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Someone’s spinning, but it’s not Dick Cheney

Vice President Cheney continues to infuriate E.J. Dionne, surely a good sign for the Republic. Dionne is unhappy with this statement by Cheney:

Al Qaeda functions on the basis that they think they can break our will. That’s their fundamental underlying strategy, that if they can kill enough Americans or cause enough havoc, create enough chaos in Iraq, then we’ll quit and go home. And my statement was that if we adopt the Pelosi policy, that then we will validate the strategy of al Qaeda.

Outraged though he is, Dionne does not dispute any of the above propositions, all of which strike me as near-truisms. Instead, Dionne talks about the Scooter Libby trial. His argument, if you can call it that, is that Cheney engaged in unsavory “spinning” against Joe Wilson in 2003; therefore he must be doing the same thing to his political opponents these days.
But what exactly did Cheney do wrong to Joe Wilson in 2003? Dionne accuses Cheney of being “beside himself” over Wilson’s column in the New York Times in which the debonair diplomat claimed that his trip to Niger revealed that, contrary to what President Bush had said, Saddam Hussein had not sought nuclear material from that country.
If Cheney was in fact “beside himself” over this he had every right to be because Wilson lied in his New York Times article. As John explained here, Wilson reported to the CIA, which sent him to Niger to investigate, that the former prime minister of Niger had told him that Iraq made an overture that the Prime Minister understood as an attempt to buy uranium. This is just what the administration had been claiming, as in the president’s famous 16 words about Niger in his state of the union address.
However, Wilson represented in his New York Times piece that his trip to Niger had not borne out the president’s claim. Wilson thus flat-out lied in his New York Times piece in order to cast the administration in a false light. Accordingly, Vice President Cheney had every right to be upset.
Of course, Cheney’s anger would not have been an excuse for taking unlawful action against Wilson or his wife. But Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation failed to find that Cheney (or Scooter Libby for that matter) took any such unlawful action against them.
Thus, it is Dionne, not the vice president, who is “spinning” and “smearing.”
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