Obviously, it's a slow news day. At TheHill.com, Mike Soraghan writes:
Columnist Robert Novak said Saturday Ambassador Joe Wilson did not forcefully object to the naming of his CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, when Novak spoke to him prior to the publication of a column that sparked a federal investigation and sent White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby to jail.
“He was not terribly exercised about it,” Novak said.
Instead, Wilson focused on not being portrayed as simply an opponent of the Iraq war. Wilson also stressed that his wife went by his last name, Wilson, rather than Plame, Novak said.
Novak forcefully defended his handling of the column and the legal wrangling that surrounded the special counsel investigation in a seminar on the CIA leak case at the 2007 Society of Professional Journalists Convention.
“It was an off-hand remark to a question I asked in an interview I requested,” Novak said. “This was not a conspiracy in the federal government to go after Valerie Plame Wilson.”
Novak said he complied with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s subpoena to testify because his lawyer told him he had no legal grounds to resist, and losing a court fight could erode the legal protections of the press. He noted that, as a syndicated columnist, he had to pay the legal fees himself, to the tune of $160,000. His home newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times, contributed $30,000, he said.
He was surprised when the questioning began, that he was not pressed on his source. The reason, he said, was that Fitzgerald already knew that it was then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
At one point, he recalled, former White House aide Kenneth Duberstein called Novak on Armitage’s behalf, asking if Armitage was the source.
“I said, ‘I can’t give you that information,’” Novak said with a grin.
Novak said his critics, including those in the press, have attacks his ethics, when in fact their quarrel was with his ideology.
“I was stunned by how little editorial support I received. I was under assault from editorial writers from across the country,” Novak said. “It is startling how little is known about this case by the people who are commenting on it.”
He said his case shows the need for a shield law like the one approved last week by a Senate committee. But he added, “Is it not hypocritical for my critics to support a law that would have saved me from three years of confrontation?”
The problem I have with most conservative journalists in general, and Bob Novak in particular, is that their own narcissistic perspective drives their reporting. Their agenda is to present a story in a way that supports their world view, and they're not particularly sensitive or intuitive to the signals being broadcast right under their noses if it means having to let go of the story they want to publish.
That not true for liberal journalists, who tend to pull their punches, hold-off-on or kill stories if they can't get confirmation or affirmation from at least forty different sources. Liberals hate being caught wrong, and conservatives, when caught wrong, will create as much noise and misdirection possible to distract from their clay feet. So is the case with Novak.
Novak's defense for outing an undercover CIA agent in his July 14, 2003 column has been that it was an innocent mistake and not the result of a conspiracy by the Bush administration to intentionally leak the information as a threat to others who might want to come forward with information proving the reasons the administration used to go to war with Iraq were lies. Novak contends there was no conspiracy because of the person who first told him, Richard Armitage - "He was no political gunslinger."
When I first heard Novak tell the circumstances of his meeting with Armitage and how Armitage happened to blab Mrs. Wilson's identity, I wondered how Novak could think for a moment that it wasn't staged. Particularly after all of the other leaks to reporters were testified to:
June 13 - Richard Armitage tells Bob Woodward about Valerie Plame
June 23, 3:00 pm - Scooter Libby meets with Judith Miller - "My notes indicate that well before Mr. Wilson published his critique, Mr. Libby told me that Mr. Wilson's wife may have worked on unconventional weapons at the C.I.A. " Judith Miller, New York Times
July 6 - Joe Wilson Op-ed, "What I Didn't Find in Niger" is published in the NYT
July 7 - Scooter Libby has lunch with Ari Fleischer, tells him Joe Wilson's wife works for CIA. "hush-hush"
July 7 - Dick Cheney directs secretary Catherine Martin to track coverage of Joe Wilson's claims and report to him and Scooter Libby.
July 8, 8:30 am - Scooter Libby meets Judith Miller at St. Regis Hotel and tells her that Valerie Plame works for WINPAC
July 8, afternoon - Richard Armitage meets with Bob Novak. Novak notes in testimony, he's been turned down for interviews for years...so why now?
July 8 - Dick Cheney ordered Scooter Libby to call NBC's Andrea Mitchell and CBS's David Martin [Catherine Martin testimony]
July 9 - Bob Novak speaks to Karl Rove, Rove confirms report on Valerie Plame
July 9 - Bob Novak speaks to Scooter Libby
July 11, 8:30 am - Ari Fleischer leaks to David Gregory and John Dickerson
July 11, 11:07 am - Karl Rove leaks to Matt Cooper, "allegations of nepotism"
July 12 - Dick Cheney instructs Scooter Libby to leak NIE info to undermine Joe Wilson
July 12, 1:26 pm - Ari Fleisher leaks to Walter Pincus
July 12, 2:24 pm - Scooter Libby again tells Matt Cooper about Valerie Plame
July 12, afternoon - Scooter Libby again tells Judith Miller about Valerie Plame
"My recollection, I told him, was that Mr. Libby wanted to modify our prior understanding that I would attribute information from him to a "senior administration official." When the subject turned to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Libby requested that he be identified only as a "former Hill staffer." I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill."
And then, finally, somebody took the bait:
July 14 - Robert Novak writes, "Mission to Niger"
Anybody who buys that the leaking of Plame's name wasn't the result of a conspiracy operating out of the Bush administration is either too stupid or too naive to have a front row seat in the halls of power and to be reporting on the operations of our government to the people.