idea that, because of the Plame
Affair, conservative columnist Bob Novak may be called
on to reveal his sources – perhaps even be subpoenaed
leads to an interesting question: Did the leaker (or leakers)
hope to ensnare Novak in a legal and ethical
web and discredit him as a reporter when they chose
him as the conduit of their calumny?
makes sense because Novak, aside from his partisan leanings,
was an acerbic opponent
of the Iraq war, and a thorn in the side of the neocons.
Neocon David Frum, Bush's ex-speechwriter and co-author of
the infamous "axis of evil" meme, denounced
Novak in a long screed excommunicating
antiwar conservatives from the Respectable Right: Frum took
care to smear Novak as especially guilty of "anti-Semitism"
(never mind that Novak is of Jewish heritage: logic never
once entered into Commissar
Frum's feverish invective).
only problem with this theory is that, in outing a CIA undercover
operative, the leakers also drew attention to themselves –
but that is not necessarily a fatal error. An investigation
of some sort into how and why we were lied into war was in
the works, anyway. By narrowing the scope of such an inquiry,
the leakers were making the best of a bad situation. And they
may not have much to worry about anyway….
President has already ruled
out the three top suspects in this case: Karl Rove, Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, and Elliot Abrams.
Rove is widely
quoted as saying to MSNBC correspondent Chris Matthews
that Valerie Plame Wilson was "fair game," and the other two
have a storied
history of scandal
approached by few other denizens of Washington. Furthermore,
amid all the stories detailing yesterday's "deadline"
for government personnel to turn over records pertaining to
contacts with Novak and at
least half a dozen other reporters in the Washington press
corps who had the Plame story peddled to them there
is very little mention of a key factor: the documents are
over to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, rather than
to the Justice Department directly. Is there any doubt that
they will be vetted – in the name of "national security" –
and sanitized before being turned over? It should be no problem
digging up the pertinent paragraphs
in the "Patriot" Act to legalize the cover-up.
we head into a presidential election year, the Wilson-Plame
scandal is inevitably framed in partisan terms, and is thus
much easier to dismiss as "gotcha" politics. This tends to
narrow the scope of the investigation even further. With White
House wagons circling, the first real consequence of this
controversy is to make Novak the target of a
smear campaign – and perhaps even prosecution.
get one thing clear: Novak committed no crime. He merely reported
one. The criminals are the "senior administration officials"
who whispered secrets in his ear with the knowledge that they
would almost certainly see print. To all those supposedly
who write Novak off as a shill for the Bush administration:
without Novak's reporting, the machinations of the neocons
would still be taking place in the dark. His column shone
the spotlight on their intrigues, and in no way did he denigrate
or dismiss Joe Wilson. As
Jack Shafer put it in Slate:
"Whatever the leakers' objective, Novak did not serve them
very well. I defy anyone to read Novak's now-famous
column and summarize it coherently. The brief discussion
of Plame and her shadowy occupation seems gratuitous in the
larger frame of the article, which, if anything, sympathizes
with Wilson's view that the case for war wasn't properly made."
neocons hate Bob Novak. It's true he has been the
recipient of a lot of neocon-inspired leaks over the years,
as Dana Milbank pointed out recently in the Washington
Post, but that was back in the cold war era, when the
distinctions between neos and traditional
conservatives mattered much less. Novak was content to
play ball with them on the question of perceived weakness
in the face of the Soviet threat. Once that threat ended,
however, the alliance was sundered. Novak opposed Gulf War
I, as well as the conquest of Iraq, and gives important visibility
to the conservative anti-interventionist position. The neocons
will never forgive him for writing that the Iraq war
as the neoconservative network inside this administration
handed the President a booby-trapped bit of "intelligence"
that wound up being based on a forgery,
so they handed Novak a ticking time-bomb of a story, one set
to go off with the starting gun of the race for the White
their minions in the administration are facing an investigation
that could discredit them, then the neocons might as well
take one of their enemies down with them. If the President
and even Donald Rumsfeld are
having second thoughts about
the grandiose plans of the neocons, who want to "transform"
the entire Middle East – through war, of course – then why
not take down the Bushies, too? It's like that scene in The
Lord of the Rings when Gandalf
is facing off the Balrog. The monstrous creature is shoved
into a bottomless pit – but a tentacle of the vanquished monster
grips the wizard's ankle in a final burst of malevolent energy,
dragging Gandalf down into
of the circumstances of this case tend to downplay the possibility
of Novak being in legal trouble, but I wouldn't rule it out
just yet. Law professor and blogger extraordinaire
Glenn Reynolds would
drag Novak into court, and presumably jail him for refusing
to divulge his sources. Witless
lefties of Pavlovian
tendencies are also calling for Novak's scalp, ignorantly
reacting in typically knee-jerk fashion, because they are
just too stupid to see what the neocons are up to.
CIA agent Larry Johnson tore into Novak on MSNBC the other
day: Johnson holds him responsible for whatever collateral
damage Plame's unmasking entails. Everyone she ever dealt
with, was seen talking with, etc., is now, Johnson explained,
"outed" along with Mrs. Wilson. But it is absurd to hold Novak
responsible for that, since a) he was told that she worked
as an analyst, not an undercover agent, and 2) when he told
them he was going to print her name, none of his CIA sources
raised much of a ruckus.
network that fed a President hungry for misinformation,
and lied the nation into war,
is under attack from all sides. Even some Republicans in Congress
are up in arms about the costs, and projected length of our
stay in Iraq. The neocons may be cornered, but they are fighting
back all the more viciously because of it. That is why they
outed an undercover CIA officer: on the theory that the best
defense is a good offense, they are taking out their enemies
– the antiwar conservatives, Joe Wilson, Novak, and whoever's
next – picking them off one by one. As Stuart Taylor, Jr.,
legal affairs writer for The Atlantic, points out:
most relevant Supreme Court precedents suggest that the courts
would probably reject claims that reporters have an absolute
First Amendment right to protect their sources. The most obvious
target for a subpoena would be conservative columnist Robert
D. Novak, who in July identified Valerie Plame, wife of former
Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, as a CIA "operative on weapons
of mass destruction," citing "two senior administration officials"
as his sources."
dragging the media into court, and putting them on
trial, in effect, the cornered rats in this administration
may yet be able to turn the tables. The spectacle of Novak
or any of the other six or so Washington reporters being threatened
with prosecution, while the White House exonerates the prime
suspects in advance, will signal that the rats have triumphed,
IN THE MARGIN
forgot to say "Happy Anniversary" to The American Conservative – on October
1, the staff and friends marked the passing of TAC's
first year with a party in the Washington, D.C. area. I was
invited, but too damn broke to go, darnit. I was there in
spirit, at any rate, and I have no doubt that a good time
was had by all. This has been a great year for the rebirth
of the Old Right. Those
antiwar warriors of the 1930s and 1940s who warned that
we would gain the world while losing our old Republic (and
our own souls) in the bargain have much to say to us today.
That a contemporary magazine of political opinion is saying
it, without compromise and in colorful fashion, affords me
about as much political gratification as seems possible in
these dark days.
of the Old Right, a new edition of my history of that movement
is in the works, re-titled, with a lengthy Afterword and other
new material. The earlier edition of my book, Reclaiming the American Right:
The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, took
the story of the neocon-paleocon divergence up until 1993.
The War Party: How the Neocons Infiltrated the American
Right and Hijacked U.S. Foreign Policy, will take us up
was pleasantly surprised, during an interview with Kyodo News
Service’s Hiro-Tsugu Aida, that he asked me about the John Randolph Club (JRC).
They say prophets are never honored in their own time, and
in their own country, but at least we’re famous in Japan!
the JRC, you say? It’s a not-so-secret cabal of paleoconservatives,
founded in 1991 or thereabouts: check out the late Murray N. Rothbard’s first
presidential address to the second annual meeting of the
JRC. Rothbard was exactly right: now that the Bolsheviks are
extinct, or nearly so, it is time to turn to the problem of
eliminating the influence of their Menshevik first cousins.
As Rothbard put it in his speech:
democracy is still here in all its variants, defining our
entire respectable political spectrum, from advanced victimology
and feminism on the left over to neoconservatism on the right.
We are now trapped, in America, inside a Menshevik fantasy,
with the narrow bounds of respectable debate set for us by
various brands of Marxists."
sure had that right!
JRC is an informal group of paleocon and libertarian writers
and publicists who take ideas seriously – and yet aren’t dour
ideologues who have no idea how to have a good time. And New
Orleans, the site of their 14th annual meeting, is certainly
the place to have a good time. I’m speaking on the revival
Old Right’s theory of American exceptionalism and its
application to U.S. foreign policy. If you hurry, there’s
still time to reserve a spot: come hear and hobnob with Peter Brimelow,
Chronicles editor Thomas
Fleming, and a host of others. It’s at the elegant Saint
Louis Hotel, in the French Quarter, November 14-15.
Call Chris Check, at (815) 964-5811 for more details.
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