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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Plame Affair Revisted

Scott McClellan, the former Press Secretary for President George W. Bush from 2003-2006 is the latest member of the Bush Administration to write a tell-all book aptly titled "What Happened". Although the book came out several months ago I felt a painstaking scrutiny of the book was warranted given McClellan's proximity to the inner circle of the Bush Administration and his long history with the President. This article is the result of that effort. McClellan's main objective is to explain the reason behind the disaster that has become Bush's presidency. He boils it down to an emphasis on the "permanent campaign" within the administration. That refers of course to the all consuming effort to please the political base and preserve the party in power as opposed to making decisions in the best interest of the majority of the American People. While McClellan is probably correct in his assessment, it is his discussion of the Valerie Plame affair which is most notable and of which he has unique firsthand knowledge.

The Plame affair should rank as the most serious transgression of the Bush years and this fact is reinforced by McClellan's book. Conservative columnist Robert Novak first exposed Ms. Plame's covert CIA status after learning it from a state department official and having it confirmed by Karl Rove. This caused the CIA to request an investigation since it is against the law to reveal the identity of a covert CIA operative. As the media storm began brewing, McClellan was required to answer the press's questions about the source of the leak. McClellan was told personally by both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby that neither of them had anything to do with the leak and he dutifully reported that to the press. In due time it was learned that Rove and Libby had both revealed Plame's identity to various members of the press before it was revealed to Novak. Some of these revelations arose from sworn hearings conducted by the Justice Department and resulted in the indictment and conviction of Mr. Libby.

Mr. McClellan does not hide his anger at being misled by these two gentlemen, although those of us who keep up on the news might have been surprised that he trusted them in the first place. By far the most insidious deception of McClellan and by extension the nation was on September 29, 2003, when McClellan asked the President about the Plame affair. The President confirmed that "I would fire anybody involved.." in the leak of Ms. Plame's status. McClellan reported this to the media. Almost three years later, when confronted with Libby's grand jury testimony revealing that the President himself had declassified the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that led to Plame's outing, the President admitted to McClellan that he had in fact authorized the release of the information.

In effect, if Bush had lived up to his pledge to fire whoever was involved with the leak he would have had to fire himself.

It is unclear to me how the President was able to remain in office after indulging in a campaign to discredit Plame's husband that was so reckless and mean spirited it resulted in the uncovering of a covert American spy. The latter being an act tantamount to treason. It really gives perspective to the colossal disaster of the Bush Administration that such an act gets swept under the rug because the results of other corrupt decisions appeared to pose an even greater threat to the nation.

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