"On July 20, 2003, NBC’s correspondent Andrea Mitchell told Wilson that “senior White House sources” had called her to stress “the real story here is not the 16 words [from Bush’s State of the Union speech] but Wilson and his wife.”"then this:
"In late summer 2006, authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn promoted an angle in their book, Hubris, that identified the State Department’s Armitage as Novak’s original source on the CIA identity of Valerie Plame.for the record, since it has come up again recently, i still struggle with the idea that Plame was outed for reasons other than 'Get Wilson' *and* i still don't trust that Armitage outed Plame by gossipy accident. I can't forcefully argue either position with , ya know, facts or anything - but i'm still clinging to the possibility that my earlier positions are accurate...
The Isikoff-Corn disclosure was quickly cited by the mainstream Washington press corps as vindication for the Bush administration and yet another reason to dump on Joe Wilson.
The Armitage Mistake
Since the “conventional wisdom” held that Armitage wasn’t part of the administration’s neocon inner circle and was a skeptic about the Iraq War, the major news media jumped on the story as evidence that there never had been a White House conspiracy to punish Wilson by outing his wife.
“It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House – that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity – is untrue,” a Washington Post editorial declared on Sept. 1, 2006.
While acknowledging that Libby and other White House officials were not “blameless,” since they allegedly released Plame’s identity while “trying to discredit Mr. Wilson,” the Post still reserved its harshest condemnation for Wilson, blaming his criticism of Bush’s false State of the Union claim for Plame’s exposure.
“It now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame’s CIA career is Mr. Wilson,” the Post editorial said. “Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming – falsely, as it turned out – that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials.
“He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush’s closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It’s unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.”
The Post’s editorial, however, is at best an argumentative smear and most likely a willful lie. Along with other government investigators, Wilson did debunk the reports of Iraq acquiring yellowcake in Niger and those findings did circulate to senior levels, explaining why CIA Director Tenet struck the yellowcake claims from other Bush speeches.
(The Post’s accusation about Wilson “falsely” claiming to have debunked the yellowcake reports apparently is based on Wilson’s inclusion in his report of speculation from one Niger official who suspected that Iraq might be interested in buying yellowcake, although the Iraqi officials never mentioned yellowcake and made no effort to buy any. This irrelevant point has been a centerpiece of Republican attacks on Wilson.)
In shifting the blame for exposing Plame’s identity away from the White House and Novak and onto Wilson, Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt also absolved himself since he published Novak’s column revealing Plame’s identity in the first place.
Contrary to the Post’s assertion that Wilson “ought to have expected” that the White House and Novak would zero in on Wilson’s wife, a reasonable expectation in a normal world would have been just the opposite.
Even amid the ugly partisanship of today’s Washington, it was shocking to many longtime observers of government that any administration official or even an experienced journalist would disclose the name of a covert CIA officer for such a flimsy reason as trying to discredit her husband.
And only in this upside-down world would a major newspaper be so irresponsible and so dishonest as to lay off the blame for exposing a CIA officer on her husband because he dared criticize lies told by the President of the United States, deceptions that have led the nation into a military debacle and to the deaths of more than 3,000 American soldiers.
The day after the Post’s editorial, the New York Times took a slightly different tack in defending the White House. The Times article suggested that special prosecutor Fitzgerald was the real villain for having pursued the Plame investigation for more than two years after Armitage had admitted in secret grand jury testimony that he was Novak’s firstl source. [NYT, Sept. 2, 2006]
But these major news outlets had missed another key fact. They assumed that Armitage – as Colin Powell’s well-liked deputy – had no significant connection to the White House political machinations.
That was not the reality, according to a well-placed conservative source who spoke with me. An early supporter of George W. Bush who knew both Armitage and Rove, the source told me that Armitage and Rove were much closer than many Washington insiders knew.
Armitage and Rove developed a friendship and a close working relationship when Bush was lining up Powell to be his Secretary of State, the source said. In those negotiations, Armitage stood in for Powell and Rove represented Bush – and after that, the two men provided a back channel for sensitive information to pass between the White House and the State Department, the source said.
The significance of this detail is that it undermines the current “conventional wisdom” among Washington pundits that Armitage acted alone – and innocently – in July 2003 when he disclosed Plame’s covert identity to Novak, who then turned to Rove as a secondary source confirming the information from Armitage.
The revelation from the conservative source as well as Novak’s version of how he got the story – “I didn’t dig it out, it was given to me” – suggest that Armitage and Rove were collaborating on the anti-Wilson operation, not simply operating on parallel tracks without knowing what the other was doing.
The mainstream media’s assumption that Armitage “inadvertently” let Plame’s identity slip out almost as gossip also was challenged by my conservative source. When I asked him about that scenario, he laughed and said, “Armitage isn’t a gossip, but he is a leaker. There’s a difference.”
Also forgotten in the mainstream news coverage was the fact that in 1998, Armitage was one of the 18 signatories to a seminal letter from the neoconservative Project for the New American Century urging President Bill Clinton to oust Saddam Hussein by military force if necessary.
Armitage joined a host of neoconservative icons, such as Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, William Kristol, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. Many of the signers, including Donald Rumsfeld, would become architects of Bush’s Iraq War policy five years later.
Nevertheless, the Armitage-as-innocent-gossip version of events was embraced by leading Washington pundits as the final proof that Rove and the White House had gotten a bum rap on the Plame affair.
In a Sept. 7, 2006, article, entitled “One Leak and a Flood of Silliness,” veteran Washington Post columnist David Broder wrote that publications which had made allegations about White House wrongdoing “owe Karl Rove an apology. And all of journalism needs to relearn the lesson: Can the conspiracy theories and stick to the facts.”
But David Broder, Fred Hiatt and the other see-no-evil pundits appear to be the ones ignoring facts in favor of a more pleasant “conventional wisdom” about well-meaning Bush aides who would never think about smearing some Iraq War critic.
As the Libby case finally gets underway, the trial will offer another opportunity for the major news media to climb back into that time machine and travel back to the happier era when everyone who mattered in Washington just knew that George W. Bush was always right and anyone who thought otherwise must be a “conspiracy theorist.”"