Friday, July 11, 2003

The romanticized story of the Watergate reporting of Woodward and Bernstein, as depicted in the movie 'All the President's Men', turned on the battle of the reporters to avoid being fooled by the Nixon Whitehouse into publishing material which seemed to be damning to Nixon but which was was false and could be shown to be false, thus allowing Nixon's people to ruin the reputation of Woodward and Bernstein and undermine their stories on Watergate. The current scandal of the Iraq lies appears to have produced its first example of this kind of trickery. Doug Thomson, publisher of Capitol Hill Blue, ran a story based on a source who called himself 'Terrance J. Wilkinson', a man who had been a reliable source on intelligence matters for twenty years. The story, entitled 'White House Admits Bush Wrong About Iraqi Nukes', referring to the Niger uranium story, stated (or, slightly shortened, here):

"An intelligence consultant who was present at two White House briefings where the uranium report was discussed confirmed that the President was told the intelligence was questionable and that his national security advisors urged him not to include the claim in his State of the Union address.

'The report had already been discredited,' said Terrance J. Wilkinson, a CIA advisor present at two White House briefings. 'This point was clearly made when the President was in the room during at least two of the briefings.'

Bush's response was anger, Wilkinson said.

'He said that if the current operatives working for the CIA couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could,' Wilkinson said. 'He said he knew the story was true and so would the world after American troops secured the country.'"

This appears to be the smoking gun which proves that Bush knew the story to be false, and thus lied to the American people. Unfortunately, the source turned out to be a phony, and Doug Thompson has had to apologize for the story and amend the it (here is the story as it now appears). The effect of all this is to blunt the attacks on Bush, as stories attacking Bush can now be depicted as lies made up for partisan political purposes. Is it possible that this 'dirty trick' is the work of Karl Rove? Consider:

  1. Karl Rove started out as a 'dirty tricks' operative for none other than Richard Nixon.

  2. 'Terrance J. Wilkinson' appears to have been a professional liar, probably planting ideas for intelligence agencies who wanted to place their own spin on issues reported in the media. The fact that he had been doing this for twenty years, with good enough information not to get caught, indicates that he had professional backing.

  3. The method of this operation is noticeably like the attack on the reputation of James H. Hatfield, an attack allegedly engineered by Karl Rove. Hatfield had written a book on the life of George W. Bush, containing many sordid details that might have interfered with the upcoming election campaign of Bush. One allegation was that Bush's father had arranged for a Texas judge to have his son's conviction for possession of cocaine expunged from the record. Hatfield's book, 'Fortunate Son' was ready to be printed when this allegation made the news, and the original publisher prevailed on him to put the details in an afterword to the book. Immediately when the book came out, the press learned that Hatfield himself had a criminal past, and the book was withdrawn and destroyed less than a week after publication, with much being made of the anonymity of the source for the drug story. Neatly, the issue of Bush's sordid life had been hidden behind the scandal of Hatfield's past, and the potentially dangerous book was off the market. The bad reputation of the book and its author made the drugs story much less credible, and it caused Bush no great problems (other than losing the election!). When the book was republished by Soft Skull Press, Hatfield refused to deny that Karl Rove had been one of his sources. If it was Rove who was behind all this, and some have questioned Hatfield's assertions that it was citing discrepancies in his story, it would be the ultimate successful 'dirty trick'. Unfortunately, we will probably never know the answer, as Hatfield, who was working on another book on the life of George Bush, was 'suicided' shortly after he started to discuss his sources.