Great moments in political predictions
Move over Dick Morris, James Taranto has called dibs on your crystal ball. Here’s JT on Monday:
Anti-Bush partisans are really piling on thick over the purported scandal involving the “outing,” supposedly by White House officials, of Valerie Plame, who may or may not have been a covert CIA operative, and who is married to a critic of the administration named Joe Wilson. Josh Marshall blogged himself into such a frenzy yesterday that he almost matched Glenn Reynolds’s output on a slow day. One random left-wing blogger sums up the tone of the attacks: “Conservatives have a long history in America of resorting to traitorous acts to further their own private agendas.” We’re half-expecting the bestseller lists to feature a book called “Leaks and the Leaking Leakers Who Leak Them.”
In order to violate the law, in other words, one must disclose a genuine secret. Was Plame’s association with the CIA a secret? As we said yesterday, the CIA’s blasÃ© attitude toward Novak’s inquiries suggests not. Bolstering that inference, Clifford May writes in National Review Online that Plame’s CIA connection “wasn’t news to me. I had been told that–but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhand manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.”
The Justice Department has now undertaken an investigation of the matter, the Associated Press reports, so eventually things will become much clearer. Don’t be surprised, though, if this purported scandal ends up amounting to nothing.
Then again, sometimes nothing turns out to be something:
Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe a special prosecutor should be named to investigate allegations that Bush administration officials illegally leaked the name of an undercover CIA agent, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released yesterday.
The poll, taken after the Justice Department announced that it had opened a criminal probe into the matter, pointed to several troubling signs for the White House as Bush aides decide how to contain the damage. The survey found that 81 percent of Americans considered the matter serious, while 72 percent thought it likely that someone in the White House leaked the agent’s name.
Confronted with little public support for the White House view that the investigation should be handled by the Justice Department, Bush aides began yesterday to adjust their response to the expanding probe. They reined in earlier, broad portrayals of innocence in favor of more technical arguments that it is possible the disclosure was made without knowledge that a covert operative was being exposed and therefore might not have been a crime.
Good thing that the NY Times isn’t paying attention. Oh, wait:
The Bush administration pursued a two-track political strategy on Wednesday to minimize the damage from the criminal investigation into the disclosure of a C.I.A. officer’s identity.
The White House encouraged Republicans to portray the former diplomat at the center of the case, Joseph C. Wilson IV, as a partisan Democrat with an agenda and the Democratic Party as scandalmongering. At the same time, the administration and the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill worked to ensure that no Republicans in Congress break ranks and call for an independent inquiry outside the direct control of the Justice Department.
“It’s slime and defend,” said one Republican aide on Capitol Hill, describing the White House’s effort to raise questions about Mr. Wilson’s motivations and its simultaneous effort to shore up support in the Republican ranks.
Nice call there, Jimbo.