Lost in all the excitement over Jon Benet and Katrina flagellation could be one of the most pernicious acts of political backstabbing in a generation. It occurred to me this morning that the Plame kerfluffle may very well have been a kind of conspiracy-or at least a little payback from one Cabinet member to his President.
It is clear that Richard Armitage did not deliberately tell Robert Novak about Plame's status as a CIA employee in an effort to destroy Joe Wilson's credibility, but it is likely that once the information got into the political bloodstream as a story damaging to President Bush, he intentionally did nothing that may have helped explain the situation. Armitage is well known as someone who is not a "political gunslinger" in Novak's parlance, but he was also a well known opponent of the Iraq War. So was his boss-Colin Powell.
Powell of "you break it, you buy it" fame with respect to Iraq was convinced by the President and ostensibly US Intelligence information that Iraq did have WMD notably made the case for war in a speech to the UN. As a man of stature (or who believes he is of stature in any case) I doubt he would have made that case at the UN just because the President said so-in the absence of credible evidence. But perhaps he did do the speech over his own objections-and when he felt burned, he decided to get some payback.
The first major objections to what was initially a popular war arose with Joe Wilson's infamous op-ed in the NY Times. The media-still shellshocked by 9/11-was looking for an excuse to turn on a Republican President and war and took Wilson's ball and ran with it. Then the Plame allegations dropped into their laps and they finally had something to sink their teeth into.
Armitage had inadvertantly been the progenitor of a big story that was hurting the President and discrediting a war that he didn't support-so he sat on it. From recent reports we know that he told a few fellow State Department colleagues that he was the leaker
so it seems logical that he mentioned it to Colin Powell at some point as well. This morning's Washington Post confirms that Armitage told Powell:
Armitage and two officials he later briefed on his role -- State Department legal adviser William Howard Taft IV and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell -- each discussed the matter with the FBI and testified before the grand jury, the former colleague said. But Fitzgerald told Armitage in February that he would not be charged with a crime, he said.
While Armitage and Powell were busy enjoying their just desserts, the nation began to turn against the war and our troops. And they said nothing. Fitzgerald continued with the case knowing that there was no intentional disclosure of a secret agent. And they said nothing. A reporter went to jail to protect a source. And they said nothing. Scooter Libby was indicted. And they said nothing. WMDs were found in Iraq. And they said nothing.
If this had been done by a Democrat it could reasonably be described as another liberal putting politics ahead of the country and allowing people's lives to be ruined to get back at an opposition President. What do you call it when members of the President's own Cabinet do it?