Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Update on the Jack Schafer thing: We've swapped a couple of emails on the topic of his column, and it's pretty clear this is an "agree to disagree" thing. This is his argument (heavily paraphrased): Clearance is given on a case-by-case basis, so just because Wilson had a high-level security clearance doesn't mean he was cleared to know Plame's status. Therefore, Wilson's job with the European command and the fact of his security clearance are irrelevant, so, in the interest of brevity, he left them out.

Personally, I think this is a pretty lame argument. But Schafer offers it in what reads to me like perfect sincerity. And there are lots of folks on the right saying the same sort of thing: It wasn't a crime, and even if it was, it wasn't that bad because Plame's not really that much of a spy, and Wilson's a partisan jerk, and What's The Harm?

They aren't partisan hacks, or liars, or paid footsoldiers of Tom Delay. They're folks struggling with the basic conflict of fact vs. belief. They bought, hook, line and sinker, the "George W. Bush is a decent guy who's going to turn around the White House" line of crap in the 2000 elections. Or maybe, after 9/11 they went into "Benevolent Leader" mode. Either way, they have an image of the folks in the White House that does not have room for things like outing a CIA operative for political gain, even when it's to the detriment of national security.

It takes something like four times as much information to change someone's mind as it did to make it up in the first place, though that ratio obviously is going to vary from person to person. What we're seeing in the national media is not a dogpile onto perceived weakness, but the slow creaking of minds changing, as facts pile up describing George W. and his administration as dishonest and, to put it kindly, less than competent.

Me, I made up my mind about George W. three years ago when I heard him take credit for Texas' Patient's Bill of Rights when in fact he'd vetoed it then let it become law without his signature after the Texas legislature overrode his veto. And I've seen nothing in the years since to make me want to change my mind. Obviously, Schafer had a different experience, but now he's come face to face with a big, ugly fact that's not going away. It'll be interesting to see how he reacts as the story builds.

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