LEONIGG (7/23/05): Fitzgerald has spent considerable time since the summer of 2004 looking at possible conflicts between what White House senior adviser Karl Rove and vice presidential staff chief I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told a grand jury and investigators, and the accounts of reporters who talked with the two men, according to various sources in the case.But uh-oh! Again, we see the possible parsing in Russerts remarks. He didnt know Plames name, he said, and he didnt know she was a CIA operative. But did he know that Joe Wilsons wife (name unknown) worked at the CIA (in some capacity)? And did he mention those facts to Libby? Its perfectly possible that he did, given the narrowness of his denial.
Libby has testified that he learned about Plame from NBC correspondent Tim Russert, according to a source who spoke with The Washington Post some months ago. Russert said in a statement last year that he told the prosecutor that "he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative" and that he did not provide such information to Libby in July 2003.
What did Russert say to Libby? We dont have the slightest idea. Yesterday afternoon, we posted a report on this possible parsing. If you missed that initial post, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/05.
For the record, yes—we know what youre thinking. Russert comes from Buffalo. And in Buffalo, people dont parse.
IMAGINE ALL THE SHILLING: Senator Straight-Talk couldnt grasp what the whole thing was about. He spoke with Imus Wednesday morning. Frankly, he was bollixed:
IMUS (7/20/05): I think [John Kerry] said Karl Rove ought to resign over this whole CIA leak thing. Whats your view of whats going on over there at the White House?Poor Straight-Talk! The straight-shooting solon couldnt understand something an eight—year-old schoolkid could grasp! Why was Judith Miller in jail? Duh! Shed been ordered to testify in a criminal probe, and had refused to do so. Whatever you think of the wisdom of her jailing, theres nothing complex or confusing about it, but Straight-Talk was pandering hard to the press—and pretending that this whole affair really doesnt make any sense. (He had a perfect rube to work with, of course. The hapless Imus says every day that he cant understand why Miller is in jail, since she never wrote a story.) But Straight-Talk did think one thing was obvious; he thought it was obvious that Rove was just trying to set the record straight when he spoke to reporters like Times Matt Cooper. We dont know what makes Roves motive so obvious—and Straight-Talk has the facts fuzzed-up himself; too lazy to read Wilsons column himself, he keeps saying and implying that Wilson claimed that Dick Cheney sent him to Niger (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/05). Could it be that Straight-Talk was spinning us blue? Could it be that Straight was talking it crooked? We were amazed when Straight-Talk said that Roves motives were so obvious—but then, along came David Brooks to show what a Full Pander looks like.
MCCAIN: Well, I think one thing is obvious. Karl Rove were—and others—were attempting to set the record straight with reporters that Vice President Cheney did not send Mr. Wilson, that it was done by the CIA and at the recommendation of Mr. Wilsons wife; that there were several other factual errors in Mr. Wilsons depiction of events. Now what happened after that, I dont know. I dont understand it, and I dont think you do either, that a journalist who didnt write a word is now in jail. And so—
IMUS: Judith Miller of the New York Times.
MCCAIN: So I dont know.
An hour later, Brooks began chatting with Imus. He went through five full Q-and-As about Rove, taking up more than six minutes total. And David Brooks just couldnt imagine what crime could possibly be involved in the whole Leakgate matter! Predictably enough, Imus began with a question about Miller. She shouldnt be in jail, Brooks said:
BROOKS (7/20/05): Should she be? No. You know, Im with my colleague John Tierney. I dont see what the scandal is here, you know. The only person whos in jail—and I suspect the only person whos going to go to jail—is the one person whos behaved honorably through this whole thing, which is Judith Miller. She shouldnt be in jail because, unless theres something we dont know about, so far theres no underlying crime. So you know, the whole thing is one of these summer storms to me.As Socrates described at the dawn of the west, it can be startling to watch the mighty reason. Unless theres something we dont know about? There are a million things we dont know about this ongoing criminal probe! But so what? Brooks proceeded to assume that, since we dont know about these matters now, so far there is no underlying crime. Imus, of course, was too bone-stupid to ask about the most likely crime—the inappropriate disclosure of a CIA agents name. Instead, he asked if Time should have released Coopers notes, and Brooks was complaining again:
BROOKS: The law is there about protecting CIA agents lives. If weve got somebody who is under cover in Iraq or some place like that, then we do not want somebody leaking their names. If I thought somebody in the government leaked the name of somebody whose life was in real danger, an agent whose life was in real danger, and they told it to me confidentially? Id burn him...On the other hand, if the leak is not risking someones life in a very real and material way, well then, youve got to protect the confidence of your source.But is it possible that this leak did create some such danger for some CIA asset? Could that be one of the facts we dont know? Imus was too clueless to ask, but he did ask a fairly good third question, perhaps a bit puzzled by his guests pimping. Well, in your opinion did Karl Rove do anything wrong? the host asked. He specifically cited what Cooper said—that he learned about Plame from the Rovester:
BROOKS: The way I see it—I read all these stories and I read some of the columns. And theres just a ton of heavy breathing about, Oh, this is terrible. And so I look down, what actually happened? As far as I can tell, Cooper was trying to chase down the story that the Vice President sent Wilson on this mission. And Rove was waving him away from it, and he was doing it for two reasons. One, because it was false. And two, because he probably wanted to minimize the role of Wilson. So there was some self-interest there. But was there a crime? Was there anything that justifies this level of scandal? I have yet to see it.As far as Brooks can tell, Cooper was trying to chase down the story that the Vice President sent Wilson on this mission. But uh-oh! That isnt what Cooper said hed been doing when he appeared on Meet the Press (and in his recent report in Time). In fact, he said something totally different; in Time, he said he was trying to figure out why government officials, publicly and privately, seemed to be disparaging Wilson. (Cooper: It struck me, as I told the grand jury, as odd and unnecessary, especially after their saying the President's address should not have included the 16-word claim about Saddam and African uranium.) But isnt it weird? As far as Davis Brooks can tell, Cooper was actually doing something totally different—and Rove was just trying to give him the facts. And again, it all comes back to a single line: Was there a crime? Is there a scandal? Not that Brooks can see, there isnt. Its just a ton of heavy breathing, as far as Brooks can tell.
Spare us the chore of transcribing Brooks last two rambling answers. But he continued to say that he just cant imagine what the crime here could possibly be. Well—there might be a crime here, he did acknowledge (in Answer 4), mentioning all the redacted material in the briefs Fitzgerald has presented. But right now, we dont know what it is, he complained. Right now, theres just a lot of frothing and the core of it is nothing. (Once again, the puzzling logic: Because we dont know what it is, that seems to mean that it doesnt exist.) Later, he dismissed the idea that Rove was part of a White House campaign to go out and discredit Wilson. We now know that was untrue, he said, sharing McCains sense of sureness about Roves motives. I dont want to sound like a shill, Brooks said as he finished his final answer. But my eyes have gone cross-eyed looking at all the blog material and so far I dont see the substance here.
Poor Brooks! Despite going cross-eyed in his pursuit, the pundit still just cant imagine what the crime could possibly be! So let us help him out a tad. We dont know what Fitzgerald has found, and it may be that he will end up finding that Rove behaved in semi-good faith—that he didnt know he was naming an agent who should not have been named, for example. But for those above the age of 3, theres something else Fitzgerald might find. He might find that the naming of Plame (and the related naming of her front company) seriously compromised American interests. He might find that other CIA sources, not Plame, found their lives put at risk in a very real and material way. He might find that Rove behaved recklessly, knowing that Plames CIA status was secret. And this may have made Fitzgerald mad—so mad that he will decide to pursue Rove for that reckless conduct, perhaps under the 1982 statute (if it applies), or perhaps under some other statute which forbids the release of such information. Those are things that might occur, although Straight-Talk and Brooks cant imagine.
Is that what Fitzgerald will end up finding? We dont have the slightest idea. Like Brooks, we dont know what happened here; we dont know the tiniest part of what Fitzgerald has already found. But at this point, not being pure fools, we can imagine it flat or round; we can imagine a semi-innocent explanation, or we can imagination a flat-out crime. Thats why we found it so instructive when two major DC shills swore that they couldnt—one shill known for his famous Straight Talk, the other shill now with crossed eyes.