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Where’s the Smear?

I had thought I might be able to blog while visiting a friend in the great state of Utah, but although he had wireless, for some reason, I could not access the web from this computer there. Now, I’m in Colorado where together with the PatriotBrothers&SistersWest and (most of) their offspring, I’ll be celebrating the PatriotFatherWest’s birthday. Later today, we’ll be climbing a mountain with this great man in honor of this auspicious occasion.

Just before leaving Los Angeles, I observed that the conservative blogosphere was all abuzz about recent revelations that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the “original leaker” in the Plame kerfuffle. (I have found that Tom Maguire of JustOneMinute and Byron York of NationalReviewOnline have been offering the best coverage of this kerfuffle.) In his new book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, David Corn writes that “administration critics” seized on this leak “as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent.

That they would see the White House efforts to discredit a dishonest Democrat as a “smear” shows how far the critics will go to attack the president. Just as with John Kerry’s criticism of Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, they base their broadsides against Republicans not on facts, but root them instead in their own narrow (and almost always inaccurate) views of their ideological adversaries.

A smear would require that someone have attempted to damage the reputation of someone by “false accusations or slander.” Since nothing White House officials said about Mr. Wilson or his wife was false, they were not trying to smear him. Not only that. Even the original leaker, an acknowledged gossip, did not make any false accusations against these two — and had “no apparent intention of harming anyone.”

So, where’s the smear?

If anyone is doing any smearing in this case, it’s Joe Wilson who alleged the president was lying in his 2003 State of the Union address when he said “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Wilson claimed that the president knew, at the time he spoke those words, that they were false because he had reported as much. Yet, in “the CIA’s view, Wilson’s report bolstered suspicions that Iraq was indeed seeking uranium in Africa.

If the president had seen that report (which since Wilson delivered it orally (to the CIA, not the president), he could only have seen it as the CIA interpreted it), it would given him more — rather than less — ground for including those words in the 2003 speech. Thus, if anything, Wilson’s report strengthened the president’s case. It provided no evidence to support Wilson’s claim that that good man had lied.