To observe the Washington press corps is to wonder why so many people who donâ€™t remember what happened yesterday and canâ€™t master basic logic are expected to analyze politics and policy. The latest developments in the Valerie Plame Wilson caseâ€”as revealed in Hubris, a new book by Michael Isikoff and David Cornâ€”proved once more that the simplest analysis of facts is beyond the grasp of many of Americaâ€™s most celebrated journalists.
What Messrs. Corn and Isikoff reveal, among other things, is that the first official to reveal Valerie Wilsonâ€™s covert identity as a C.I.A. operative to columnist Robert Novak in June 2003 was Richard Armitage, who then served as Deputy Secretary of State. Unlike other Bush administration figures who were involved in leaking Ms. Wilsonâ€™s identity, such as Karl Rove and Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Mr. Armitage was known to be unenthusiastic about the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
From those two facts, numerous pundits and talking heads have deduced that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were guiltless, that there was no White House effort to expose Ms. Wilson, and that the entire leak investigation was a partisan witch hunt and perhaps an abuse of discretion by the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald. The same pundits now proclaim that Mr. Armitageâ€™s minor role somehow proves the White House didnâ€™t seek to punish Valerie Wilson and her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, for his decision to publicly debunk the Presidential misuse of dubious intelligence from Niger concerning Iraqâ€™s alleged attempts to purchase yellowcake uranium.
But whatever Mr. Armitage did, or says he did, in no way alters what Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby did in the days that followed, nor does it change their intentions. Itâ€™s a simple conceptâ€”two people or more can commit a similar act for entirely different reasonsâ€”but evidently it has flummoxed the great minds of contemporary journalism.
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On his blog, Mr. Corn, the Washington editor of The Nation, recently responded to the opinion-makers who were so eager to misuse his reporting to exonerate the White House. â€œAs Hubris will make clear,â€ he wrote, â€œRoveâ€™s leak (to Robert Novak and Matt Cooper) and Libbyâ€™s leak (to Judith Miller and Cooper) were part of a campaign to discredit former ambassador Joseph Wilson. Thatâ€™s no conspiracy theory. The available evidence proves this point.â€