Democrats & Liberals Archives

Plame Game

An Associated Press story says the Justice Department investigation (still John Ashcroft’s, conflict of interests and all) of the Valerie Plame leak is probably going to expand into the State and Defense departments.

Kevin Drum, the CalPundit, has an interesting note on this matter—and, so far, unsurpassed blogging of the story—“I’m all for making sure that every scrap of evidence is preserved, but I hope this isn’t the start of a lame effort to drag this out and then pretend that it just wasn’t possible to do an exhaustive investigation,” he commented in response to the AP story, noting that while there are potentially hundreds of people in all branches of government with the information about Paul Wilson’s wife, there is only a small White House circle who would have leaked it.

The point of the leak--which has now become such a pointed debate with at least one Republican already committing the treason of reason and uttering "Recusal is something Ashcroft ought to consider," which suggests the ever-worse words "independent counsel"--is now of some debate itself. Why would the White House risk so much on so apparently little?

Now the sixteen words flap, which I never thought was much of a story, got some people quite riled up, and of course the White House sensed danger and tried to discredit Ambassador Wilson for his comments. The problem is that it didn't do that (current backfire, none-withstanding) and the sixteen words eventually just became one part of a broiling resentment among the people--WMDs, where are they?, More terrorism, what's that about?, Troop deployments, when does my kid come home?, etc--that has dropped Bush's opinion polls down to about where he was when he got, however you feel he did, into office.

There are stories about the ends of the leak, ranging from the Post's rationale of "revenge" to Timothy Noah's mildly amusing, quite unlikely "nepotism." For one thing, you don't change the tide of public opinion by getting Robert Novak to break your leak in a partisan magazine column, unless, of course, its the sort of story that shouldn't be broken and will spill back on you, as this one has. The Post says the White House leaksters shoved the story to six reporters before Novak took. (Note: The White House memo indicates at least three, including Novak, who knows where the Post counted the other four.)

It all pretty much comes down to a blunder of some sort, which has spawned a media maelstrom and is the first issue to really get right into the White House. For questions about Iraq, Bush could divert to the C.I.A., the State Department, the Defense Department, his advisors, the British, or good old fashion moral clarity and well-thunk rhetoric; if the problem is the economy Bush could blame Clinton, high taxes (still), cheap labor abroad, Democrats, or September 11th; but this scandal makes things very much inside the White House.

That is until now, as the Justice Department investigation is now expanding outward, even as Kevin Drum pointed out, thats probably not where things came from--even Novak said White House officials--as if to say, "Oh, something has happened in the White House, quick, get Colin Powell and blame him."

Whether or not the leak turns out to be anything vengeful or just a "natural" part of the conversation about, oh, the inside of the world's top intelligence gathering organization remains to be seen. But this certainly seems the White House's problem, so we should focus there, not rove around for a deus ex machina and someone to take the blame.

Posted by Ry Rivard at October 2, 2003 6:41 PM