Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 3, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

CONSERVATIVES WEIGH IN....The Weekly Standard weighed in today on the Valerie Plame affair, which means we now have reaction to this episode from the four main conservative voices in the media. The good news: 50% of them think outing a CIA agent for partisan purposes is a bad thing. The bad news: 50% of them don't.

So: the Washington Times and Weekly Standard each receive kudos, while National Review and the Wall Street Journal each receive special "Partisanship ber Alles" awards for disgracing themselves by pretending that betrayal of national security is OK as long as Republicans are doing it.

And a very special oak leaf cluster to the WSJ for conduct above and beyond the call of duty by arguing not just that outing a CIA agent is OK, but that it's actually part of the "public's right to know." Congratulations, guys!

  • Washington Times: Traitors Shouldn't Be Tolerated. As former President Bush said in 1999 of those who expose intelligence agents, they are "the most insidious of traitors." We fully agree. While we do not yet know most of the facts, what is beyond doubt is that "two senior administration officials" did the deed....The president should personally make it known to the public that it is his highest priority to get to the bottom of the matter. There may be traitors in his midst even if the actors may not have appreciated the nature of their conduct.

  • Weekly Standard: Fire 'em And Then Apologize.
    The president has, as the Washington Times suggested last week, taken "too passive a stance" toward this misdeed by one or more of his employees. Surely he should do his utmost to restore the White House's reputation for honor and integrity by calling together the dozens of more-or-less "senior" administration officials and asking whoever spoke with Novak to come forward and explain themselves. Presumably the relevant officials--absent some remarkable explanation that's hard to conceive--should be fired, and their names given to the Justice Department. The president might also want to call Mrs. Wilson, who is after all a government official serving her country, and apologize for the damage done to her by his subordinate's action.

  • National Review: Exposing Agents Is No Big Deal.
    The flap about the putative outing of Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as a CIA employee is not the important story in this affair as far as I am concerned. The only reason this incident has any legs is the eagerness of the press to set themselves on scandal autopilot....So we are left with a leak that wasn't a leak, about a secret agent who was evidently neither secret nor an agent....In my opinion, the only scandal here is the lack of sophistication with which the Niger uranium question was addressed. This was amateur hour. It is no way to run a war.

  • Wall Street Journal: Exposing CIA Agents Who Oppose the President is a Moral Duty
    An avowed opponent of war with Iraq, Mr. Wilson was somehow hired as a consultant by the CIA to investigate a claim made by British intelligence about yellowcake uranium sought in Niger by Iraqi agents. Though we assume he signed the routine CIA confidentiality agreement, Mr. Wilson blew his own cover to denounce the war and attack the Bush Administration for lying. Never mind that the British still stand by their intelligence, and that the CIA's own October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, since partly declassified, lent some credence to the evidence.

    This is the context in which Mr. Novak was told that Mr. Wilson had been hired at the recommendation of his wife, a CIA employee. This is hardly blowing a state secret but is something the public had a right to know. When an intelligence operative essentially claims that a U.S. President sent American soldiers off to die for a lie, certainly that operative's own motives and history ought to be on the table. In any event, Mrs. Wilson was not an agent in the field but is ensconced at Langley headquarters. It remains far from clear that any law was violated.

Kevin Drum 5:26 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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