Late Night: Why Dick Hates Colin
So, um… did everybody here go out and buy Dick Cheney’s autobiography (In My Time, which came out earlier this week) yet?
Yeah, me neither.
But as an old diehard Plame-blogger, I couldn’t resist giving it the sneak-into-the-bookstore-and-peek treatment to see what Big Dick had to say about the CIA leak investigation that convicted his chief of staff, Scooter Libby, on multiple counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.
The answer, unsurprisingly, is not much. Like his former boss, ex-President Bush, did in his own book last winter, Cheney recites the familiar revisionist dogma used by other Bush administration loyalists regarding the Valerie Plame leak scandal — namely, that the only leak involved was by the first guy (i.e., Richard Armitage) to tell Robert Novak about Joseph Wilson’s wife working for the CIA.
This breezy condensation enables Cheney to go on a lengthy rant about runaway special prosecutors, comparing Patrick Fitzgerald to Lawrence Walsh, who headed the Iran-Contra probe of the late 1980s. (I suppose I could have checked the index to see if the former Veep mentioned Kenneth Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton… but then again, irony meters are expensive to replace, and I didn’t want to risk having mine explode.)
As part of his effort to exonerate Libby, Cheney blasts Armitage — and, by a gratuitous stretch, Armitage’s boss at the State Department, Colin Powell — for having “remained silent” as Fitzgerald indicted Libby, despite acknowledging only a few sentences earlier that Armitage had admitted his conversation with Novak to the FBI nearly three months before Fitzgerald was even appointed. (Apparently, His Dickness is upset that Armitage did not confess publicly for the benefit of White House PR efforts to deflect blame from itself.)
To better understand Cheney’s animus toward Powell, though, it might only be necessary to ask a question that both Cheney and Bush avoid: If he couldn’t be blamed for the Novak leak, why did Libby lie to the FBI and the grand jury?
The answer lies in the fact that the Novak column outing Plame wasn’t the only leak the Department of Justice investigated. And the main reason it wasn’t is that someone went to the Washington Post just after word broke about the impending FBI probe and said, “Hey, I know that two top White House officials called at least six Washington, D.C. journalists and leaked about Plame before Novak’s column came out.” (Plameologists call this the “1x2x6 story,” which apparently is how Fitzgerald & Co. referred to it.)
Whatever the truth behind this claim of a widespread “outing” of Plame was, it must have been awfully explosive — because a primary motive behind Libby’s lies was to take the (partial) rap for the 1x2x6 phone calls. You see, instead of denying telling reporters about Plame, Libby took credit for more leaking than he actually did, or that anyone knew about — including one leak to the Post‘s Glenn Kessler that never even happened! (A marked-up copy of a Washington Poststory on 1x2x6, with one of the underlined passages saying that an unnamed Post reporter was leaked to on July 12, was found in Libby’s files, printed the day he was first interviewed by the FBI.)
During Libby’s trial, hints about the true origin of the 1x2x6 story dribbled out, although they were generally ignored amid the courtroom melodrama. The Post‘s Walter Pincus confirmed that Ari Fleischer was the Bush official who leaked to him on July 12 — and Fleischer, though he implausibly denied mentioning Plame, acknowledged that their conversation took place during a series of calls that he and Dan Bartlett were making to “every reporter that we can talk to” on Air Force One as it flew back from a presidential visit to Africa. If Fleischer brought up Plame to Pincus, unsolicited, isn’t it likely that the well-trained spinners Fleischer and Bartlett mentioned her in the other calls as well?
Moreover, in the confined space of Air Force One, Fleischer and Bartlett could easily have been overheard by other Bush administration officials on the Africa trip… one of whom was Colin Powell. The same Powell who admittedly spoke to the FBI as soon as the Plame investigation began, did not support the Cheney-Rove-Libby anti-Wilson agenda, and who certainly has the enormous personal self-assurance/arrogance to make the moral denunciations about the leaks contained in the 1x2x6 articles:
Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge…
… [the leaks were] wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson’s credibility.
For good measure, Powell appears to have been behind, or at least endorsed, a series of small leaks to various news outlets in July 2005 about a State Department memo naming Valerie Wilson, detailing its classified nature and its path to being circulated on Air Force One during the Africa trip — citing Powell’s testimony among other sources. Leaks that pointed the finger at whoever on Air Force One might have made phone calls outing Valerie Plame Wilson… not to mention whoever in Washington, D.C. ordered them to make those calls.
Kind of puts some flesh on the otherwise-unspecific charge in Cheney’s memoir that Powell criticized the Bush administration “to people outside government,” doesn’t it? And you can see why Dick might have just a little bit of a grudge against ol’ Colin.