- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

Democrats are engaged in a full-throated attack on President Bush over the leak of the identity of a CIA employee, frustrated over the story’s apparent lack of traction in the national media.

“I’m concerned about the lack of media attention,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. “If it is not raised often, people will forget and we won’t ever get to the bottom of this.”

Mr. Daschle attempted to raise the story’s profile Friday with a press conference conducted in a style of a formal congressional hearing. Six Democratic senators quizzed a panel of three former CIA officials and administration critics about the ramifications of Valerie Plame Wilson’s name becoming public.

Also last week:

• The top three ranking Democrats on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee demanded that the inspector general of the CIA conduct a formal investigation of the effect the leak might have on the agency’s ability to operate effectively.

• A key player in the furor — former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, the husband of Mrs. Wilson — endorsed Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts for the Democratic nomination for president.

• The Democratic National Committee ran a TV ad in Pennsylvania highlighting the issue all last week, and sent out a fund-raising e-mail to 1.4 million people asking them to sign a petition urging a more aggressive investigation of the matter and help fund more critical ads across the country.

“It keeps getting worse … scandals in the Bush White House,” the ad says. “Now they illegally leaked the identity of an American CIA agent — all to hide Bush administration deceptions about the war in Iraq.”

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said he doesn’t expect the leak story to haunt the Bush administration much longer.

“Assuming there is nothing else there that we don’t already know, in the long run it will be seen as a minor” event, Mr. Cornyn said.

Part of the reason why, he said, is because “it obvious that [Mr. Wilson] surrendered any credibility” when he endorsed Mr. Kerry for president, exposing himself as “an obvious political partisan.”

Democrats have said the White House leaked information about Mrs. Wilson to syndicated columnist Robert Novak because her husband debunked the administration’s claim that Iraq sought nuclear material from the Africa.

Republican senators have been briefed by the White House “on a one-to-one basis,” Mr. Cornyn said, and encouraged to stand up and loudly defend the president against Democratic charges.

“We’re doing better, but we’re learning the lesson the hard way,” Mr. Cornyn said yesterday. “The truth does not always speak for itself, so there needs to be someone out there to say it and defend against the false allegations from the other side.”

While the focus on the leak is nearly completely one-sided, Democrats on Capitol Hill have attempted to cast it as a nonpartisan issue.

“There’s a national-security threat in the administration as we speak,” said David Sirota, director of strategic communications at the Center for American Progress and a former high-level Democratic staffer. “That is a cause of concern whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, an independent or just an American citizen. It’s not a partisan concern at all.”

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