish to insinuate that something inapporpriate has happened?

The next quasi-defense of whatever the administration did is as follows:

You could hardly pick up a paper in 2004 without reading selectively leaked details from classified documents leading up to the Iraq War--an obvious attempt to discredit the war and elect John Kerry. An indictment based on this statute would be an egregious case of selective prosecution.

The very problem with this Niger/uranium story is that it was a piece of intelligence -- very poor intelligence -- used selectively to start a war. The Journal wants to corner the Fitzgerald investigation into a merely political battle, which we will see administration plants attempt this week, by referring to the partisanship of Wilson. However, if the Journal and Bush partisans wish to muddle the issue by reliving John Kerry's dismal campaign, then let us relive the dismal intelligence work that lead us into a costly war.

A final argument in this sad attempt at an editorial is just worthless:

It is also hard to believe that a seasoned lawyer like I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, would be so foolish as to lie to a grand jury.

It is hard to believe that someone with Dick Cheney's foreign policy expertise would be duped by forged documents...

I guess sometimes when you want to believe something you can make huge mistakes. Certainly the Bush administration has done that time and again with Iraq. Possibly Libby and others have committed perjury as a result of their desire to protect a war and an administration they believe in. I think the Wall Street Journal ran a bad editorial because they want to believe something as well.


Post a Comment

<< Home