Kevin Drum does a nice job of presenting the Joe Wilson spin:
JOE WAS RIGHT....For all the frothing and fulminating about the minutiae of Joe Wilson's op-eds, speeches, and books over the past year, it's worth remembering that his central claim continues to be supported by everyone who looks into it.
Really? And what was his central claim?
...Wilson's central claim was that there was virtually no evidence to back up the idea that Saddam had sought uranium from Niger. The CIA agreed with that assessment before the war, it agreed with it after the war, and it still agrees with it — and the Senate Intelligence report backs them up.
Oh, back up - that was his central claim? What about "Bush lied", what about "They manipulated the intelligence", what about "They knew"?
From his book, page 1:
In [my July 6 op-ed], I stated that the Bush Administration had been informed a year and a half earlier that their claims of Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium from Niger were false. I knew what information the administration had about Niger because in early March 2002 I had briefed the CIA on the results of a trip I had made for them to that African country... My report - and two others from American officials - had apparently been disregarded.."
Or, let's look at the lede to his July 6 op-ed:
Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?
Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
Well, was his report "twisted" or "disregarded"? Actually, it was misrepresented in his NY Times op-ed, since he neglected to mention the Iraqi contacts that were interpreted as a sign of their interest in uranium purchases. The CIA found that part of his report quite interesting; perhaps NY Times readers would have as well.
The oft-cited Conclusion 13 from p. 73 of the Senate Report said this, as Kevin is surely tired of being told:
Conclusion 13. The report on the former ambassador's trip to Niger, disseminated in March 2002, did not change any analysts' assessments of the Iraq-Niger uranium deal. For most analysts, the information in the report lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal, but State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) analysts believed that the report supported their assessment that Niger was unlikely to be willing or able to sell uranium to Iraq.
So let's see - his report was not disregarded, the intelligence he provided was not manipulated, and Bush did not lie. Wilson offered his (inexpert and partially informed) opinion about Iraqi overtures in Africa, which went into the overall analysis, and changed no minds.
I need help with Kevin's conclusion:
Wilson may be guilty of overembellishing his case on several minor points...
Such as? I don't know where to finish with Wilson's overembellishments, but since the Nick Kristof columns triggered Wilson's rise to prominence, let's start there. Does any aspect of Wilson's story bother Kevin, in terms of Wilson's credibility, media accountability, or Kerry's judgement in keeping Wilson around (and held in high regard by some!).
...on the central question he brought up — should the president have made those claims about African uranium in his State of the Union address? — he was right. The CIA admits it, the White House admits it, and the Senate Intelligence committee admits it. Republicans ought to keep this in mind.
I would be curious to see where the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the President should not have uttered the 16 Words in the State of the Union. I do see this, from Conclusion 19 on p. 77:
Both agencies continued to publish assessments that Iraq may have been seeking uranium from Africa. In addition, CIA continued to approve the use of similar language in Administration publications and speeches, including the State of the Union.
Now, the CIA eventually found out they were wrong, but that is still a long way from "Bush lied".
That said, a confused White House, buffeted by frenzied media reporting that someone knew about the forgeries in the spring of 2002, and unable to prove the negative (Nope, no one knew. NO one!), backed down. I will keep that in mind.
MORE: Joe hammers the "They backed down on the 16 Words" theme in his conclusion to the LA Times editorial, and it is probably his best argument. Odd that the NY Times didn't run it...