The administration and its apologists are desperately trying to control the damage of l’affaire Plame. In the New York Times yesterday Paul Krugman called their strategy “slime and defend.” That is assassinate the character of their critics and strongarm the party into sticking to the official story. What’s behind this is, simply a battle to frame the story. Any high school debater know that if you can define the question you are more than half way to victory.
One of their talking points is “Wilson the Bush-hating, partisan Democrat.” As I said in a previous post, this is pure non-edible cattle by-product (poop). Wilson’s character has nothing to do with the legality of outing a CIA employee. Most of us in Left Blogistan have no trouble understanding this and have no trouble staying on message with our counter talking point of “nuh-uh.”
Unfortunately, we are having some trouble spotting and countering some of their other talking points. I was quite distressed this noon to find the following in the might and majestic Atrios’ Eschaton:
Dear America Media,
Please stop framing this story as one of Wilson vs. the White House. At this point, this story has absolutely nothing to do with Amb. Wilson. The real story is that a senior administration official has accused two top White House officials of telling at least 6 journalists the identity of an undercover CIA agent. That is the story.
I believe that as this is a story about leaks, and therefore you yourselves are intimately involved with this story, you are trying to deflect the spotlight away from yourselves. Stop pretending you don't have a role.
I love Atrios and his/her/its site. That’s why I was so horrified to read the words “this is a story about leaks.” This is another of the administration’s official talking points. Howard Kurtz is already trying out this line. In a CNN special last night, he said: “Judging from all the noise about this CIA leak, you would think that leaks were some kind of a shockingly rare occurrence in Washington.”
When he says it, it’s easy to see part of the problem. “We do it. They do it. It’s just part of the Washington game. Nothing of interest here. Keep moving folks.” We are fighting a vastly asymmetrical battle against public apathy, cynicism, and shell shock. How many perfectly good scandals has this administration safely escaped because they just didn’t break through to grab people’s attention.
But there is an even worse aspect of letting that be the story. Bush wants this to be a story about leaks. This is the most secretive administration since Nixon. All Bush needs is an excuse to further cut us off from information. We must not let Ashcroft and his thugs take this a green light to further shut down government transparency, punish legitimate whistleblowers, and keep the public in the dark fed only officially approved “facts.”
Someone in the administration did something very bad. That something was committing a felony that undermined the security of the country for the purely partisan purpose of intimidating a critic. That something was not talking to the press. Do not let them even hint at that without screaming bloody murder as loudly, as frequently, an in as many languages as we possibly can. This is a very high-stakes fight kids; don't screw it up.