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Context of 'June 17, 2007: ’Liberal’ Washington Post Columnist Blasts Libby Investigation; Salon Columnist Says Argument Emblematic of Beltway Elitism'

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Columnist Robert Novak, a recipient of several White House leaks regarding covert CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 7, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, (July 11, 2003), and Before July 14, 2003) and the author of the column exposing Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003), publishes a column in the conservative Weekly Standard attacking the authors of Hubris, a book that identified former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as the original leaker of Plame Wilson’s identity (see June 13, 2003, July 8, 2003, September 6, 2006, and September 7, 2006).
Attacks Co-Author of Book - Novak focuses primarily on “stereotypical leftist activist” co-author David Corn, whom he accuses of engendering the entire Plame Wilson identity leak investigation with a column questioning the propriety of Novak’s exposure of a covert CIA official (see July 16, 2003), and writes that Corn and other “enemies of George W. Bush” used the investigation to try to “bring down a president” (Bush). Now, Novak writes, Corn is in the ironic position of having co-authored a book “that has had the effect of killing the story.” (Novak credits co-author Michael Isikoff, not Corn, with discovering the Armitage leak.) To regain traction, Novak writes, “Corn has been frantic… to depict an alternate course in which [White House official Karl] Rove, [former White House official Lewis] Libby, and Vice President Cheney attempted, by design and independently, to do what Armitage purportedly accomplished accidentally.” Armitage’s leak was a gossipy “slip-up” that occurred simultaneously with what Corn and Isikoff called “a concerted White House effort to undermine a critic of the war,” former ambassador Joseph Wilson. Novak says the “conspiracy theory” of a White House effort to denigrate and smear Wilson is specious (see June 2003, June 3, 2003, June 11, 2003, June 12, 2003, June 19 or 20, 2003, July 6, 2003, July 6-10, 2003, July 7, 2003 or Shortly After, 8:45 a.m. July 7, 2003, 9:22 a.m. July 7, 2003, July 7-8, 2003, July 11, 2003, (July 11, 2003), July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003, July 18, 2003, October 1, 2003, April 5, 2006, and April 9, 2006), and calls the book’s detailed recounting of the misdeeds of the White House surrounding the Wilson smear and the Plame Wilson exposure “tiresome.” Novak dismisses Hubris as little more than “an unmitigated apologia for the Wilsons.”
Justifies Own Cooperation with Prosecution - He goes on to justify his repeated (and unreported) testimonies before the Patrick Fitzgerald grand jury (see October 7, 2003, February 5, 2004, and September 14, 2004), saying since Fitzgerald already knew who his sources for the Plame Wilson leak were (Libby, Armitage, and CIA official Bill Harlow), “there was no use in not testifying about them,” and he “feared facing the same legal juggernaut that sent Judith Miller of the New York Times to jail” (see July 6, 2005).
Claims Plame Wilson Not Covert - Novak says that no one—Armitage, Libby, Rove, nor himself—could be prosecuted for outing Plame Wilson because she “was not a covert operative under the terms of the law” (see Fall 1992 - 1996, Late 1990s-2001 and Possibly After, April 22, 1999, (July 11, 2003), Before July 14, 2003, July 22, 2003, July 30, 2003, September 30, 2003, October 11, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, January 9, 2006, February 13, 2006, and September 6, 2006).
Exposes White House Source - Novak concludes the article by identifying former White House press aide Adam Levine (see February 6, 2004 and October 26, 2005) as the source for the “1x2x6” articles published by the Washington Post (see September 28, 2003 and October 12, 2003). [Weekly Standard, 9/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Michael Isikoff, George W. Bush, David Corn, Bill Harlow, Adam Levine, Judith Miller, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard Armitage, Valerie Plame Wilson, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Karl C. Rove, Robert Novak

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Columnist Robert Novak, who first publicly exposed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA official in 2003 (see July 14, 2003), weighs in on the Lewis Libby felony convictions (see March 6, 2007). Novak accuses Democrats of trying to gin up “another Iran-Contra affair or Watergate” by demanding an investigation of the Plame Wilson leak, and of being after “much bigger game” than Libby—particularly Vice President Dick Cheney or White House political strategist Karl Rove. Novak then claims he played “but a minor role in [Libby’s] trial,” testifying only that he did not discuss Plame Wilson with Libby (see February 12, 2007). “Other journalists said the same thing under oath,” Novak writes, “but we apparently made no impression on the jury.” Novak goes on to say that “[t]he trial provided no information whatsoever about Valerie Plame [Wilson]‘s status at the CIA at the time I revealed her role in her husband’s mission. No hard evidence was produced that Libby was ever told she was undercover. [Special counsel Patrick] Fitzgerald had argued that whether or not she was covert was not material to this trial, and US District Judge Reggie B. Walton had so ruled.” (Novak’s statement contradicts former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing’s assertion that Fitzgerald repeatedly told the jury of Plame Wilson’s “classified” or “covert” status, even though Novak slams Fitzgerald for “referr[ing] to Mrs. Wilson’s secret status” during his closing statement—see 9:00 a.m. February 20, 2007). Novak denies revealing former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as one of his sources for his Plame Wilson article (see July 8, 2003), saying that Fitzgerald already knew that Armitage was one of his sources (see October 2, 2003). He writes that he assumed Fitzgerald’s knowledge “was the product of detective work by the FBI”; he did not know that Armitage had “turned himself in to the Justice Department three months before Fitzgerald entered the case, without notifying the White House or releasing me from my requirement of confidentiality” (in 2006, Novak wrote that he did name Armitage as a source—see January 14, 2004). Novak writes that President Bush “lost control of this issue when he permitted a special prosecutor to make decisions that, unlike going after a drug dealer or Mafia kingpin, turned out to be inherently political.” He concludes: “It would have taken courage for the president to have aborted this process. It would require even more courage for him to pardon Scooter Libby now, and not while he is walking out of the White House in January 2009.” [Washington Post, 3/8/2007]

Entity Tags: Richard Armitage, Karl C. Rove, George W. Bush, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Reggie B. Walton, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Valerie Plame Wilson, Robert Novak, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Victoria Toensing

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, described by observers as a moderate liberal, castigates US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the government lawyers who successfully prosecuted former White House senior aide Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby (see October 28, 2005 and March 6, 2007). Unlike some of his more conservative colleagues (see October 29, 2005, October 31, 2005, November 4, 2005, November 17, 2005, November 18, 2005, December 8, 2005, April 9, 2006, April 17, 2006, July 12, 2006, Late August-Early September, 2006, September 2-5, 2006, September 5, 2006, September 5, 2006, September 7, 2006, October 16, 2006, January 17, 2007, February 16, 2007, February 16, 2007, February 27, 2007, March 6, 2007, March 6, 2007, March 6, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 8-9, 2007, March 9, 2007, and March 11, 2007), Cohen does not plainly state that Libby is innocent of any crime. Rather, Cohen accuses Fitzgerald of doing the work of the “liberal press (especially the New York Times)” and “opponents of the Iraq war” in “mak[ing] a mountain out of a molehill.” The outing of clandestine CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003 and July 12, 2006) was nothing more than a “run-of-the-mill leak,” he writes. Moreover, he writes, Fitzgerald “wound up prosecuting not the leaker—Richard Armitage of the State Department (see June 13, 2003)—but Libby, convicted in the end of lying. Cohen justifies his claim by writing: “This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.” Cohen goes on to call the Libby investigation “a train wreck—mile after mile of shame, infamy, embarrassment, and occasional farce.” He accuses Fitzgerald of using the power of his office to unjustly compel journalists to testify to their own knowledge and complicity in Libby’s leak. The Iraq war opponents “cheered” Fitzgerald on, Cohen writes, and goes on to say that those opponents “thought—if ‘thought’ can be used in this context—that if the thread was pulled on who had leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to Robert D. Novak, the effort to snooker an entire nation into war would unravel and this would show… who knows? Something. For some odd reason, the same people who were so appalled about government snooping, the USA Patriot Act, and other such threats to civil liberties cheered as the special prosecutor weed-whacked the press, jailed a reporter, and now will send a previously obscure government official to prison for 30 months.” Had the Iraq war only claimed 300 American lives and ended with a clear victory, Cohen writes, no one would have called for any such investigation. As it stands, he continues, the anti-war left and the “liberal press” demanded “scalps” and was given Libby’s. “Accountability is one thing,” Cohen writes. “By all means, let Congress investigate and conduct oversight hearings with relish and abandon. But a prosecution is a different matter. It entails the government at its most coercive—a power so immense and sometimes so secretive that it poses much more of a threat to civil liberties, including freedom of the press, than anything in the interstices of the scary Patriot Act.” He concludes by calling on President Bush to commute Libby’s sentence. [Washington Post, 6/19/2007; Salon, 6/19/2007] Cohen has previously asked that the prosecution of Libby be terminated (see October 13, 2005), called Libby’s prosecution “silly,” and misrepresented the facts behind the prosecution (see January 30, 2007). Author, columnist, and former civil liberties lawyer Glenn Greenwald, writing a response to Cohen’s column for his blog in the Internet news publication Salon, savages Cohen by mockingly “praising” Cohen’s column as perfectly “capturing the essence of our Beltway media.” Cohen’s exhortation to allow politics to be practiced with “the lights off” is, Greenwald asserts, “the central belief of our Beltway press.… If that isn’t the perfect motto for our bold, intrepid, hard-nosed political press, then nothing is.” Greenwald notes what he calls the “multiple falsehoods” of Cohen’s argument—the appointment of Fitzgerald to investigate the leak that outed Plame Wilson was not a result of pressure from the “liberal press” or what Cohen calls the “sanctimon[ious]” anti-war left, unless the CIA and the Justice Department are left-wing organizations (see July 30, 2003, Before September 16, 2003 and December 30, 2003). Greenwald writes that the core of Cohen’s apparent horror and indignation at the pursuit of the Plame Wilson leak is that his colleagues in the media were investigated and in one instance jailed (see July 6, 2005). “As any prosecutor knows—and Martha Stewart can attest—white-collar types tend to have a morbid fear of jail,” Greenwald quotes Cohen as writing. Greenwald responds: “Indeed, it is so terribly unfair to investigate powerful government officials because, as ‘white-collar types,’ they have a ‘morbid fear of jail’—in contrast, of course, to blue-collar types, and darker ones still, who really do not mind prison at all. Why would they? It’s their natural habitat, where they belong. That is what prison is for. That has been the real point here all along. The real injustice is that prison is simply not the place for the most powerful and entrenched members of the Beltway royal court, no matter how many crimes they commit. There is a grave indignity to watching our brave Republican elite be dragged before such lowly venues as a criminal court and be threatened with prison, as though they are common criminals or something. How disruptive and disrespectful and demeaning it all is.” Greenwald says that the “most valuable lesson of Cohen’s column… is that the overriding allegiance of our permanent Beltway ruling class is to the royal court which accords them their status and prestige. That overarching allegiance overrides, easily, any supposed partisan, ideological or other allegiances which, in their assigned roles, they are ostensibly defending.” Were the Beltway press to actually investigate and pursue stories instead of “snuggling” with their “friends” in government, it would expose corruption and foster justice, instead of encouraging corruption and fostering injustice. Greenwald concludes: “Our media stars have not merely stood idly by while our highest government officials engage in endless deceit and corruption. They actively defend it, enable it, justify it, and participate in it. Keeping the lights off is their principal function, one which—with rare and noble exceptions—they perform quite eagerly.” [Salon, 6/19/2007]

Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard Armitage, New York Times, Richard Cohen, Glenn Greenwald, Valerie Plame Wilson, Robert Novak, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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