Joe Wilson rises to his own defense in an open letter to the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ("SSCI").
In a separate section of the SSCI report (Additional Views, starting on p. 441), the Chairman had presented certain proposed conclusions to which the Committee could not unanimously agree. Apparently the Chairman believed that (1) "former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's public statements were not based on knowledge he actually possessed", and (2) "it was the former ambassador's wife who recommended
him for his trip to Niger."
To summarize the Ambassador's defense:
- the Chairman shouldn't call a memo from Wilson's wife singing his praises a "recommendation". It's a.... well, Wilson doesn't say. But I will note on his behalf that her memo was written just before Valentine's Day, so maybe it was a draft of something she meant for him alone.
- the Chairman should go back to the Democrats who refused to vote these conclusions out and remind them to include the exculpatory evidence in their Additional Views, or the main report, or somewhere. Evidently the presumably sympathetic Dems forgot to do this, but Wilson is sure there is a better story somewhere;
- we should believe some anonymous leaks in the press that tell a different story about his wife, because the press has been totally reliable on this story;
- in evaluating his public credibility we should focus exclusively on the words that come out of his mouth - we should ignore how others report on what he says, and ignore what he writes in his book. And anyway, where is their sense of artistry? He is quoted in the Senate report as explaining that for certain passages of the book, he used "a little literary flair".
The Ambassador does not address the matter of his anonymous credibility - the "misleading" information he leaked to the WaPo.
Now, my summary of his defense may not be perfectly fair, but I have additional thoughts below.
MID-COURSE UPDATE: The always-interesting Memeorandum round-up of a related Wilson apologia in Salon is here, so you can play "Spot the Serious Wilson Defenders" along with me (Hint - I already linked to them earlier in this post. Second hint - NO, you aren't overlooking any links. And a caveat - Memeorandum may pick up some new posts - they have eight right now, and the most recent is Tim Dunlop, who may or may not be fence sitting, but was Wilso-phobic when last we looked. Be Careful - Tim Dunlop has changed my mind on some things, so be forewarned as to his sinister powers...)
EVEN MORE: I'm hassling Daniel Okrent again (probably doesn't bother him); I'm thinking like Jonah Goldberg (hmm, that probably ought to bother him.... oh, you see me smiling); and revealing my own cache of quotes and stories, with a HUGE assist from Alex Parker.
UPDATE: The Washington Post ombudsman replies.
What is Joe Wilson's response to the assertion that his wife recommended him?
- We should ignore the recommendation memo from his wife.
He explains that a memo from his wife describing his qualifications wasn't really a "recommendation", but more of a... what? He doesn't say, but he thinks the SSCI report was too short at 510 pages and more of the memo shouild have been released. Jonah Goldberg and Captain Ed Morrissey react.
- The Senate staff which investigated this should interview the right people in the CIA, who will tell them that his wife did *not* make the recommendation.
And while we are extending the investigators "To Do" list, let's add "Buy a round of coffees for the Democratic staffers, so they wake up and do their jobs." This is a bi-partisan committee; there were plenty of people involved in both the investigation and the preparation of this report who were very sympathetic to Joe Wilson. If they had found a credible account of an alternative explanation, they would have gotten it into the report, or into the Alternative Views. The silence of the Democratic Senators (including Wilson's home-state Dianne Feinstein, p 479/488) on this point speaks volumes.
- We should believe the anonymous leaks to the press.
The Additional Views of the Chairman are also quite harsh on the credibility of Wilson's *public* statement (Wilson does not address, in his response, his anonymous and "misleading" leak to the WaPo.) Wilson's defense seems to be the mirror to the Bush side's "imminent threat" defense - Wilson claims he spoke carefully, and if people misunderstood, well, what can he do?
We can find illustrative excerpts from Andrea Mitchell and Wolf Blitzer suggesting that, whatever Wilson said, this is what reporters and viewers heard:
Andrea Mitchell, July 21, 2003, introduces a story as: "Former Ambassador Joe Wilson, one of the first to debunk the Iraq-Niger uranium link almost a year before the State of the Union speech...
Wolf Blitzer, describing Wilson to Condi Rice: BLITZER: But 11 months earlier, you, the Bush administration, had sent Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Niger, to find out whether it was true. He came back, reported to the CIA, reported to the State Department, it wasn't true, it was bogus. The whole issue was bogus.
And Wilson's letter does not address his comical interview with the Senate staff (p. 445), where we get a soundbite that may not be appearing on the Salon book review or discussed on the cruise:
In an interview with Committee staff, Mr. Wilson was asked how he knew some of the things he was stating publicly with such confidence. On at least two occasions he admitted that he had no direct knowledge to support some of his claims and that he was drawing on either unrelated past experiences or no information at all. For example, when asked how he "knew" that the Intelligence Community had rejected the possibility of a Niger-Iraq uranium deal, as he wrote in his book, he told Committee staff that his
assertion may have involved "a little literary flair."
It looks like some of the staffers wanted to take a little flare and put it where the sunlight of truth was not shining.