- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

If you should ask anyone beyond the Beltway to explain who Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson are, and why you should know, you’ll likely draw only a blank stare. But now that we know that it was Richard L. Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state, who first revealed that Mrs. Plame was an agent of the CIA, and probably inadvertantly at that, the “mystery” that has consumed some of our capital pundits for these many months is finally “solved.” The rest of us can keep our attention on something more important, like whether Elvis is really dead.

Some of our media celebrities have tried to make the Plame game a national obsession ever since columnist Robert Novak, having taken the leak from Mr. Armitage, first publicly identified her as a CIA operative in his column on July 14, 2003. The great anvil chorus on the left has been chanting the dirge that the White House “outed” Valerie Plame to punish her husband for criticizing the use of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. Three years and a continuing special counsel investigation later, Mr. Wilson has been discredited as a partisan hack who can’t shut up even though he doesn’t have anything to say. No one in the White House or any other house has been charged or even credibly accused of “outing” Mrs. Plame. Whatever “cover-up” there was was at the State Department, then presided over by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The revelation that Mr. Armitage was Mr. Novak’s original source comes from a new book by liberal journalists David Corn and Michael Isikoff, amusing since it was Mr. Corn, the Washington correspondent for the Nation magazine, was one of the first to charge a White House conspiracy. According to the book, Mr. Armitage, a self-described gossip, went to his boss sometime in October 2003 to admit he was probably the man behind the whole mess. Mr. Powell then is said to have told the State Department general counsel, who then told the Justice Department. Somewhere in there, the matter was brought to the attention of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, who heard the story without names. Mr. Powell never told President Bush.

It strikes us that the last point is the most interesting. Why didn’t Mr. Powell put an end to the business simply by going to Mr. Bush? One story floating through Washington is that the animosity — shall we call it hostility? — between the State Department and the White House was so out of hand that Mr. Powell was perfectly content to let Vice President Dick Cheney and his aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, take the heat. The wide ideological differences between the “neocons” in the White House and the “realists” at State are well know. The State Department never fully supported American entry into the Iraq war, and Mr. Powell might have been still smarting from the criticism of his presentation of the administration case to the U.N. Security Council.

Instead, Messrs. Powell and Armitage allowed their silence to lead to the prosecution — shall we call it persecution? — of Mr. Libby, who would not have been indicted if Mr. Armitage’s role in all this had come to light in October 2003. Poor show, gentlemen. Poor show indeed.

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