The flap over Robert Novak
Another shoe is in the process of dropping as the Wilson-Plame leak (?) scandal unfolds. Robert Novak wrote a column that appeared in last Monday's Washington Post (see Chicago Sun-Times) that disputed what CIA official Bill Harlow said about conversations with Novak just prior to the infamous July 14, 2003 column in which Valerie Plame's name first was publicized. Novak noted that Harlow
told the Post reporters he had "warned" me that if I "did write about it her name should not be revealed." That is meaningless. Once it was determined that Wilson's wife suggested the mission, she could be identified as "Valerie Plame" by reading her husband's entry in "Who's Who in America.
It turns out that Valerie Plame's name has indeed been listed under the entry for Ambassador Joe Wilson in recent editions of Who's Who. This would come as a surprise only to those who are under the impression that she was a secret agent engaged in espionage; based on Joe Wilson's loud protests of Bush's war policy, which inevitably drew media attention to him and his personal acquaintences, it would appear that her cover at the CIA was not that deep. Likewise, from what we now know, it seems that Novak was just doing his job of investigative reporting, and it's a huge stretch to say he endangered national security by revealing her name. Democrat blogger Josh Marshall says he will explain later "why the whole commotion over Valerie 'Plame's' mention in the bio is simply an attempt on Novak's part to confuse the issue." Marshall is one of the top spin-meisters around, so I'm sure he will come up with something good.
This saga took a strange turn on Thursday when Novak walked off the set of a CNN show with Jim Carville, refusing to answer questions about his role in the affair. (A copy of Who's Who was sitting on the table!) Frankly, I'm surprised that he has been able to stay out of the fray for as long as he has. Moderate liberal blogger Joe Gandelman has been lamenting (?) Robert Novak's declining stature in this case, suggesting that Novak is melting down. (via Instapundit) It would be too bad if Novak ends up damaged by all this. Nicknamed the "Prince of Darkness" since his days on television with Rowland Evans, he certainly has personality issues, to put it delicately, but as a veteran hardball player in Washington, that's what it takes to get the next big scoop.
Perhaps he's a meany, but I do credit Novak with political integrity and independence. For example, his August 4 piece praised Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) for dissenting from the GOP party line and criticizing the pork-laden transportation bill, which "he exposed as phony." See Chicago Sun-Times.) (Speaking of which, if the transportation bill and the energy bill are the price that had to be paid for getting CAFTA passed, it calls into question both the worth of CAFTA and our country's status as a bastion of free enterprise capitalism.) Novak is not endearing himself to the White House by this line of criticism, which is interesting in light of the fact that Karl Rove is still on the hot seat over the Wilson-Plame-CIA affair. Ordinarily, August is supposed to be the month when politics in Washington takes a break, but perhaps this year is different.