the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

December 30, 2005

Patrick Gavin on His DCDL Talk


Over at the Huffington Post, Patrick Gavin discusses the talk he gave at Timberlake’s a couple of weeks ago.

The comments he’s receiving illustrate an important point: What you get from hearing a live presentation is often different from what is conveyed by the written word. So, let me start by conveying an overall impression: I believe Patrick is doing the hard task of looking at all sides of an argument, and conveying an impression he reached by walking a mile in his neighbors moccasins, or more likely in the Dupont Circle area, Mephistos. If you have the chance to meet him, he will likely strike you as someone who has a fundamental perceptiveness about him. A basic integrity. We could use more of that from this air-brushed sect we call ” journalists.”

Here, I should point out that when we ask people to speak at DCDL, we’re not looking to reinforce some kind of a lefty bubble. We look for people who have expertise in their field, and enjoy the opportunity to get feedback. And some of that feedback is often lively. It’s not a Knitting Club, after all. Then, we’d have to call it Knitting Liberally. And hold it at a yarn store. And the Happy Hour specials at yarn stores totally suck.

To outline Gavin’s concerns with the Plame case we have:

1.) It’s neither sexy or simple.
2.) The personalities involved are hard to sort out from the facts of the case.
3.) It’s the War, stupid.

With regards to the first and second points. It shoudn’t be this way, but what really sets chins a’wagging is a juicy story involving interns and cigars. You put sex and White House politics together and you’ve got a best-seller. And an impeachment. And the resignation of two Republican Speakers of the House, but that’s a longer story.

As far as Joe Wilson’s personality goes, he tends to make points in a dramatic manner. A lot of us remember when he greeted reporters while being detained by Sadam Hussein with a noose around his neck. It’s his style– to antagonize his opponent dramatically. Now, if instead of writing “What I Didn’t Find In Africa,” Wilson had just held a press conference with a hunk of uranium around his neck, then he might have won over his critics. He’d be dead from radiation poisoning, but it would have been killer-funny.

Where Patrick and I part ways a bit is on his third point . As he puts it:

For many Democrats, the saliency of Plamegate does not hinge around the leaking of Plame’s identity, but rather the lead up to the Iraq war.

I don’t think this is what upset many of us about the Plame case. The issue was one of abusing power to punish critics. When the White House staff uses its enormous power to punish a critic, and does so anonymously, it strikes many of us as the act of a bully. And bullies don’t represent the spirit of our democracy. If anything, bullies represent the spirit of… I don’t know, Joseph Stallin, or say, South African apartheid, or even that guy who was behind 9.11, the one that Bush doesn’t think about. What was his name again?

In fact, during Patrick Gavin’s talk, I asked him: “Scooter Libby is a smart guy. How come he did what he did? He could have chosen to write an editorial in the New York Times, but instead he chose to anonymously expose Joseph Wilson’s wife. How come?”

Patrick Gavin’s reponse I thought was telling: “The White House was a pretty tight ship at the time. Scooter thought he could get away with it.”


  1. I really don’t get his point about the scandal making everyone look bad. Patrick Fitzgerald has been praised even by Bush. The only people who think he has egg on his face are some journalists — the same ones who view Judith Miller as a hero — who are hardly representative of the public at large.

    Maybe something makes the Wilsons look bad, but ultimately I don’t care about that. They’re not important to the Democratic Party, they’re not witnesses to the leak, they’re pretty much irrelevant except that they happen to be the victims. Yes, the Republicans will drag them in and smear them, and the media will cooperate in the games, but it has nothing to do with the case. Democrats shouldn’t tie themselves to the Wilsons — they should simply oppose the administration’s violation of national security for political revenge, regardless of who the person attacked is.

    I’m not betting that the Plame affair will save the Democrats. It’s not going to be as big a thing as some of us had hoped. And it’s certainly not going to blow open the story of the lies leading to war. But Gavin’s advice of giving the Republicans a pass on it is crazy.

    Keith12:11 pm, December 31

  2. Can’t give up the Wilson-Plame story because it’s part of the bigger story of the corruption which the Dems need to expose. The Dems’ problem isn’t that they’ve hitched their wagon to any one story, it’s that they haven’t hitched their wagon to anything at all. They need to beat voters over the head with one message: BushCo lies, people die. There’s a string of pearls dating back to the Downing St. Memos that substantiate that fact. And if the kind of commercials Gavin mentioned will be effective, so will ones from our side which point out what a dishonest piece of scum Dear Leader is.

    eRobin1:29 pm, January 2, 2006

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