Plamegate, that political football that leftists invented, kicked around with their bosom buddies in the MSM, and finally launched at the President, is dead, dead, and dead.
From its very start, the ballyhooed case of who leaked the name of CIA analyst Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak has been drenched in partisan politics and media hypocrisy. The more we learn, however, the more it also reveals about the internal dysfunction of the Bush Administration and the lack of loyalty among some of its most senior officials.
The latest news is that the Bush official who first disclosed Ms. Plame’s identity was none other than former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. According to a new book by liberal journalists David Corn and Michael Isikoff, Mr. Armitage was Mr. Novak’s primary source for his now famous column of July 14, 2003, that first publicly revealed Ms. Plame’s CIA pedigree.
In other words, the leaker wasn’t Karl Rove or Scooter Libby or anyone else in the White House who has been accused of running a conspiracy against Ms. Plame as revenge for her husband Joe Wilson’s false accusations against the White House’s case for war with Iraq. So what have the last three years been all about anyway? Political opportunism and internal score-settling, among other things.
Well, of course this has. The Valerie Plame “thing” has never been about the truth of her husband’s trip to Niger. Joe Wilson, the husband in question, has proven since that trip, among other things, that the President (and British intelligence) was absolutely correct and that Joe Wilson is an inveterate liar.
The “thing” also shows us that something very serious was happening in the administration, something that damaged it horribly and crippled its ability to speak with decisiveness to all of us about our role in the war we’re in. We now know (though this does not take many of us by surprise) that the mouthpiece of the Secretary of State decided to keep his mouth shut so that the President could take years of political hits. It was obvious, at least to me, that the State Department was never on the President’s side. It was always far more interested in maintaining the same old tyrannical status quo and ignoring the official policy of the government (as stated overwhelmingly by Congress in 1998) when it came to Saddam Hussein. It also seemed pretty obvious to me that the State Department was far more interested in protecting Colin Powell from criticism. Powell was, you may remember, the man who led the charge to leave Hussein in office at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. What the facts were telling us in 2002 was that Powell’s decision was completely wrong in every detail and that his passionate advocacy for that position was the prime reason that the first President Bush agreed to it. We also know that our leaving Saddam Hussein in power cost tens of thousands of lives (if not hundreds of thousands). It was a blunder that Powell, who still harbored greater political aspirations, could not endure.
Now I’m not about to let the President off the hook for this. In wartime, it’s crucial that the President have a team that’s all on the same side. It was never a secret that State was never on the President’s side and the President should never have allowed that to stand. He should have removed Powell and his regime at State at the first serious glimmer that they were undermining the nation’s policy through leaks and whispered character assassinations. Then again, he should have done the very same thing to the incompetent leader of the CIA, George Tenet, who had his own great hand in the Plame “thing”. As Christopher Hitchens writes about Tenet:
And can one imagine anybody with a stronger motive to change the subject from CIA incompetence and to present a widely discredited agency as, instead, a victim, than Tenet himself? The man who kept the knowledge of the Minnesota flight schools to himself and who was facing every kind of investigation and obloquy finally saw a chance to change the subject. If there is any “irony” in the absurd and expensive and pointless brouhaha that followed, it is that he was abetted in this by so many who consider themselves “radical.”
His understandable, but misguided loyalty toward Tenet and Powell cost him greatly and it was a tremendous mistake that as cost us years of progress in the Middle East and countless lives. Neither were fit for the positions they were in and the President, I’m sure, was told that often. It was his responsibility to let them go and he did not. That is his burden to carry.
Nevertheless, Tenet and Powell had every reason in the world to want to shift blame for their own incompetence. Richard Armitage, the man who once described the current government in Iran as “a democracy” simply because people are allowed to select from a roster of candidates hand-picked by the govenrment, fulfilled his role as tool to perfection.