The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, October 02, 2003

Fuck Gilligan, yes. But fuck Wilson? I don't get it...

The famous quote from the diaries of Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's ex-spinmeister (it's too good not to take out of context - for which see this) sums up a deliberate campaign waged against the BBC in general, and the Today programme in particular, by Blair and his New Labour spin team since well before they won the 1997 general election.

For all the excesses in execution - the verbal and physical bullying of Campbell himself high on the list - the campaign had a very clear and sane political purpose: to intimidate the BBC into skewing its news coverage in Labour's favour by instilling an atmosphere of fear, generating - in an organisation already bureaucratic, timid and arse-covering - a culture of reflex self-censorship [1].

It would be as incorrect to doubt the sanity of this effort on Labour's part as to call the terrorists of the Provisional IRA [2] madmen - as they often were by ignorant mainland scribes at the time they were wreaking mayhem.

But Joseph Wilson IV - to misquote Lloyd Bentsen [3]- is no BBC. It seems that he is no paragon (who is?); Clifford May at NRO produced a rap-sheet (of sorts) on July 11, and naturally followed up (September 29) once the current storm broke. In sum, the rap-sheet reads that he's a guy who leans left, is attached to a Saudi-favouring think tank, and did a crappy job with the yellowcake investigation.

All that is an argument (well-founded or not) that the guy is a something of a flake, not ready for primetime. Why should the White House (or some part thereof) want to go nuclear over a guy like that?

And the form of the warning - a horse's head, I get. But, once Plame was outed, what then? How was this meant to affect Wilson's actions - he'd shot his bolt, was no more threat. He couldn't take back the story - the outing served no purpose in helping the Administration (and that, surely, is the only point of these shenanigans), at the serious risk of the sort of snafu that in fact occurred.

Or perhaps it was done, Admiral Byng-style, pour encourager les autres - to affect the actions of others in Wilson's position? Who exactly would they be, I wonder? And what would the damage they would fear analogous to Plame's outing?

If (as seems to be the case) the outing could be expected to cause neither Wilson nor anyone else to desist from action detrimental to the Administration, what was the point?

I'm relieved to see that much better informed parties than I don't get it either: Ann Gerhart in today's WaPo, for instance [4]. She does a quick trawl, coming up, for instance, with this:
Richard Perle [5]...doesn't get it. "It looks to me like it's gotten very nasty and a little bit bizarre," says Perle, speaking from somewhere in the Near East, where he was traveling under an assumed name.

Jody Powell, Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall - all perplexed.

She finishes with
Lynda Webster, whose husband, Bill, once ran the agency
who says
...there's no rational answer. Who said this town was rational?

Whatever the rationale for outing Plame, I get the feeling that elements in the GOP are embracing the whole business as a partisan boon to rally the troops: to go by a piece in the Washington Times today, you'd have thought Wilson and his wife had arranged for the Niger trip with the express purpose of trapping the White House into outing her!

In comparison, Trent Lott's embracing the Dixiecrat cause 54 years after the event makes perfect sense...

  1. How successful this was is for another day.

  2. In the trade, PIRA.

  3. Bentsen was elected to the US House (TX-15) in the same general election (1948) that Landslide Lyndon Johnson was elected to the US Senate. The incumbent in the 15th then promptly died, and Bentsen won a special election in December 1948 to serve out the rest of the 80th Congress.

  4. Got via The Note for October 2. (It's a damned dynamic URL - same every day. By the time you're reading this, it'll probably already be in the archives.)

  5. The War Party's Forgotten Man - or Scarlet Pimpernel...

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