The pure joy of the whole Karl Rove/Valerie Plame affair is in watching the massive Republican spin-control machine in operation. Here’s Rove, who has famously gone after his political enemies over the years on behalf of any candidate he has ever been hired to represent, now unleashing his entire spin operation, perfected over five years in the White House, on behalf of . . . himself. It’s just so interesting to watch it work.
The entire Republican Party, under Rove’s whip, finds itself shocked (!) that anyone would suggest Karl Rove (!!) might actually go after an opponent’s wife in order to discredit said opponent. Oh, the horror. And Karl has always been such a sweet boy.
Any political reporter who doesn’t recognize the going-after-the-wife gambit as Rove 101 should be hanged for dereliction of duty.
One time Rove was displeased with the work done by a Republican advanceman. Rove’s response was: “We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him. Like no one else has ever fucked him.” And that was a guy who was on his side.
Next we have that great Rovian tactic, the shotgun of irrelevant charges aimed at everyone else involved except Our Boy.
Joe Wilson, jeez, an Al Gore supporter from the git-go (forget the heroic diplomat so praised by George H. W. Bush).
His wife with her photograph in Vanity Fair is clearly a publicity hound, celebrity wannabe, a babe, and who cares that she put her life on the line for the USA?
Next we have Matt Cooper of Time. Well, surely we can spread the rumor that Cooper sold out Rove when the going got tough, whether Rove told him it was OK or not.
Then there is Judith Miller, who actually went to jail rather than give up her source—even though she never wrote a word about any of this. Before the war, Miller was Ahmad Chalabi’s pipeline to the front page of The New York Times: She was totally wrong about weapons of mass destruction. So, let’s just let the Left trash her because of her earlier reporting. We don’t have to do a thing but spread some personal slime so no one will feel sorry for her.
Look, a reporter comes armed with a notebook and a pencil. We do not carry guns; we do not even carry heavy flashlights. We cannot arrest people. We do not have power of subpoena. We cannot force people to talk by holding them as material witnesses; we cannot break into their homes or read their computers, with or without a quickie court hearing. We are not the law. All we can do is ask people to trust us.
We have no more right to withhold information about a serious crime than does a lawyer, a doctor, a psychiatrist, a counselor. If someone tells us they have done or are about to do a serious crime, we are utterly obliged to report it, even in the thirty-one states where we have limited legal privileges of confidentiality.
The guidelines at the Department of Justice say that journalists, armed with notebook and pencil, should not be asked to give up our sources unless the full majesty and might of the law, with all its powers, cannot solve a crime on its own. I have seen this legal contest many a time, and in more than 90 percent of the cases where reporters are called upon to reveal their sources, all it means is that the prosecutors don’t have the sense God gave a duck. If they did, they’d be able to get the information for themselves.
In all fairness, Patrick Fitzgerald, having been called upon to investigate a possible crime involving the sticky web of Washington leakers and leakees, might well want to kick the ass of the whole sorry bunch.
I have some sympathy for that approach.
But we’re missing something here. Of course, Rove outed Plame; the most important question is why. Why would he go so far out of his way to undermine the report about a claim so weak that no one who saw it took it seriously? Because Joe Wilson stood up in front of God and everybody and said they didn’t just hype the intelligence, they lied. And that was too much for Rove.