What’s the punch line?

In the cover story of the Weekly Standard’s new issue, Stephen Hayes meticulously retells the almost unbelievable story underlying the administration’s alleged “outing” of Valerie Plame and the related criminal investigation that is nearing its end: “The White House, the CIA, and the Wilsons.” In the conclusion of this long, detailed article, Hayes writes:

ON JULY 22, 2005, the New York Times published a lengthy, front-page article detailing the work of two senior Bush administration officials, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, on the Niger-uranium story. A seemingly exhaustive timeline ran alongside the piece. In 19 bullet points, the Times provided its readers in considerable detail with what it regarded as the highlights of the story. The timeline traces events from the initial request for more information on the alleged Iraqi inquiries in Africa to Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger; from the now-famous “16 words” in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union to the details of White House telephone logs; from Bush administration claims that Karl Rove was not involved in the leak to the naming of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and on from there to the dates that White House officials testified before the grand jury.

As I say, seemingly exhaustive. But there is one curious omission: July 7, 2004. On that date, the bipartisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on the intelligence that served as the foundation for the Bush administration’s case for war in Iraq. The Senate report includes a 48-page section on Wilson that demonstrates, in painstaking detail, that virtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false.

This is not a minor detail. The Senate report, which served as the source for much of the chronology in this article, is the definitive study of the events leading up to the compromising of Valerie Plame. The committee staff, both Democrats and Republicans, read all of the intelligence. They saw all of the documents. They interviewed all of the characters. And every member of the committee from both parties signed the report.

It is certainly the case that the media narrative is much more sensational than the Senate report. A story about malfeasance is perhaps more interesting than a story about incompetence. A story about deliberate White House deception is perhaps more interesting than a story about bureaucratic miscommunication. A story about retaliation is perhaps more interesting than a story about clarification.

But sometimes the boring stories have an additional virtue. They’re true.

The foreboding editorial by Bill Kristol and Jeff Bell picks up where Hayes leaves off: “Criminalizing conservatives.” Don’t miss these profoundly troubling contributions to understanding unfolding events.

JOHN adds: It’s an astonishing thing. There is only one really significant point about the Plame story: former Ambassador Joe Wilson lied about his own trip to Niger in the pages of the New York Times, as part of the Democratic Party’s effort to bring down the Bush administration. This fact cannot be seriously disputed, yet it is virtually blacked out in the mainstream media.

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