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Sunday, September 28, 2003


The Plame Affair: Dean must lead

posted by Aziz P. at Sunday, September 28, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
To be honest, the Dean campaign missed the boat with their press release calling for Rumsfeld's resignation. It's a matter of timing - and Iraq has been temporarily eclipsed in importance by the Valerie Plame affair.

the BIG Story was not buried as I pessimistically expected, but was actually picked up over the weekend by the Washington Post and the New York Times (which nicely renders moot Billmon's fears that MSNBC's original lead would be left hanging in the wind).

This story illustrates why the blogsphere is so essential - there is a wealth of inference from the WaPo and the NYT stories that I would not have picked up on from reading them cold. But the major lefty bloggers, with combined experience in journalism and politics, are able to really shed light on the shorthand and the subtext. The major new revelation was by the Washington Post:

A senior administration official said two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and revealed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. That was shortly after Wilson revealed in July that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson's account eventually touched off a controversy over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak...The official would not name the leakers for the record and would not name the journalists.

This is an amazing excerpt in its own right - it highlights the direct "shopping around" nature of teh vendetta by the White House to deliberately try and payback Wilson. But there's so much more to learn. First, Kevin Drum summarizes the implications:

  1. This involves two top White House officials who blew the cover of a CIA agent solely for payback against a minor political enemy.
  2. They systematically called six different journalists.
  3. Only Robert Novak went with the story. (Which, by the way, actually speaks pretty well of the rest of the Washington press corps.)
  4. There are a whole bunch of people, including Mike Allen and Dana Priest, who know who the White House officials are.

I find point #4 astonishing. The names of the people who blew Plame's (alleged) cover are well-known by journalists. And Billmon takes it further, pointing out that "when the Post reporter gets up at the Monday press conference and asks Scott McClellan if Mr. X or Ms. Y was involved, everyone else will know, too."

Kos speculates that the "two top White House officials" can only be Ari Fleischer and Karl Rove, and Billmon theorizes that the source for the WaPo quote above is likely George Tenet, who has to still be smarting from being forced to eat the Administration's feces on the whole yellowcake affair (which is nicely being re-summarized by the current flap). Apparently, journalists have a spectrum of explicit monikers when they quote sources off the record, which dramatically limits who "top White House officials" and "senior administration officials" can possibly be.

Kevin comes to the same conclusion, belatedly, that most of us who have been following the Administration since before 9-11 already arrived at. But he puts it much more succinctly:

these are radical ideologues who care about nothing except staying in power and will do anything, no matter how craven and malevolent, to get what they want.

That's the reason in a nutshell we need to boot Bush in 2004, not for partisan gain but for the safety and security of our nation itself. That's why I've changed my mind and will even vote for Lieberman is necessary. But only Howard Dean offers the chance to heal these wounds in a meaningful sense - only Dean offers a chance to rebuild American politics on a foundation of civil responsibility to our nation as a whole rather than the naked pursuit of power.

Disappointingly, amongst righty bloggers, only Tacitus has been following this issue. Glenn hasn't touched it yet. I sincerely hope that changes on Monday. But I fully expect that when the right-sphere does address the issue en masse, it will probably resemble the desperate spinning that partisan hack Macallan frantically spews in Tacitus' comments than any substantive critique.

That won't stop those erratic defensive talking points from being appropriated by Fox news, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh in a last-ditch effort to capitalize on their carefully cultivated ditto-head legions to reject the facts. By the end of next week, the story may just be another non-issue. I'm often quite hard on the media for not doing their part, but the public also has a responsibility too.

What the campaign must do is take the lead in making the Plame Affair public. The Plame affair is a shameful example of putting the nation's interests second and political payback first. This is far worse than Nixon authorizing a break-in - blowing the cover of a CIA operative is so egregious that then-Vice President George HW Bush fought hard for the Intelligence Identity Protection Act in 1982, which made it a felony offense. The senior Bush, a true war veteran and builder of a true military coalition for Desert Storm in 1991, must be privately aghast at how his son has aped his career but done so with none of the principled sense of duty and responsibility.

Dean alone can convincingly push hard on this - coming from a partisan like Gephardt the message might be discounted, but Dean is uniquely positioned leverage his status as frontrunner and principled cross-over candidate to this crucial issue. Yes, raising more money before Q3 ends is a big priority, but Dean has a very limited window to use his grassroots pulpit to do major good for the country by addressing this issue strongly NOW. Nothing else is more important.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.