Jimmy Breslin wrote about the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. They were a ragtag, bumbling bunch who ineptly tried to commit crimes while displaying a level of incompetence that made them more absurd than threatening. I’m increasingly viewing the Valerie Plame investigation as another incarnation of the gang.
In a nutshell, we’ve got a case which purports to revolve around the malicious disclosure of a CIA secret operative’s identity. That would be undeniably bad. Illegal even. But who publicly disclosed Ms Plame’s surreptitious occupation? Robert Novak, syndicated columnist is the guy who printed the name and job description. Anybody see him being called to testify? Any charges? Nope.
Then, we’ve got New Yawk Times writer (I hesitate to call her “reporter”,) Judith Miller. She goes to jail for months for refusing to disclose the name of her secret source. Commendable, I suppose. Except the secret source, VP Chief-of-Staff “Scooter” Libby apparently sent her a detailed email saying he authorized the disclosure. The excuse we get from Ms Miller is that she read between the lines that when he said “yes” he really meant “no” and besides, who’s going to get a Pulitzer nomination for giving up someone who doesn’t mind being given up?
Then, when she finally decides that “yes” meant yes, she testifies that her notes really don’t pin the naming on Libby at all. Miller even misspelled the name she might or might not have gotten from Libby. All of this amid disclosures that her reputation at the Times was of a loose cannon with well-lubricated carriage wheels. When even notorious anti-administration pundit Maureen Dowd says Miller is squirrelly, you ought to begin discrediting her. Dowd on Miller
Now, just for a moment to play lawyer…I’m not one and I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night…let’s examine the elements of the crime which may not have been committed, but if it was it was done by Robert Novak. The info had to come from classified sources. It had to name the name of a covert agent. It had to be done knowingly. Was Plame a CIA employee? Yes. Covert agent at the time of the disclosure? No!
The entire Washington community is in high palpitation mode awaiting indictments. The independent counsel has launched a Web site! What kind of jurisprudence is this? A bloody Web page? No indictments, no crime, no smoking guns and very questionable sources but we’ve got a prosecutor initiating a public relations campaign regarding his work?
The latest is that Libby and presidential advisor Karl Rove may or may not have disclosed that “a CIA employee” who may or may not have been named “Flame” or Plame according to Miller’s garbled notes, but it might also have been other sources. And, it may or may not have been the Vice-President who might have introduced the name to Libby or Rove to tell Miller who might somehow get it to Novak to publish it.
Why, you may ask? Well it was an alleged conspiracy to discredit a man who needs no discrediting, managing quite well on his own to besmirch his credibility. Joe Wilson, who should be embarrassed that he required his wife to get him a job, was sent to Niger to investigate sales of yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Qualifications, notwithstanding, he got the job. His report, largely ignored as incompetent and meaningless by the CIA and the administration, is supposed to be a “causus belli” for the administration. It’s the linchpin of a rush to war with Iraq based on that nation’s possession of WMD. Disregard the other twenty-five or so reasons given for the war in Colin Powell’s address to the UN prior to initiation of hostilities.
Gimme a break. Wilson was and is no friend of the administration. Plame was no covert operative. The Wilson report certainly wasn’t critical to the war decision. Yet, we’ve got all of this posturing about resignations of high members of the administration being necessary. The talking heads mutter about Rove and Libby “doing the right thing” and casting Cheney as the mad monk of the White House manipulating the President.
Is there no one who can see the humor in this whole fiasco? How can we keep giving credence to the likes of Miller who can’t even get support from the left-wingers of the NYT? Does the long established cry of “resign” under indictment—despite the concept of presumed innocence—now extend to mandatory resignation when even threatened on the basis of no evidence for no crime with a non-indictment? Soon it will be expected that administration functionaries will quit on demand from the opposition anytime there is disagreement.
We’re well into the world of Oz here. Don’t look behind the curtain. And don’t bother ducking; the gangs out there can’t seem to shoot straight. But, we should consider laughing at it all.