This story illustrates why the blogsphere is so essential - there is a wealth of inference from the WaPo and the NYT stories that I would not have picked up on from reading them cold. But the major lefty bloggers, with combined experience in journalism and politics, are able to really shed light on the shorthand and the subtext. The major revelation was by the Washington Post:
A senior administration official said two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and revealed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. That was shortly after Wilson revealed in July that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson's account eventually touched off a controversy over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.
"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak...The official would not name the leakers for the record and would not name the journalists.
This is an amazing excerpt in its own right - it highlights the direct "shopping around" nature of teh vendetta by the White House to deliberately try and payback Wilson. But there's so much more to learn. First, Kevin Drum summarizes the implications:
- This involves two top White House officials who blew the cover of a CIA agent solely for payback against a minor political enemy.
- They systematically called six different journalists.
- Only Robert Novak went with the story. (Which, by the way, actually speaks pretty well of the rest of the Washington press corps.)
- There are a whole bunch of people, including Mike Allen and Dana Priest, who know who the White House officials are.
I find point #4 astonishing. The names of the people who blew Plame's (alleged) cover are well-known by journalists. And Billmon takes it further, pointing out that "when the Post reporter gets up at the Monday press conference and asks Scott McClellan if Mr. X or Ms. Y was involved, everyone else will know, too."
Kos speculates that the "two top White House officials" can only be Ari Fleischer and Karl Rove, and Billmon theorizes that the source for the WaPo quote above is likely George Tenet, who has to still be smarting from being forced to eat the Administration's feces on the whole yellowcake affair (which is nicely being re-summarized by the current flap). Apparently, journalists have a spectrum of explicit monikers when they quote sources off the record, which dramatically limits who "top White House officials" and "senior administration officials" can possibly be.
Kevin comes to the same conclusion, belatedly, that most of us who have been following the Administration since before 9-11 already arrived at. But he puts it much more succinctly:
these are radical ideologues who care about nothing except staying in power and will do anything, no matter how craven and malevolent, to get what they want.
That's the reason in a nutshell we need to boot Bush in 2004, not for partisan gain but for the safety and security of our nation itself. That's why I've changed my mind and will even vote for Lieberman is necessary. But only Howard Dean offers the chance to heal these wounds in a meaningful sense - only Dean offers a chance to rebuild American politics on a foundation of civil responsibility to our nation as a whole rather than the naked pursuit of power.
Disappointingly, amongst righty bloggers, only Tacitus has been following this issue. Glenn hasn't touched it yet. I sincerely hope that changes on Monday. But I fully expect that when the right-sphere does address the issue en masse, it will probably resemble the desperate spinning that partisan hack Macallan frantically spews in Tacitus' comments than any substantive critique.
That won't stop those erratic defensive talking points from being appropriated by Fox news, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh in a last-ditch effort to capitalize on their carefully cultivated ditto-head legions to reject the facts. By the end of next week, the story may just be another non-issue. I'm often quite hard on the media for not doing their part, but the public also has a responsibility too.
UPDATE: Initial responses from righty bloggers are starting to appear. John Cole, Daniel Drezner, and NZ Bear join Tacitus in acknowledging the seriousness of the Plame affair and agree that whoever shopped Plame's identity around should be punished to the extent of the law. Josh Chafetz acknowledges the seriousness, but insists that it's not indicative of the modus operandi of the White House as a whole, which strikes me as either strikingly naive or crudely disingenious.
Hesiod surveys other major righty bloggers and finds that most are still silent. Drudge doesn't even have a link to the Washington Post story!
Glenn did respond, however - but his post was hugely disappointing:
THE PLAME/WILSON STORY remains, in Roger Simon's words "too complicated" for me to feel I really understand it. ...My big question on all of this is "why?"
Too complicated for a tenured professor of law? The big question is NOT "why" - it's "who". The Why question clouds the issue by facilitating the rationalization "well, it makes no sense... there's no reason to do it... therefore it must not have happened" line of thought that exculpates the Administration of any wrongdoing and seriously marginalizes the severity of the crime. Already Donald Luskin of NRO is tying himself in knots trying to argue that the story is deeply flawed, invoking Jayson Blair and the Liberal Media.
In the words of George HW Bush on blowing CIA cover:
Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors.
Especially since 9-11, these words have taken on new urgency. I hope that Glenn and others step up to the plate here.