Three years after the Valerie Plame kerfuffle began, it seems to be ending with a whimper--that whimper being "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War," by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. Corn is the writer for The Nation, a left-wing magazine (or possibly a right-wing parody of a left-wing magazine) who got the whole thing started by parroting Joe Wilson's claims that his wife's "outing" violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Isikoff is a reporter for Newsweek. Their collaboration raises the possibility of liberal bias in the mainstream media.
First of all, "Hubris"? This comes on the heels of Tom Ricks's "Fiasco." Then there were "Slander," "Treason" and "Godless." It seems everyone wants to be Ann Coulter these days.
But we digress--for which you can hardly blame us, as the Plame kerfuffle is such a tedious affair. Nonetheless, out of an obligation to history, we shall recount the revelations from the Isikoff-Corn book, which Isikoff outlines in a story in Newsweek:
The man who "leaked" Plame's identity and her involvement in her husband's Niger junket to columnist Bob Novak and other reporters was not Karl Rove, Scooter Libby or anyone else in the White House. It was Richard Armitage, then deputy secretary of state.
Armitage's motives were not malicious. He is "a well-known gossip who loves to dish and receive juicy tidbits about Washington characters" and "apparently hadn't thought through the possible implications of telling Novak about Plame's identity."
It was from a classified memo that Armitage learned Plame worked for the CIA. But there was no violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act; special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald "found no evidence that Armitage knew of Plame's covert CIA status." (By all available evidence, Plame's covert status had expired by the time of her "outing" anyway.)
In October 2003 Armitage confessed to his boss, Colin Powell, that he was the "leaker." The State Department decided to withhold this information from the White House, because "Powell and his aides feared the White House would then leak that Armitage had been Novak's source--possibly to embarrass State Department officials who had been unenthusiastic about Bush's Iraq policy."
David Corn weighs in on the Puffington Host in which he hilariously tries to downplay the extent to which these revelations discredit his initial enthusiasm for the purported scandal:
The Plame leak in Novak's column has long been cited by Bush administration critics as a deliberate act of payback, orchestrated to punish and/or discredit Joe Wilson after he charged that the Bush administration had misled the American public about the prewar intelligence. The Armitage news does not fit neatly into that framework.
To say the least! As we observed on PBS 10 months ago, this was a "Seinfeld" scandal--an investigation about nothing.
Of course, much as this seemed like a sitcom, it had consequences in real life. Because Armitage did not come clean right away, many people suffered:
Millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted investigating a nonexistent crime.
Innocent White House officials were distracted from serving the country in order to participate in the investigation, which was in full swing a year ago when Hurricane Katrina struck.
Scooter Libby lost his job and was indicted for actions that never would have occurred but for the investigation.
The Democratic left, putting its faith in scandal to bring down the Bush administration, became even more fatuous and ineffective.
The only winner in this whole deal is Joe Wilson's ego--and think of the toll it's taken on his poor little superego.
Those who tried to turn the Plame kerfuffle into Watergate threw around words like "treason" and "slander" (though, interestingly, not "godless"). Armitage appears to be guilty of nothing of the sort. But it does seem that he was careless with secret information, eager to cover his own backside, and heedless of the consequences his actions had for others. So let it never be said that Richard Armitage is a profile in courage
Update: Yesterday my headline called for the pardon of Scooter Libby. Today the Wall Street Journal in an editorial calls for the Pardon of Libby. I wonder if they read my blog. Click on the title above for a link to the WSJ Editorial.