Water Man Spouts

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Why Matthews Matters

" ‘Wilson’s wife is fair game.’ " Those are fighting words for any man, and I’d just had them quoted to me by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. It was July 21, 2003, barely a week since a column by Robert Novak in the Washington Post had nemed my wife, Valerie, as a CIA officer, and now the host of Hardball was calling to tell me that as far as the White House was concerned, they had declared open season on my family.

In his signature staccato, Matthews was blunt: "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says, and I quote, ‘Wilson’s wife is fair game.’ " Before abruptly hanging up, Matthews added: "I will confirm that if asked." As head of the White House political office and one of President George W. Bush’s closest advisers, Rove was legendary for his right-wing zeal and take-no-prisoners operating style. But what he was doing now was tantamount to declaring war on two U.S. citizens, both of them with years of government service. – The Politics of Truth; Joseph Wilson; page 1.

In the past week, testimony and court exhibits have documented the role that Chris Matthews and Hardball have played in the Plame scandal. On 1-25-07, Matthews askedHardball correspondent David Shuster, "David, I guess our show was mentioned there today?" Shuster responded, "Chris, absolutely. … (Catherine) Martin said she was directed by the vice president to pay particular attention to Hardball because, Chris, you were the one focusing so heavily on the questions about, what does this mean? How did this claim get into the State of the Union about Niger? Did the vice president get told about it? Did the vice president know, in fact, Wilson’s conclusions before that got in the State of the Union?"

On July 6, 2003, Joseph Wilson’s op-ed was published in the New York Times. Wilson also appeared on Meet the Press that day, and "describes his trip, and why he came away convinced that no attempt by Iraq to purchase uranium from Niger had taken place." (Wilson; page 453)

On July 8, 2003, Chris Matthews was reporting on the issue. He asked, "Why would the vice president’s office, Scooter Libby, whoever’s running the office, why would they send a CIA effort to down in Niger to verify something, find out that there wasn’t a uranium sale and then not follow up by putting that information out, or correcting that information in the president’s State of the Union? If they went to the trouble of sending Joe Wilson all the way to Africa to find out whether that country had ever sold uranium to Saddam Hussein, why won’t they follow up on that?"

In "Hubris," authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn quote Adam Levine, a member of the administration’s communications staff, as saying that, "Scooter was going nuts" over the media coverage that Wilson’s op-ed was getting. Libby was particularlu upset by Matthews: "He talked about it repeatedly to Levine and Catherine Martin, Cheney’s chief spokesperson. … Libby ordered Levine and Martin to review the transcripts of everything Matthews was saying on the subject." (Hubris; page 265)

It’s important to remember that Libby prided himself in his ability to stay out of the news. "Libby had a good lawyer’s understanding of caution, patience – and silence. Both Cheney and Libby were artists at just going quiet …It was an unusual appearance of his name in the newspaper, and he was excruciatingly uncomfortable," Bob Woodward wrote of an earlier article in a newspaper that mentioned a Libby disagreement with Colin Powell. "I don’t like to see my name" in the papers, he told another administration official. (Plan of Attack; pages 49-50)

Thus, when Matthews said, "It sounds to me (like) a hawk in the vice president’s office, probably from Scooter Libby on down," had advocated putting the yellow cake lie into the president’s State of the Union address, Scooter was furious. Night after night, Chris Matthews was reporting on the Plame scandal.

Even after the Office of the Vice President forced CIA director George Tenet to fall on his sword, and accept responsibility for not removing the infamous "16 words" from Bush’s speech, Matthews continued. He recognized that the idea that Cheney and Libby would go to the Agency’s HQ six times, and pressure them for intelligence on WMD, including the request that they review the Niger rumor, and then not have any follow-up on it, was not believable. As he has reported, when he asked Tenet about this, the CIA director would only say, "Ask him." But Cheney isn’t speaking to Chris Matthews.

Court exhibit 1609 has four typed pages of OVP "talking points" that address a number of what they called the "false allegations" of Chris Matthews. But the OVP response did not stop there. Libby ordered Adam Levine to call Matthews to complain. Levine, who had once worked as a senior producer for Hardball, told the authors of "Hubris" that he called Matthews, and the two engaged in a "shouting match." Levine attempted to pressure Matthews by saying, "Some of what you’re saying about this sounds anti-Semitic." It was a cheap shot, and one that the authors say both Libby and Paul Wolfowitz were pushing. (page 266)

When Levine told Libby that he "had gotten nowhere" with Matthews, they decided to go a step farther. Levine recommended that Libby call Tim Russert to complain. According to information reported yesterday, Mary Matalin also told Libby to call Russert. On July 10, Libby made the call. In the next few days, we will hear Tim Russert’s testimony on that fateful call.

"Hubris" reports that Russert called Neal Shapiro after the call from Scooter. Shapiro would call Matthews’ executive producer, and "urge him to have the talkshow host throttle back a bit. ‘Hey,’ Shapiro recalled saying, ‘this guy is still the vice president’." (Hubris; page 267)

It is in this context that we should view Karl Rove’s call to Chris Matthews, in which he said that the White House would go to any length to destroy those who opposed them.


At February 3, 2007 at 9:23 PM, Blogger hizzoner said...

I have no idea where all this is going.....

I'm hoping that Fitzgerald is really some kind of master strategist who is executing a grand scheme to expose a nest of law-breaking thieves...

Is that childish to hope for?

I suspect it is.

Given that, what the hell is going on ?



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