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Monday | September 29, 2003

Plame Affair Finally Gets Legs

By Meteor Blades

To his credit, Sen. Charles Schumer has been trying for months to get the FBI to investigate the story that’s gradually begun seeing more light since MSNBC scooped everybody on Friday. The Democratic presidential candidates have finally come alive as well. Most are calling for a probe to learn who in the Administration exposed the identity of a clandestine CIA agent as a means of discomfiting her husband - Ambassador Joe Wilson - whose July Op-Ed challenged Bush assertions about attempts by Iraq to buy uranium in Africa.

The motive seems to have been straightforward: revenge.

Since MSNBC’s story first hit the ’net, the Washington Post has been offering the best coverage, with Josh Marshall at TPM reopening the key question he asked on July 30: Why hasn’t Bush made it a priority to find out who this leaker is considering the national security implications and the fact a 1982 federal law pushed by his father may have been broken?

Given the Administration’s hard-nosed approach to leakers in general, and given that we are reminded every day that we are in a life-and-death struggle with terrorists, Marshall’s question couldn’t be more apt.

According to the Post’s most recent story, Bush seems to be in it'll-all-blow-over mode:

But the aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, one of the most visible critics of Bush's handling of intelligence about Iraq.

”Insidious traitors” is the phrase Bush’s father attached to those who expose the names of clandestine intelligence operatives. In today’s White House, or at least the day before yesterday’s, the more likely description: “boys will be boys.”

The gleeful weekend game at this and some other blogs has been coming up with names of the likely culprit(s) in the Plame Affair. Because Wilson himself strongly hinted that Karl Rove was behind this, the President’s “brain” has gotten a lot of attention. Some argue that he couldn’t be that dumb.

But (as noted at TPM), in the January issue of Esquire, Ron Suskind writes:

Sources close to the former president [George H.W. Bush] say Rove was fired from the 1992 Bush presidential campaign after he planted a negative story with columnist Robert Novak about dissatisfaction with campaign fundraising chief and Bush loyalist Robert Mosbacher Jr. It was smoked out, and he was summarily ousted.

So, is Rove a repeat offender?

Predictions of the Administration's imminent doom over this affair are about as reasonable as the Administration's pretense that Iraq was an imminent threat. Knowing that somebody with a high security clearance leaked information about the identity of a CIA agent and proving the identity of the leaker are two very different things. But this story has gone from just-about-forgotten 72 hours ago to one of the Administration's top five problems today. They could have avoided the latest headlines with a judicious firing in July or August. Now it's going to be a tad more difficult to find a believable fall guy.

Posted September 29, 2003 01:01 AM | Comments (162)


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