< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: Woodward Syndrome: Part II

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Woodward Syndrome: Part II

Note initially that the Woodward syndrome is not to be confused with the [Scott] McLellan Syndrome--of clumsy, self contradictory, tangled rhetoric, where speaker and listener both know that lies are on the table; Woodward cases are much classier rhetoricians than McLellan cases. Shakespeare has history's best nutshell description of the Woodward Syndrome: "methinks the lady doth protest too much."

The Woodward Syndrome requires two factors before it can be invoked in the interpretation of a given discourse. First, the person must have a history of articulate and persuasive speech or writing and be known already to have used such gifts to personal advantage (not necessarily illicitly—while Ted Bundy was indeed thus gifted, so was Winston Churchill). Secondly, objective readers of the discourse in question must find it puzzling; it must seem odd, overstated, or inconsistent with known facts. The furrowed brow and tilted head of the reader or listener is the body-language "Tell" that a Woodward Syndrome is being confronted.

Given that the two requirements above are met, then the statements of the discourse are sorted into three types.

Type 1 statements are factual and straightforward. They tend to be brief and are presented straightforwardly without unexpected emphasis.

Type 2 statements are exaggerations, where gratuitous emphases leave the listener or reader asking "why the odd wording, unexpected emphasis, or seeming contradiction of consensually accepted facts?" An appropriate upside down reading of a Type 2 statement is not simply to tone it down but rather to read it with an emphasis in the opposite direction. Type 2 statements, however, are also not unduly prolonged.

Type 3 statements may also be oddly worded, but in addition they are elongated and they actively distort the meaning, making it initially more difficult to know what the opposite true claim would actually be. They sometimes appear near the end, almost seeming to be an afterthought. Type 3 statements therefore sometimes require consideration of the context, not only in the discourse at hand but also in other discourses making the same claim. As with Type 2 statements, their upside down reading is not simply to falsify the statement but instead to amplify its opposite.

So . . . back to Woodward himself. Two notable Type 2 statements in the discourse are considered below (A and B), followed by two notable Type 3 statements (C and D). Together these suffice to indicate the general outline in the fog.

A. Paragraph 1: "I testified under oath in a sworn deposition to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. . . "
NOTE: "oath" and "sworn" are redundant, and oddly so.
UPSIDE DOWN: "I lied (or at least concealed some truth)."

B. Paragraph 4: "[Wilson] had been sent by the CIA in February 2002 to Niger to determine if there was any substance to intelligence reports that Niger had made a deal to sell ‘yellowcake’ or raw uranium to Iraq. Wilson later emerged as an outspoken critic of the Bush administration.”
NOTE: (1) Yellowcake is not actually raw but it's only been preliminarily processed to a point that still takes many more years to convert to weapons grade uranium. (2) The last sentence is a non-sequitur, bypassing Wilson's findings and their use by the CIA and the White House, both of which occurred long before Wilson became an "outspoken" critic.
UPSIDE DOWN: "Everybody knows the yellowcake was harmless, but they want me to help the public think that Wilson-outspokenness is the issue. I try not to worry what the secret real issue is."
COMMENT: What is the real issue?

C. Last Paragraph: "It was the first time in 35 years as a reporter that I have been asked to provide information to a grand jury."
NOTE: The classic afterthought form of a genuine Type 3 statement.
UPSIDE DOWN: "I’m in over my head."

EXTERNAL CORROBORATION by Woodward on Larry King: "This is a junkyard dog prosecutor.”
UPSIDE DOWN: I'm not just in over my head, Fitzgerald already has my jewels in his jaws and I'm afraid he's about to bite."
COMMENT: (1) Even Gergen showed the Tell of Puzzlement at Woodward’s rant on Larry King. (2) Woodward knew on October 27th that Fitz was going to come after him (which happened November 3rd). The fact that he was so alarmed in advance means he knew how much darker this whole affair was starting to become--to his personal discredit.

D. Paragraph 7: "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."
NOTE: The classical Type 3 repetition and prolongation, with irrelevancies and imprecisions. Nothing Woodward says he testified to really answers Fitzgerald's question of context. How does a something "appear" to be classified or sensitive? What possible relevance to Fitzgerald's question does "my understanding"--of the role of an analyst as "not normally an uncover position"--offer?
UPSIDE DOWN: "I secretly fear she was indeed undercover and by outing her my source was trying to damage or destroy Brewster-Jennings."
COMMENT: Those in the White House who got the original Plame information from the CIA would know: (1) that Plame’s front was Brewster-Jennings, a major CIA mechanism for tracking and intercepting weapons of mass destruction; and (2) that it would be destroyed if Plame were outed. The known consequence—its destruction—must have been the intended consequence. It certainly would have given the White House a WMD facility they could call their own and do, or undo, things with—for example, “plant” WMD’s where needed.

EXTERNAL CORROBORATION by Woodward on Larry King: “They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that Joe Wilson's wife was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone and there was just some embarrassment. So people have kind of compared -- somebody was saying this was Aldridge James or Bob Hanson, big spies. This didn't cause damage.”
NOTE: Eight pages of concealed court records, in the Judith Miller court case, addressed the national security seriousness of the leak.
UPSIDE DOWN: “I fear my source was trying to damage or destroy Brewster-Jennings.”

CONTEXT CORROBORATION: consider the single most shocking question Fitzgerald has asked, indeed that any prosecutor has asked about any administration in U.S. history. From Fitzgerald, at the indictment announcement (he gets it):

"And as you sit back, you want to learn: Why was this information going out? Why were people taking this information about Valerie Wilson and giving it to reporters? Why did Mr. Libby say what he did? Why did he tell Judith Miller three times? Why did he tell the press secretary on Monday? Why did he tell Mr. Cooper? And was this something where he intended to cause whatever damage was caused?" (emphasis mine)

In summary, the upside-down reading on Woodward is this: Before he testified, he feared that the administration had behaved very badly, even treasonously, in trying to destroy Brewster-Jennings, thereby discrediting him and his books. He may have withheld information from Fitzgerald, and was probably relieved at the seemingly narrow scope of Fitzgerald’s questioning.

In larger context, it has already been apparent from earlier scrutiny of his work that Woodward was initially unable to exert the minimal thought required to see through his sources to darker and deeper truths.

Final note: Woodward had to be both intellectually impotent and pitifully vulnerable to flattery to have thought that Rove, Libby, or others, would let him talk to everybody, including the president, without their having carefully scripted those interviews in advance to conceal their truer actions and motives. His whining now is that of the lapdog sent whimpering away from the house.