Friday, November 04, 2005

Joe the Fixer

I always get these little flashbacks when I see Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova back making their presences felt in the national media.

Because I used to see them on MSNBC a lot, back during the Clinton impeachment, where they were busy pounding home that day's GOP talking points. I downloaded a lot of sound bytes from them (among many others) for the site, because that was my job.

What I noticed was that they tended, well, to prevaricate, hedge, and distort. A lot.

Actually, as Atrios notes, the Toensing/diGenova team has quite a bit of history in this regard. TV producers like to bill diGeenova in particular as a "legal expert" of various shades, but what he really made his career as was a political fixer.

The text from Toensing's recent Wall Street Journal piece was right in line with this: a classic piece of misdirection, encapsulating of Republican talking points on the Plame scandal, but spun to pin the blame on the CIA. And, on the truth meter, she doesn't disappoint.

Take, for instance, the first graf of her rundown of talking points:
First: The CIA sent her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger on a sensitive mission regarding WMD. He was to determine whether Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake, an essential ingredient for nonconventional weapons. However, it was Ms. Plame, not Mr. Wilson, who was the WMD expert. Moreover, Mr. Wilson had no intelligence background, was never a senior person in Niger when he was in the State Department, and was opposed to the administration's Iraq policy. The assignment was given, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, at Ms. Plame's suggestion.

Actually, the facts are this: Mr. Wilson went to Niger because he had the necessary diplomatic contacts there to obtain the information; the CIA did not need a WMD expert to gather it. The Senate Intelligence Committee's charge that he was given the assignment at Plame's suggestion has been proven false.

And that's just the first. The rest are either as badly grounded factually or are complete non-sequiturs.

In other words, disinformation in the guise of propaganda. Clouding the discourse by intentionally repeating falsehoods.

Par for the Toensing/diGenova course. They've been at this a long time.

DiGenova's history as a fixer well precedes even the impeachment brouhaha. He will probably, in fact, go down in history as the last independent counsel ever appointed to investigate an administration of the same party to which he belonged. Two years later, of course, the Calvinball standard was put into effect.

Robert Parry reported all this some time back:
After the Bush interviews, diGenova began work on his final report. Despite the evidence that Clinton's files had been exploited to influence the outcome of a presidential election, diGenova concluded that there was no wrongdoing by anyone in the Bush administration.

DiGenova added only "that certain White House personnel may have indirectly encouraged the search for Clinton's passport files by making inquiry about the status of responses to [FOIA] requests." As for the Oval Office, diGenova "found no evidence that President Bush was involved in this matter."

DiGenova reserved his toughest criticism for State Department Inspector General Sherman Funk for suspecting that a crime had been committed in the first place. DiGenova castigated Funk for "a woefully inadequate understanding of the facts."

John Duncan, a senior lawyer in Funk's office, protested diGenova's findings of no criminal wrongdoing.

"Astoundingly, [diGenova] has also concluded that no senior-level party to the search did anything improper whatever," Duncan wrote. "The Independent Counsel has provided his personal absolution to individuals who we found had attempted to use their U.S. Government positions to manipulate the election of President of the United States."

DiGenova was such a naked partisan that when he issued his report, he apologized to Bush Administration officials on behalf of the American people for putting them through the ordeal of an independent counsel investigation -- an investigation that, in fact, was more grounded in potential criminal behavior than Whitewater.

It was the last bit of business from the old Bush administration that needed tending to, and Joe -- well, he fixed it.

Nice to see some things never change, I suppose.

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