What Nicholas Kristoff said
Of all the New York Times op-ed columnists, I’ve found Nicholas Kristoff to be the most unpredictable. I disagree with Bob Herbert 99% of the time, Krugman and Dowd 75% of the time, Brooks and Friedman only 33% of the time. Kristoff is at the 50% level — I either think he’s hit the nail ...
Of all the New York Times op-ed columnists, I've found Nicholas Kristoff to be the most unpredictable. I disagree with Bob Herbert 99% of the time, Krugman and Dowd 75% of the time, Brooks and Friedman only 33% of the time. Kristoff is at the 50% level -- I either think he's hit the nail on the head or I find him to be dead wrong. Yesterday he hit the nail on the head:
Of all the New York Times op-ed columnists, I’ve found Nicholas Kristoff to be the most unpredictable. I disagree with Bob Herbert 99% of the time, Krugman and Dowd 75% of the time, Brooks and Friedman only 33% of the time. Kristoff is at the 50% level — I either think he’s hit the nail on the head or I find him to be dead wrong. Yesterday he hit the nail on the head:
[M]y sense is that Democrats exaggerate the damage to Mrs. Wilson’s career and to her personal security, while Republicans vastly play down the enormity of the security breach and the danger to the assets she worked with…. All in all, I think the Democrats are engaging in hyperbole when they describe the White House as having put Mrs. Wilson’s life in danger and destroyed her career; her days skulking along the back alleys of cities like Beirut and Algiers were already mostly over. Moreover, the Democrats cheapen the debate with calls, at the very beginning of the process, for a special counsel to investigate the White House. Hillary Rodham Clinton knows better than anyone how destructive and distracting a special counsel investigation can be, interfering with the basic task of governing, and it’s sad to see her display the same pusillanimous partisanship that Republicans showed just a few years ago. If Democrats have politicized the scandal and exaggerated it, Republicans have inexcusably tried to whitewash it. The leak risked the security of all operatives who had used Brewster-Jennings as cover, as well as of all assets ever seen with Mrs. Wilson. Unwitting sources will now realize that they were supplying the C.I.A. with information, and even real agents may fear exposure and vanish. C.I.A. veterans are seething, and rightly so, at the betrayal by their own government. Larry Johnson, who entered the agency at the same time as Mrs. Wilson, is a Republican who voted for President Bush — and he’s so enraged that he compares the administration leaker to the spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. “Here’s a woman who put her life on the line,” Mr. Johnson said. “But unlike a Navy seal or a marine, she didn’t have a gun to fight back. All she had to protect her was her cover.”… This scandal leaves everybody stinking.
Indeed (link via Tom Maguire). UPDATE: Today’s Washington Post story has more info. Most important, the key source behind September’s revelations makes a new appearance:
On July 7, the White House admitted it had been a mistake to include the 16 words about uranium in Bush’s State of the Union speech. Four days later, with the controversy dominating the airwaves and drowning out the messages Bush intended to send during his trip in Africa, CIA Director George J. Tenet took public blame for failing to have the sentence removed. That same week, two top White House officials disclosed Plame’s identity to least six Washington journalists, an administration official told The Post for an article published Sept. 28. The source elaborated on the conversations last week, saying that officials brought up Plame as part of their broader case against Wilson. “It was unsolicited,” the source said. “They were pushing back. They used everything they had.” Novak has said he began interviewing Bush officials about Wilson shortly after July 6, asking why such an outspoken Bush policy critic was picked for the Niger mission. Novak reported that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA on weapons of mass destruction and that she was the person who suggested Wilson for the job. Officials have said Wilson, a former ambassador to Gabon and National Security Council senior director for African affairs, was not chosen because of his wife. On July 12, two days before Novak’s column, a Post reporter was told by an administration official that the White House had not paid attention to the former ambassador’s CIA-sponsored trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction. Plame’s name was never mentioned and the purpose of the disclosure did not appear to be to generate an article, but rather to undermine Wilson’s report. After Novak’s column appeared, several high-profile reporters told Wilson that they had received calls from White House officials drawing attention to his wife’s role. Andrea Mitchell of NBC News said she received one of those calls.
Josh Marshall and Tom Maguire have already weighed in. My two cents:
The White House was at war with Joe Wilson. And they were using everything in their arsenal to take him down. The authors of the piece seem to have spoken to “administration sources” who told them that the motive for naming Plame wasn’t retaliation but an effort to destroy Wilson’s credibility and thus get reporters to ignore him. That theory of the crime, shall we say, seems to conflict with the account of the administration official who told the Post on he September 28th that the calls were “meant purely and simply for revenge.”
So, this doesn’t change my “nasty and partisan, but not intentional or malevolent” theory of events.
I’m all for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate this case. It seems like a textbook example of an inquiry that calls for one. But I haven’t made too big a point of it because I think that once a full-scale criminal probe gets underway its really not that easy to control. Once lawyers and FBI agents and depositions and the rest of it get involved, these things have a way of taking on a life of their own. As I’ve said before, I’m convinced that the White House will eventually rue the day the president didn’t just do the right thing on day one: find the culprits, fire them and move on.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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