‘Post’ Editorial on Libby: The ‘Daily Show’ Version

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By: Greg Mitchell

By now, nearly four years into the Iraq war and related controversies, one is tempted to simply disregard The Washington Post editorial page, and some of its regular columnists, on those matters: They have been so wrong on nearly everything for so long. The paper’s news pages regularly contradict and embarrass some of the opinion writers with those stubborn things called “facts,” so you might wisely spend all of your time there.

But rather than have all that copy and hard work on the opinion page go to waste, I suggest that you try to imagine any Iraq-related editorial in the Post as a typical exchange between Jon Stewart and an out-to-lunch “correspondent” on The Daily Show.

Take the Post?s editorial last week calling the Libby case a ?pointless Washington scandal.? It lamented that the case was brought in the first place. Putting that editorial into a Daily Show routine it might go something like this. Nearly all of the statements by correspondent Jason Jones come directly from the Post editorial.

STEWART: To discuss the Libby verdict we have with us tonight Senior Leak Proliferation Correspondent, Jason Jones (applause). Jason, so they finally nailed this guy, right?

JONES (standing in front of The White House, speaking gravely) :The conviction of I. Lewis Libby on charges of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice was grounded in strong evidence and what appeared to be careful deliberation by a jury. His lies were reprehensible.

STEWART: So a job well done, right?

JONES: Wrong, Jon. The fall of this skilled and long-respected public servant is particularly sobering because it arose from a Washington scandal remarkable for its lack of substance. It was propelled not by actual wrongdoing but by inflated and frequently false claims.

STEWART: False claims?

JONES: Yes, Jon. Joseph Wilson, the outed CIA agent’s husband, was embraced by many because he was early in publicly charging that the Bush administration had “twisted,” if not invented, facts in making the case for war against Iraq.

STEWART: But wait a minute, Jason. Wasn?t Wilson right about that ? when, for example, many leading newspaper editorial pages, most prominently The Washington Post?s, were so wrong on that?

JONES: Right you are, Jon, but listen to this. Wilson also advanced yet another sensational charge: that his wife was a covert CIA operative and that senior White House officials had orchestrated the leak of her name to destroy her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson!

STEWART: But doesn?t the evidence from the trial indicate that they indeed wanted to punish Wilson ? and acted so recklessly that Plame?s career did come to an end?

JONES (looking peeved) : But Jon, the partisan furor over this allegation led to the appointment of special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald. The trial has provided convincing evidence that there was no conspiracy to punish Mr. Wilson by leaking Ms. Plame’s identity — and no evidence that she was, in fact, covert.

STEWART: What? Jason, the trial showed that Libby and his boss, Vice President Cheney, conspired for many days in getting back at Wilson, and they even brought Ari Fleischer into it ? and Fitzgerald, the CIA, and others have said there is no question that Plame was still in a classified position when she was outed.

JONES: True, Jon, but instead, like many Washington special prosecutors before him, Fitzgerald pressed on, pursuing every tangent in the case. Mr. Fitzgerald has shown again why handing a Washington political case to a federal special prosecutor is a prescription for excess. And Wilson? Ha, the former ambassador will be remembered as a blowhard.

STEWART : Jason, you are really making no sense now. What kind of a lesson will it be for future officials if you put most of the blame on the prosecutor and the victim?s spouse? But at least the trial revealed a great deal about the cooked-up reasons we went to war and how desperate the administration was to cover that up.

JONES: Not really, Jon. Mr. Fitzgerald was, at least, right about one thing: The Wilson-Plame case, and Mr. Libby’s conviction, tell us nothing about the war in Iraq.

STEWART: So?forget about a pardon, and go straight to the Medal of Freedom for Scooter Libby?

JONES: That?s right Jon.

STEWART: Jason Jones, ladies and gentleman (applause). We?ll be back after the commercial.

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