The well-meaning David Adesnik writes:
Frankly, I’m still confused as to why top-ranking administration officials were so eager to distance themselves from the 16 words if Wilson’s accusations were so exaggerated.
Okay. This is the thing everyone really, really, really needs to understand. The statements of Wilson’s that now seem to be untrue pertain to things like Wilson’s role in exposing the bogosity of the Niger claims, and how Wilson got the job that put him in a position to play a role. The reason top officials have been eager to distance themselves from the 16 words is that Wilson’s op-ed helped bring to light the fact that the Intelligence Community believed, for a variety of reasons that don’t have a great deal to do with Wilson, that the claim should not be made. What the SSCI Report debunks about Wilson is the notion that he personally played some sort of grand heroic role here, it confirms that US intelligence does not believe and has not believed for some time that there was sufficient evidence for thinking that Saddam sought uranium in Niger. Of all the different sources for that claim, all but one — maybe, a British source that the Brits won’t tell us about and that appears to have come from French intelligence that the French intelligence agencies don’t believe in — have been debunked. As a result, American intelligence, while not able to categorically state that this never happened, doesn’t believe there’s a real evidentiary basis for thinking it did happen. This is why the administration distanced itself from the claim. Joe Wilson just isn’t very relevant.