We took Robert Novak to task yesterday for his selective sense of outrage, but the conservative pundit's odd sense of indignation wasn't the only thing that struck us as strange about his breaking-the-silence column on the Valerie Plame case. There's the matter of the gratuitous -- and, as it turns out, fundamentally false -- attack on Joseph Wilson that Novak apparently felt compelled to tack on to the end of his column.
Novak said he just had to write yesterday's column over the objections of his lawyers in order to defend his "integrity" against comments made by a former CIA spokesman with whom Novak spoke twice before first outing Plame in his column in July 2003. But if that's the limited purpose for which Novak thought it was worth ignoring his lawyers' advice, why did he proceed, in the final paragraph of his column Monday, to engage in some Wilson bashing? And if Novak is so concerned about his "integrity," why couldn't he bother to get the facts straight before launching his attack?
At the end of yesterday's column, Novak says that "Joseph Wilson was discarded a year ago by the Kerry presidential campaign after the Senate committee reported much of what he said 'had no basis in fact.'" Relevant to Novak's defense of his "integrity"? Not particularly. Factually correct? Not even close. Robert Parry does the dismantling.
As Parry notes, the notion that Wilson was "discarded" from the Kerry campaign comes straight from a July 2004 story written by -- drumroll, please -- Jeff Gannon! Gannon deduced then that the Kerry campaign had jettisoned Wilson based on his own analysis of Kerry's Web site: There had been references to Wilson on the site, and then they were gone, and Gannon assumed that the change was an attempt to "quietly break official contact" with Wilson because he was "something of a loose cannon." But someone with just a little more firsthand knowledge of the facts -- Peter Daou, who worked on Kerry's Web site and now runs the Daou Report -- says that references to Wilson, along with a whole lot of other stuff, disappeared from the Kerry Web site when it was redesigned for the start of the fall campaign. "I wasnt aware of any directive from senior Kerry staff to 'discard' Joe Wilson or do anything to Joe Wilson for that matter," Daou tells Parry. "It just got lost in the redesign of the Web site, as did dozens and dozens of other pages."
OK, but even if the Kerry campaign didn't "discard" Wilson, the Senate Intelligence Committee did find that much of what Wilson had said about the Iraq-Niger connection had "no basis in fact," right? Well, no, that part of Novak's smear is wrong, too. The "no basis in fact" characterization wasn't included in the Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq filed by the 17 members of the committee. Rather, it came in a separate statement filed by three Republican senators -- Pat Roberts, Christopher Bond and Orrin Hatch -- who apparently couldn't get any of the 14 other senators on the committee to agree with them. It was, in essence, a dissent from the full committee report; to say that the "Senate committee reported" that much of what Wilson said "had no basis in fact" is about as accurate as saying that the Supreme Court put Al Gore in the White House in 2000.
So integrity? Yeah, you can defend it, Bob. But it's better to earn it first.