Plamegate, RIP

Unfortunately for her vanity lawsuit, the “leaker” in the Valerie Plame “scandal” is the one Bush administration official she didn’t sue.

According to an article written by Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff’s entitled “The Man Who Said Too Much,” the first person to tell the press that Valerie Plame sent her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, on his preposterous trip to Niger was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

The article was designed to promote Hubris, the new book Isikoff co-wrote with David Corn, Washington editor of the far-Left Nation magazine – a fact which in itself ought to speak volumes about Newsweek’s “unbiased reporting.” The book relates that, upon reading Bob Novak’s description of the original source as “no partisan gunslinger,” Armitage told others in State he was “the one that f-cked up.”

Appearing on yesterday’s “Meet the Press,” Novak would neither “confirm nor deny” the story by Isikoff but offered that Isikoff is “a very good investigative reporter.” Reiterating his policy not to name sources without their permission, he concluded, “I believe it is way past time for my source to come forward.”

At this stage, permission is perfunctory. Records show Armitage met with Bob Woodward on June 13, 2003, weeks before his discussion with Novak. Bloggers have speculated for months that Armitage was the Bush league Deep Throat, and Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee named him a “likely source.”

The revelation discredits the Left’s conspiracy theory that the Bush administration leaked Plame’s name to Novak in retaliation for Wilson’s op-ed, “What I Didn’t Find in Niger.” Corn admits, “Colleagues of Armitage told us that Armitage – who is known to be an inveterate gossip – was only conveying a hot tidbit, not aiming to do Joe Wilson harm.” This confirms Woodward’s description of his source’s “outing” as “casual and offhand,” as well as Novak’s calling it “an offhand revelation.”

For once, under the weight of evidence, Corn backs down – a bit. Note the use of the passive voice here:

The Plame leak in Novak’s column has long been cited by Bush administration critics as a deliberate act of payback, orchestrated to punish and/or discredit Joe Wilson after he charged that the Bush administration had misled the American public about the prewar intelligence. The Armitage news does not fit neatly into that framework.

Corn is less bashful later in the piece:

I happened to be the first journalist to report that the leak in the Novak column might be evidence of a White House crime – a violation of the little-known Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it a crime for a government official to disclose information about an undercover CIA officer.

In an earlier column, Corn earned his reputation as the man willing to ask the questions balanced journalists would not, querying:

Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security – and break the law – in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?

Now there is evidence Bushies used classified information and put the nation’s counter-proliferation efforts at risk merely to settle a score.

Now he acknowledges, The Armitage leak was not directly a part of the White House’s fierce anti-Wilson crusade.”

Trying to breathe life into a dying “scandal,” he writes, “as Hubris notes, it was, in a way, linked to the White House effort.” How so? Because Armitage got his information from a memo drawn up when I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby investigated the Wilson trip. And – gasp! – Karl Rove verified the information when asked.

So it is connected. In a way. Sorta.

Grasping for outrage, Corn writes:

Yet when Isikoff and Newsweek in July 2005 revealed a Matt Cooper email showing that Rove had leaked to Cooper, the White House refused to acknowledge this damning evidence, declined to comment on the case, and did not dismiss Rove. To date, the president has not addressed Rove’s role in the leak. It remains a story of ugly and unethical politics, stonewalling, and lies.

Corn omits the fact that Wilson was a nepotistic liar and that Bush promised only to fire those who had broken the law, something Rove has apparently not done. The decision by Libby – and ultimately Cheney – to investigate the Niger trip is the reasonable reaction of a White House trying to understand how an unqualified man conducted an inept investigation, then publicly contradicted his previous report to the CIA and called the commander-in-chief a liar in the midst of a war. Had the president not investigated the trip, he would be accused of “refusing to explore his mistakes.” When the evidence exculpates him, the Left castigates him for noticing.

The most delicious irony of the Isikoff/Corn piece is that throughout the Bush administration the Left hailed Armitage and Powell, relying on the steady stream of leaks emanating from their offices to undermine Bush’s foreign policy. After September 11, the Left praised Powell and Armitage as sensible “moderates” in an unbalanced administration. Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, Armitage convinced Powell to try to sell the president on a multilateral UN force in Iraq. He testified there might be such a force “under UN leadership” after Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld ruled out that particular encroachment on national sovereignty. Isikoff’s piece records the Vietnam vet’s contempt for Cheney, Rove, and other “neocons,” as well as his reticence over Iraq. While in office, Armitage overtly muzzled John Bolton.

The Bill Moyers/George Soros-funded The American Prospect stated correctly, “it was Armitage who supplied the steel fist inside Powell’s velvet glove – and that fist often swung at the administration’s neoconservatives.”

That collective fist swung through a flood of off-the-record press statements to Washington’s prestige media. Aside from his boss, few were as accomplished at the art of the leak as Armitage. The American Prospect again notes, “Michael Rubin, a former Middle East analyst in the Pentagon’s policy directorate (an outpost of neoconservatism), paid tribute to Armitage’s infighting skills in a September e-mail to friends in which he speculated that a prominent journalist ‘regularly reports Armitage’s line in exchange for weekly backgrounders.’”

Since leaving State, he has teamed with Powell in an under-the-radar media campaign to spike Bolton’s nomination to the UN and become a vocal critic of Bush’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Left likewise hailed him during the Valerie Plame investigation. Noting leaks that seemed to originate at State pointing the finger at Cheney/Libby/Rove, the left-wing blog NeedleNose placed “Powell and/or Armitage…in the ranks of those who are helping to fight back.”

Knowing that it was not the hawkish wing of the White House but one of the most outspoken (quasi-)doves – who fought the Left’s preferred neocon demons and whose leaks the Left cherished – who revealed Valerie Plame’s name should sweep aside the vacuous accusations that “pro-war ideologues” did her in.

In gratitude, Valerie Plame threatened to sue Armitage last week.

Meanwhile, the leftist site Buzzflash charges its readers: “Beware of the Armitage Red Herring.”

Yeah. Blaming Richard Armitage for their leak is just what they would do….

This story originally appeared as the lead story on Monday, August 28, 2006, on FrontPage Magazine.