< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: The Woodward Syndrome and its Diagnosis: Part I

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Woodward Syndrome and its Diagnosis: Part I

As I argued earlier, Woodward's appearance on Larry King, the night before Fitzgerald's indictment, was suspicious and puzzling. Woodward's statement today offers us the opportunity to apply an old diagnostic principle, to see if it can clarify what was puzzling.

The principle, proven over the centuries, is simple: "When a person's disclosure profile is puzzling, try reading it upside down." In other words, across the range of statements in a self-report some things are emphasized to a significant degree; other things are just routine. The principle states: "the things emphasized are true--in the direction opposite from the emphasis. So person might say: (a) I am a reporter; and (b) I saw person A assault person B; and (c) it was a raining hard that day. Statement (a) is routine; statement (b) wasn't just false, but its opposite was true--in actual fact, person B assaulted person A; and statement (c) wasn't just false, but it's opposite was also true: it was a gorgeous, sunny day. The decision when to invoke this principle is triggered by mismatches and confusions that make the disclosure hard to square with other facts; the likelihood that the principle is properly invoked is increased when "reading it upside down" makes substantially more sense than reading it as is.

A familiar clinical (and even theological) corollary is: "the last shall be first;" i.e. the "oh by the way" off-the-cuff remark, usually at the end, is the important one; the well stated primary first point, the smokescreen.)

Applying this principle, which shall hereafter be known as the Woodward Syndrome, we find:

1. The last point is of the first importance: Woodward says, "It was the first time in 35 years as a reporter that I have been asked to provide information to a grand jury." But by our principle, the statement actually means: "In my 35 years as a reporter, I've often danced on the edge of the law, but never before been caught with my, umm, sources exposed." If that is the correct reading, then it means either that Woodward has been sloppy, not looking over his shoulder enough, or else he's in over his head and can't swim. I provisionally adopt the latter interpretation: this thing is bigger than Woodward knows how to handle. It's handling him, instead. (And we're not talking Fitz as a handler--we're talking Rove, Libby, Hadley, Cheney, Rice--whoever the truly smartest political image designer in the administration really is. On the current evidence, it's Rove--whose intelligence is indeed exceptional.)

2. The next to last point is almost as important: Woodward says, "I answered all of Fitzgerald's questions during my testimony without breaking promises to sources or infringing on conversations I had on unrelated matters for books or news reporting -- past, present or future." The upside down of that could be either of two things: (1) "My testimony was very damaging to my sources, nonetheless;" or (2) "I lied to Fitzgerald." The choice between these two versions is closer, but at the present the weight swings toward (2): to say that he answered the questions may well mean that he didn't answer them truthfully, since if Woodward had told the truth, he would ordinarily say so. Some version of option (2) is also favored by the repeated, and altogether artificial, appeal to what his notes, his tape recordings, or his memories reveal--all highly similar to some of Judy Miller's descriptions of her testimony, and none typical of how truth-tellers tell truth (by simply telling it).

3. In this statement, and in his infamous Larry King interview, he emphasizes the casualness and the triviality of the leak: Woodward says in his statement, "Fitzgerald asked for my impression about the context in which Mrs. Wilson was mentioned. I testified that the reference seemed to me to be casual and offhand, and that it did not appear to me to be either classified or sensitive. I testified that according to my understanding an analyst in the CIA is not normally an undercover position." Please! Woodward is an expert on what a CIA analyst is? Read upside down, the statement makes much more sense: "I know it's serious, but our story is that the leak was casual."

Coming in Part II: why the above is truly the merest tip of the iceberg, which includes how the recently touted casualness of the leak can be the scripted echo of the first explanation of the leak--that it was intended to embarrass Joe Wilson--which may itself be a cover story and lie. Both of these may be the obfuscatory work of the really smart guy or gal in the administration.