Plame: So Much Time and Money Wasted

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Sep 01, 2006 3:38 PM

The Washington Post, on the Plame affair:

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 to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue. The partisan clamor that followed the raising of that allegation by Mr. Wilson in the summer of 2003 led to the appointment of a special prosecutor, a costly and prolonged investigation, and the indictment of Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of perjury. All of that might have been avoided had Mr. Armitage's identity been known three years ago...

Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. 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.

Colin Powell and Armitage are both awfully snakey for not coming forward long ago. 

This is the kind of admission Lorie Byrd is looking for from the press, but she argues the damage has been done and won't come anywhere near being undone by a press corps unwilling to shine a light on its own roll in this. She's right.

The mainstream media will probably never tell the true story behind Joe’s grand frog marching fantasy. It is an incredible story really -- amazing that so many in the media regurgitated Wilson’s conspiracy theories as if they were fact. It is amazing that the story took off at all in spite of contradictory statements from Bob Novak from the beginning, who claimed that Plame’s identity did not come from a partisan gunslinger and was only offered in response to his question about why Wilson might have been chosen for the Niger trip. Amazing that it continued in spite of revelations that those 16 words were not incorrect after all. Amazing that even after Joe Wilson’s statements were found to be inconsistent with documentation uncovered by a Senate committee, that the story remained the same.

The Wilson fantasy was reported for years, as fact, in countless set up pieces to fawning interviews with Wilson. That reporting had very real consequences. It was Joe Wilson's claim that Bush lied about the “16 words” that started the "Bush lied" mantra. We now know that many of the claims that "Bush lied" were actually lies themselves, but that has gotten scant little attention.

I just cannot believe we all had to waste this much time talking about such a stupid story. By now, anyone outside the Beltway and the blogs has forgotten what started it in the first place and has only a vague feeling that the Bush administration did something sneaky to that Plame lady, and there was something about "frog marching." Oops, didn't mean to leave anyone with the wrong impression, right guys? Riiiight.