Much ado about … |

Much ado about …

Don Rogers

I’m planning to write my Monday column about the great farce, the Name de Plame so stirring the Beltway this week.

The one character I seriously admire in this whole Shakespearian comedy is New York Times reporter Judith Miller. As I write she sits in a jail cell for not revealing her secret source or sources for a story she never wrote about a CIA official whose name surfaced in Robert Novak’s column in The New York Post in 2003.

The rest of the players? Well, they are great characters, I’ll give them that. Not great as in admirable in any truly laudatory way. Admirable for audacity, maybe, admirable for various shades of villainy and silliness.

There’s Carl Rove, who told Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper that neither Vice President Dick Cheney nor CIA Director George Tenet dispatched retired diplomat Joe Wilson to Niger to check reports that Saddam Hussein tried to buy material for weapons of mass destruction. Nope, it was Wilson’s wife who sent him, Rove told Cooper. Without naming his wife.

So the White House flack, Scott McCellan, got caught in a lie to reporters back in 2003 that Rove was not “involved” in any conversations with any reporters about Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame.

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And Wilson was exposed as a liar in his own biography asserting that his wife had nothing to do with sending him. Oops. Naturally, red-meat Republicans are also saying his account of his report on Niger was a basically a lie too. I’ll stay out of that spider hole, though.

So liar, liar. I can’t say I’m surprised there. Wilson strikes me as slimy. Rove is an obvious operator, and a clever one at that.

Novak, well, what deal did he make with the special prosecutor assigned to figure out who leaked, never mind whether there’s an actual crime involved here. The GOP folks are asserting that that Valerie Plame, whose CIA job Wilson revealed on his own Web site, did not qualify as an “undercover operative” for whom it would be a crime to reveal. Radio talksters Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were saying today on their shows that “everyone” in town knows her and what she does. And besides that, she wasn’t covert under the definition that would make using her name a crime.

Awesome. What a crazy little play. This is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” wacky stuff.

The usual Bush haters, meantime, smell blood. Again. Oh, God, here we go again. Maybe they can run Rove, smear Bush and all that while loudly complaining that it’s Bush who will stop at nothing to smear his enemies on the left. (Of course, they do a pretty good job of that all by themselves.)

Novak’s revelation about Wilson’s wife came five days after Wilson wrote an op-ed for The Times asserting that the Bush team “twisted” intelligence to “exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”

If the leaking was to quietly set some facts straight, well, the timing was remarkable. If Rove and whoever else leaked truly intended to “get back” at Wilson, well, that would be gasoline on a fire. And of course Wilson ran with it, howling with poorly disguised delight to my mind.

Suddenly he was somebody, a player, showing the evil Bushies as lying about WMD potential and “attacking” him. Quick, get the bookout and hit the talk circuit. Jackpot! Maybe get a Dem elected president, too.

So no, this is a performer playing a role, not an actual victim. It’s Beltway play acting. So is the Democratic rage. This is all about angling for advantage, not finding truth or justice. And oh yeah, it is the American way, at least in certain Zip codes.

The politics are all gas, basically. It does look like someone who was not at all “involved” did leak the identity of a CIA official who was not really “undercover” to a few journalists, two of whom reported the name for their publications, and one ” now in jail ” who did not.

Novak’s behavior since then is frankly reprehensible. He’s not explaining to anyone how a dogged special prosecutor would threaten two other journalists with jail if they didn’t talk but is leaving him alone. It’s obvious that Novak has testified about his sources.

Cooper got his waiver to reveal Rove. His magazine followed the law and gave up their notes dealing with this case. There is no federal law shielding journalists from legally holding to their promises of confidentiality to anonymous sources. Time and Cooper ducked their higher reponsibility as members of the Fourth Estate, however, and so my esteem for them is pretty nil.

The New York Times as an organization is unworthy of its reputation. They abandoned truth a long time ago and became just one more player, about as greasy as the rest of them. But at least they’ve held firm, so far.

The prosecutor has overreached going after reporters. Presumably, he got his information from the fellow who outed Plame. Good for him. Leave the reporter who never wrote about this alone. He has the information he needs.

I’m a newspaper guy, a journalist, an ardent believer in the notion that the First Admendment and free, unfettered press are what make America’s democracy work ” locally as well as nationally. We are called upon by tradition, precedent and the future of our democracy to hold to principle.

The only one in this whole hilarious yet tragic play who is has any worth saving is Judith Miller, paying the price for everyone else’s rank malfeasance.

Can’t wait for tomorrow’s turn …

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