The Lonely Goatherd Blog And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32
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July 14, 2006
The Truth vs Nicholas F Benton I was particularly bemused by an especially flamingly dishonest editorial column that managed to hit the front page of Google News a couple of days ago. It was so fully and precisely foolish that I figure I'll take a few minutes to play Smack-a-Schmuck with this columnist Nicholas F Benton, owner and editor of the Falls Church News-Press in northern Virginia regarding his column "Rove, Novak: Have You No Decency?".
There are a whole bunch of ways in which this is cheesy, sleazy and dishonest, but let's start with the ridiculous polemical style. Mr Benton is wagging that finger of moral judgment awfully sternly, but with almost no real argument behind it. He seems to think that silly piles of invective adjectives in themselves constitute an argument or proof. "Despicably immoral operative"? Ew, that's bad! I'm certainly opposed to them creating a "perfect maelstrom of deceit." That's more a minor literary criticism, though.
Still, I have to give a little shout out for this particularly silly and meaningless, yet ponderous statement: "The government and the media may have an unwritten agreement in Washington to artificially prop up each
other's respectability, but beneath that veneer is something so putrid that it is hard to determine if it is the idea of the contemptible behavior, or the outright stink of it, that is nauseating." My, we like our own sense of moral superiority and outrage, don't we?
What really has me wanting to whack Monsieur Benton though is his purely oblivious and dishonest disregard for facts. He says that "There is nothing in the core DNA of a Robert Novak type that knows of the notion of virtue." But it's ridiculous for someone with as little regard for facts as Benton to make such a statement about a distinguished journalist like Bob Novak. You may dislike that he's a conservative, but he has a long reputation for honesty- which is the cardinal virtue of a journalist in particular.
It's a regular point of assumption among some liberals that any journalist known to be a conservative is simply a lying, partisan Republican tool. That's certainly NOT true of Bob Novak specifically, who has a decades long record of independent thought and reporting- whether you agree with his opinions or not. Plus, he specifically opposed going into Iraq even at the time. It's plain silly to accuse him of being a waterboy for any administration.
You just can't assume that someone having opinions automatically makes them a dishonest journalist. Indeed, how could you be an intelligent person devoting your life to covering the news and NOT form opinions? That doesn't mean that you're not a good reporter. Look, if you talk to Ted Koppel about his outlook, he's pretty much of a flaming liberal. Nonetheless, he has a sterling reputation for being truthful in his reporting, whatever his personal interpretive opinions might be.
Even just on the basis of this one column though, you can't say the same for Mr Benton. Besides the loaded adjectives and bad writing, he's saying things that are clearly not true in pretty much every other sentence.
Let's start with the basic underlying premise of the whole enchilada that "a covert CIA operation was blown." He apparently hates Dubya and everyone associated with him enough to talk himself into believing such a thing. He's still lying. The fact that he's lying also to himself does not mean that he's being honest with the rest of us. There's absolutely no kernel of truth to that premise, and as a newspaper publisher he has to know better after these years of minute public scrutiny of this case.
Again, Valerie Plame had not been any kind of undercover operative in years, so there's definitely nothing to that statement. She was working a desk job in DC. She had no cover to blow. Special prosecutor Fitzgerald is clearly a very aggressive guy, and he would obviously LOVE to have prosecuted someone for blowing an operative's cover. That's what he's there for. It's what he's LIVED for the last couple of years, empaneling multiple grand juries and spending beaucoup tax dollars in the effort. There simply was not anything like that involved.
But Benton ups the foolishness ante with this statement: "These two thought nothing of the consequences of their devil's compact in terms of how it compromised vital U.S. national security interests, critical covert operations and potentially the lives of undercover CIA agents." There's no compact - he just made that up. Moreover, there's no credibly conceivable way in which public knowledge of Plame's dishonorable name would compromise any covert operation, critical or otherwise. In what possible way could this information have endangered the lives of actual undercover operatives?
It would be a better argument that Plame and her lying husband Joe Wilson were the ones compromising vital US national security interests by setting up this little show tour (on the company dime) and coming back to publish a big deceitful newspaper column about it for the clear purposes of political hackery, without regard for the facts in Niger. It was arguably an important service to the cause of truth, justice and the American way to disseminate the critical truth about the cheesy bit of nepotism involved. The public needed to know this in order to understand what had actually happened, which was significantly different than the highly public statements Wilson was making. Plame should have been not just publicly exposed but fired and punished for her role in this. But that's just my interpretation- not necessarily a claim of hard fact.
Benton also claims that Novak clearly engaged in "spectacular deceit." Again, as if adding the adjective "spectacular" would all by itself prove his charge of deceit. I have not in fact seen ANY charge that Novak engaged in any deceit picayune or spectacular. I've seen no evidence that Novak said anything untrue whatsoever. Benton's just making that up- his own spectacular deceit.
By the way, if you want to hear an explanation of Novak's role in this from the one main guy who would know, check out the transcript of Novak himself on Hannity & Colmes on July 12, 2006.
Benton doesn't limit himself to lying about Novak and the Plame business. He's on a roll with loudly proclaiming whatever he wants to without regard to FACTS. To that end, note this statement, "You read in this column for months prior to the invasion of Iraq that there were no weapons of mass destruction there. This column was spot-on right about that, based on solid evidence, and everyone who disagreed was wrong. Many people did not believe those weapons were there, and with good reasons. They were right. Everyone else was wrong."
That's simply not true. Several weeks ago reports came out from the Defense Department's National Ground Intelligence center indicating that US soldiers have found some 500 munitions containing mustard or sarin in Iraq. For some reason, this was given almost no play in the press- but that doesn't change the facts.
Now by way of being carefully honest, I don't want to overemphasize that point. This sounds like mostly old stock, some of which may have been degraded past the point of usefulness. Plus, it's not nearly as much as we expected to find going in.
However, 500 is a LOT more than NONE, and honest opposition needs to give honest creedence to that FACT. It is estimated that it took as few as 15 or so shells of similar agents for Hussein to wipe out a whole village of Kurds. So, 500 munitions does count as finding SOME WMDs.
"Have you no decency?" Benton asks of Rove and Novak. That's pretty much a meaningless accusation. What is this "decency" you speak of? But I've got a more meaningful question for this newspaper owner: Have you no respect for facts?
July 13 - 19, Nicholas F. Benton
Rove, Novak: Have You No Decency? At last the Prince of Darkness has spoken. Columnist Robert Novak has come forward with a tardy confession of his collusion with the highest levels of the White House — namely Karl Rove, himself — in an unprecedented bit of nastiness that perfectly conforms with everything else we know about both. Rove leaked. Novak wrote, and a covert CIA operation was blown. And for what? To exact revenge.
The Rove-Novak connection is like a perfect maelstrom of deceit in the arena of public policy. The despicably immoral operative in the White House teams with the equally contemptible partisan disguised as a journalist in a nefarious scheme to punish a political enemy. These two thought nothing of the consequences of their devil's compact in terms of how it compromised vital U.S. national security interests, critical covert operations and potentially the lives of undercover CIA agents.
It tells you not only how far things have descended in the most hallowed corridors of power in the land, but in the world of the Fourth Estate, as well. The slimy Novak paid no price among his journalistic peers for being the media outlet that blew Valerie Plame’s cover, and for covering up his source for over two years, despite the spectacular deceit that was so clearly involved.
The fact that such dogs retain any modicum of respect among allegedly civil circles that pretend to lead our nation is a sorry commentary on this entire fool’s paradise. The government and the media may have an unwritten agreement in Washington to artificially prop up each other’s respectability, but beneath that veneer is something so putrid that it is hard to determine if it is the idea of the contemptible behavior, or the outright stink of it, that is nauseating.
There is nothing in the core DNA of a Robert Novak type that knows of the notion of virtue, as is also the case of a Karl Rove or a Tom DeLay. These are the kind of people that have no actual talent, except as thugs. Novak has perfected his role as a partisan water boy disguised as a journalist. Rove and DeLay epitomize the type of person who would be a homeless drunk if it weren’t for the fact that politics, like used car sales, offers a career for the brutish hack with no refined skills.
A moment to clarify the record: You read in this column for months prior to the invasion of Iraq that there were no weapons of mass destruction there. This column was spot-on right about that, based on solid evidence, and everyone who disagreed was wrong. Many people did not believe those weapons were there, and with good reasons. They were right. Everyone else was wrong.
You read in this column two years ago that Karl Rove was the source of the leak to Robert Novak on Valerie Plame. Now, this week comes the news that this column was right, and everyone who disagreed was wrong. This column’s assertion was not a guess. It was based on solid combined inductive and deductive thinking, the kind of skill that journalists cultivate to guide their search for information and truth behind public lies.
I'd say it is now a matter of open, public record that I'm two-for-two on two of the most important inflection points in the Bush administration’s treachery, as well as on a number of other things.
The tragedy that has been unleashed in Iraq today is the saddest testament of all to the world-historic fiasco that is everything this Bush administration represents. Civil war is in full force, with marauding death squads now roaming through the nation’s capital killing randomly.
Who do the Iraqi people, and a world now truly unsafe from the terrorist incubator created in Iraq by the U.S. invasion, have to blame for this descent into hell?
Who are they to blame? Bush, Rove, Novak, DeLay, or William Kristol of the neo-conversative Project for a New American Century’s Weekly Standard magazine who now stands back, washing its hands of culpibility, and lamenting what’s become of it all? Or should they blame all the rest who stood by silently and compliantly, obsessed with the Washington game of being included over anything remotely resembling honor, valor, an overriding commitment to truth, or that old Renaissance notion of virtue?
The Rove-Novak case calls forth the famous condemnation of Sen. Joseph McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearing in April 1954, when the Army’s attorney general Joseph Welch, after discrediting groundless allegations by McCarthy against a soldier in front of a national television audience, exclaimed to McCarthy, "Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
Al's Post Script, January 2008: I wrote this column because some no-name columnist wrote an annoying article. But this Nicholas F Benton cat apparently has some interesting history as a high level employee and at some point spokesman for the infamous Lyndon LaRouche. Benton was the Labor Party candidate for governor of California against Jerry Brown in 1978. NICHOLAS F BENTON AT WIKIPEDIA I bet ol' boy could tell some fascinating stories.