Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Valerie Plame case again? Yes, I'm afraid so

Defenders of the Bush White House are declaring this week that the Valerie Plame scandal has been definitely exposed as a fraud perpetrated by a Bush-hating media, and that we who have covered that case should now be apologizing to those who were unjustly persecuted, namely Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

The defenders cite the fact that Richard Armitage, a State Department deputy with no love for the Bush team, has been revealed as the initial source who outed the CIA identity of Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak. As those of you who are not Plame scandal junkies may have already forgotten, she’s the wife of Joseph Wilson, the Bush critic and former ambassador who had publicly disputed one of Bush’s key WMD claims on Iraq.

In other words, the Bush defenders are now arguing that since Armitage was the first guy to blab on Plame, this means that, contrary to press reports, there was really no White House effort to retaliate against Wilson by exposing his wife’s spy status.

Fred Barnes, the longtime Rove defender at the Weekly Standard magazine, condemns “a journalistic jihad” against Rove, because, in reality,“there was no leak (against Plame) at all, just idle talk...It’s as if a giant hoax were perpetrated on the country...” Meanwhile, in my backyard, a letter to the Inquirer condemns the fact that the Armitage revelation was played on page two, and “I wait with bated breath for Dick Polman's front-page article decrying the perception of a Nixonian White House...”

It’s also true that David Broder of the Washington Post, the de facto “dean” of the Beltway press, believes the Plame story was overblown, and writes today that many in the media “owe Karl Rove an apology.”But these folks are ignoring some salient and inconvenient facts:

1. We now know about Armitage’s role because it was revealed in a new book. And the entire premise of that new book, Hubris, is that the Bush administration behaved shamefully and deceptively during the prelude to war in Iraq.

2. The book specifically cites Karl Rove as Novak’s second source on Plame (as special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s report signaled earlier), and confirms, once again, that Scooter Libby in the vice president’s offie spoke with two reporters about Plame.

3. The book further states that the only reason Armitage even knew about Plame was because he had seen a negative document about Joseph Wilson that had been put together for Scooter Libby.

4. Bush defenders have long sought to minimize the leak of Plame’s CIA status by claiming that she didn’t have an important job anyway, that (in the words of conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg) she was merely a “desk jockey.” But the book, citing interview with confidential CIA sources, that she was operations chief for the agency’s Joint Task Force on Iraq, which had tried during the prewar months to find confirmation of the White House’s WMD claims -- but had come up empty.

5. One of the Book’s authors, David Corn, writes this week on his blog that “Rove’s leak and Libby’s leak were part of a campaign to discredit...Wilson. That’s no conspiracy theory. The available evidence proves this point.”

Of course, it's possible that none of us would be debating this case any longer if Fitzgerald had made good on his original promise to say more about his long investigation. He made that vow 11 months ago...and counting.