The real story

by Ted on October 8, 2003

Daniel Drezner is getting angrier about the Plame case. This is the Bush quote that got him worked up:

I mean this town is a — is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don’t know if we’re going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there’s a lot of senior officials. I don’t have any idea. I’d like to. I want to know the truth. That’s why I’ve instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators — full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we’ll find out who the leaker is — partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we’ll find out.

Jack O’Toole writes:

Okay, let’s try to sort all this out with a thought experiment. In our scenario, it’s September of 2001, and this is what we’re hearing from our president:

“I don’t know if we’re going to find out who killed all those Americans in New York and Washington,” Bush said. “I don’t have any idea. I’d like to. I want to know the truth.”

But, Bush said, “International terrorism is a large thing, and there’s a lot of terrorists.”

Pretty ridiculous, huh? You can’t even imagine it. The Man from Crawford just doesn’t talk like that when evil is loose in the land, when serious crimes involving our national security have been committed. So isn’t it reasonable, important even, to ask why he’s suddenly talking that way now?

Incidentally, for those poor confused souls who aren’t sure that Plame really was undercover, there’s a Washington Post profile that might help clear that up:

Her activities during her years overseas remain classified, but she became the creme de la creme of spies: a “noc,” an officer with “nonofficial cover.” Nocs have cover jobs that have nothing to do with the U.S. government. They work in business, in social clubs, as scientists or secretaries (they are prohibited from posing as journalists), and if detected or arrested by a foreign government, they do not have diplomatic protection and rights. They are on their own. Even their fellow operatives don’t know who they are, and only the strongest and smartest are picked for these assignments.

But isn’t the real story… um…



theCoach 10.08.03 at 4:57 pm

The real story is why would President Bush send someone on the Niger mission who was not willing to fake evidence of WMDs for the sake of his country.


Keith M Ellis 10.08.03 at 8:04 pm

I’ve loved this scandal because it’s a wonderful ideology litmus test. On the left, there’s the maximalists who are surprisingly hugely concerned about the safety of covert CIA officers and their networks, credulous of the claims of anonymous CIA sources and ex-agents, and eager to believe the administration would take the most malevolent of actions at great risk for little gain. Conversely, on the right there’s the minimalists who are surprisingly unconcerned about national security–even when it relates to WMD proliferation–credulous about baroque theories of CIA conspiracies, insouciant about allegations of criminal wrongdoing in the White House, and eager to “slime and defend” a whistleblower.

There’s just enough ambiguity in this case to allow the ideologues wiggle room, with little enough ambiguity to reveal much of their wiggling as egregious.

Drezner is one of the few people on the right to show considerable integrity. Reynolds is not. DeLong hasn’t revealed himself so much as being overly ideological as he has revealed himself to be a little too-emotional and Bush-fatigued.


Tom T. 10.09.03 at 1:36 am

I guess I’m not sure what else Bush would be expected to say as to the leak. Certainly, if he said “we will find the leaker,” his detractors would be carping at him for exhibiting a foolish certainty when everyone knows that leakers are never found, or they would be warning that his remarks sound like threats that he will use oppressive measures. All Bush can do is instruct his staff to cooperate, and he says that he’s done that.

The parallel to September 11 strikes me as inapt. Bush had powers available to him to seek out and combat terrorism that he does not have when conducting an internal investigation. Or perhaps O’Toole wants Bush to ask the UN to find the leaker?


markus 10.09.03 at 3:25 am

@tom t: point is, we’re talking about a possible compromise to national security. “I have no idea” and “I’d like to find out” is not the proper response. We’re not talking about some always-nuanced, bleeding-heart liberal here. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the “we will do everything humanly possible to get to the bottom of this and when we find out that VP’s cover was in fact intentionally blown, we’ll try those responsible for treason, after all we’re at war (on terror).” That would suffice.
@ keith: applying the test to me (I know, you didn’t, but anyway), I’m inclined to invoke 9-11 concerning the CIA. Or rather, discussions since then, which have -thankfully- robbed me of a few illusions regarding the broad concepts of “national security” and “international relations”. I’m taking this stuff far more serious than three years ago (for the record, I was against the last Iraq war, for the first and Afghanistan). As to the intent (malevolence), I admit, I’m puzzled. The “undermine Wilson” angle seems to make most sense, but I mostly remain agnostic on intent. Now the big question:Do I pass ? ;)


Keith M Ellis 10.09.03 at 5:35 am

Markus: sure, you pass. :) Admittedly, my leftist bias makes it harder for me to see leftist bias, but I do think the right has acted more egregiously than has the left in this matter. Drezner really is the exception. I _don’t_ regularly read Reynolds, but I knew him back in the days when he and I were one of a (then) very small handful of Slate’s Fray “star” posters, and I used to think well of him. But I’ve taken a gander at his blog during the Plame Affair (I’ve visited several blogs I otherwise have ignored), and I’ve been very disapointed in him.

On the left the only real problem (but it’s not an insignificant problem) I’ve seen is that some people have been so eager for something that might bring down the Bush administration, and because it’s admittedly very easy to believe the worst of these guys, they’ve taken several things as _fact_ that are actually uncertain. Examples are the accusations made by the “senior administration official” in the original Post article. Or any of the assertions about what Plame actually did at the CIA.

My intuition has always told me that there’s both more to this story than the minimalists claim, and less than the maximialists claim. (Convenient for me, eh?) But I don’t arrive at the conclusion from a principle of moderation or anything like that, but rather because the minimalist and maximalist versions leave some big questions unanswered. At this point, I’m convinced that the administration _believes_ one of two things: A) they didn’t do anything wrong; or B) maybe they did, but they don’t know who it was, and it wasn’t that wrong, anyway. Both those possibilities preclude the maximalist narrative, but they explain much of the administration’s behavior. The fact that the story didn’t go away a _long_ time ago itself refutes the minimalist narrarative. So both factions are in for a bit of a disapointment, I think. But how tenaciously they cling to their narratives reveals how much they’ve emotionally invested in them.

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