Today, the Washington Post's David Broder joins the crowing media types claiming that the revelation that Richard Armitage was Robert Novak's Plamegate source exculpates everyone else involved.
IT DOESN'T. In fact, it barely has anything to do with it!
Fact: Karl Rove leaked Joe Wilson's wife's identity to Matt Cooper BEFORE Novak published his column.
Fact: Scooter Libby leaked Joe Wilson's wife's identity to Judith Miller BEFORE Novak published his column.
Yet in his column in Canada's National Post this past weekend, "The Washington Scandal That Wasn't," David Frum claims that the confirmation of Armitage's identity lays the matter to rest with "an anti-climactic splat" — yet doesn't even mention what was leaked to Cooper and Miller. Christopher Hitchens, who wrote in July that Novak's revelations "exonerated the Bushies" and just a week or so ago that the Armitage-as-leak news proved that there was no "government-sponsored vendetta" against Wilson — yet doesn't even mention what was leaked to Cooper and Miller. Now today, David Broder wags a finger at the press for going to town on Rove, saying that since the original leak came from Armitage, it could not have been "political payback against Wilson by a White House that wanted to shift the public focus from the Iraq War to Wilson's motives." Yet he fails to account for the fact that Rove and Libby leaked to Cooper and Miller before Novak published a word.
It is absolutely true that if Armitage were a huge neocon hawk, the revelation that he was the original leak would bolster the theory of a high-level conspiracy to smear Joe Wilson. But the converse is not. The fact that the leak turned out to be an innocent lip-slip from an administration dove only accounts for the motives of one leaker: Armitage! What it does not account for is the fact that, thanks to Murray Waas, we know that Bush directed Cheney to go after Joe Wilson on his bogus WMD allegations. We also know that Cheney directed Libby to leak a classified CIA document to the press in the hopes of undermining Wilson's credibility and claims. In short, we know there was a concentrated effort on the part of the administration to counter Wilson's claims; I'd say that's reasonable grounds to infer that Rove and Libby may have had an agenda in leaking Plame's name to the press (not to mention that Rove didn't come clean about his role in the saga until Cooper was almost in leg irons, and Scooter Libby let Judy Miller sit in jail for 85 days before permitting her to divulge his name). When high-level government officials have something to hide about controversial, incriminating events, I'd say it's the media's responsibility to examine the evidence — and the conclusions it supports.
Conservatives like to trumpet the fact that Fitgerald found that no crime was committed. But that is a separate matter from whether or not there was a campaign afoot to smear Joe Wilson, and whether that motivated the revelation of his wife's identity by at least TWO high-level sources who weren't Armitage.
So Armitage was Novak's source. Big deal. That doesn't change what transpired between Rove and Cooper, Libby and Miller, Bush and Cheney, Cheney and Libby — a fact which has been left unmentioned by the likes of Hitchens, Frum, and Broder. I'd be perfectly willing to consider their arguments regarding all aspects of Plamegate — if only they stopped ignoring mine.
Hat Tip: Joe Scarborough, for giving me a reason to think about all this last week. Mr. Hitchens, I look forward to the rematch.