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August 10, 2005

The Post Persists

I hate to keep doing this, but as long as the Denver Post persists in peddling speculation and outright falsehood as the basis for its editorials, its editorials will continue to read like an 18th-century handbill.

Their current position is that they can dictate to Robert Novak the content of his columns. I should say up front that I've never been a big fan of Novak's. I remember when he used to appear - 30 years ago - on one of those local weekly political journalists' roundtables - Agronsky & Company (who?), Washington Week in Review, McLaughin Group, something like that. He was a paleocon's paleocon, frequently critical of Israel. Not for nothing was he the "Prince of Darkness."

So the Post thinks that Novak should go ahead and write a tell-all column about l'affair Plame:

It's time for Robert Novak to give a public accounting of what led up to his 2003 newspaper column in which he revealed the identity of a heretofore clandestine CIA operative, Valerie Plame.

Novak was the columnist who first published Plame's identity, quoting unnamed administration officials in what is now thought to have been retaliation for her husband's opposition to Iraq war policy.

The Post may think this was "retaliation," for something. Anyone who's actually been following the story knows better. To recap: Wilson's wife helped get him the gig - he lied about that. Wilson's half-hearted site visit supported the Administration's position - he lied about that. Plame's life or career have hardly been endangered by the leak, if it was a leak. Wilson himself is the one who first floated himself and his wife as victims.

Some "retaliation."

Speculation regarding Novak ran rampant as Fitzgerald threatened to jail Judy Miller and Matthew Cooper, two journalists who reported on Plame and refused to identify their sources. Miller never even wrote a story with Plame's name in it, yet she sits in jail at this moment.

Miller's not in jail for writing a story. She's also not in jail for murder, larceny, attempted arson, running up thousands of dollars in parking tickets, or any number of other crimes that would earn your average UN diplomat a first-class plane ticket, that she didn't commit. She's in jail for not cooperating with a federal prosecutor. It's entirely possible that her sources came from inside the Agency itself, and while that, too is speculation, it's no worse that the Post bases its, um, recommendation on.

In fact, this investigation is one that the NY Times actively campaigned for, before their own reporter became involved and they decided there was no crime, no crime at all, nothing to see here, please move along. In fact, Fitzgerald has some experience with Miller's irresponsibility. Apparently, she tipped off the terrorist-front Holy Land Foundation that Fitzgerald was on their case, on the eve of a federal raid on their offices. This prompted the Foundation to call over to Arthur Andersen and ask if the shredders were still under warranty, and could they please borrow them for the evening?

Novak finally broke his silence last week, defending his work after a CIA official suggested that Novak had acted improperly....

In writing his Aug. 1 column, Novak ignored his lawyers' advice to maintain his silence. It was a reasonable decision - his end of the Plame story has been bottled up for too long and Novak has wanted to speak his piece. But it's not reasonable for the columnist to discuss the Plame matter when it suits him but continue his silence when it doesn't.

Novak was essentially accused (not "suggested") of if not committing a crime, then tap-dancing on the borders of one - of knowlingly outing an undercover officer - by a CIA spokesman. His attorneys were understandably jittery, but Novak was protecting himself in public from public accusations, and probably letting potential sources know that he wouldn't abuse their trust. The CIA officer in question was likely protecting himself and his organization, and if he needed to throw Novak under the bus to do it, so be it. Novak limited his response to the question of how he responded to the Agency's supposed warnings, because that's the only time he's been accused of impropriety. He doesn't need to either defend or attack Rove or Libby. There's a federal investigation, after all.

Finally, the Post more than implies that Novak's, er, performance in walking off a CNN set was directly related to his silence concerning the Plame affair, and that unburdening himself in a column might be cathartic for him:

It's clear the 74-year-old Novak is tied up in knots. Last week he was put on leave by CNN after uttering a barnyard epithet during an exchange on an unrelated political matter. He stalked off the program just before host Ed Henry was to question him about the Plame leak.

Novak reportedly told Henry beforehand, "My lawyer said I cannot answer any specific questions about this case until it is resolved, which I hope is very soon."

Novak has been avoiding talking about this matter for years. One more on-camera "no comment", or even a refusal to go on air, wouldn't have killed him.

Apparently, the Post's position is that Novak should tell all in order to satisfy their curiosity, while Miller should be able to run free while defying a federal prosecutor. For a crime that didn't happen. Or did. As usual, though, their reasoning is compromised by their speculation and incoherence.

Posted by joshuasharf at August 10, 2005 12:44 PM | TrackBack

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