As I've said before, the pro-Cheney forces are really hamstrung because they have to rely on Novak as the public face of their fight with Wilson. You've got a man whose charisma derives from his dark creepiness fighting for press attention against a classic American blonde beauty. (I keep seeing visions of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but at least Quasimodo was a sympathetic character.)
Add to that, Novak is really having a tough time sticking to his script.
The Use of the Word "Operative"
Novak elaborated on his old rubbish about using the word operative--which Josh Marshall debunked eons ago. But he added this bizarre rationale.
I call all kinds of politicians operatives. …
Someone’s running a congressional campaign in Wyoming, I call him an operative.
From this we're to understand that Valerie Plame's analytical work at the CIA, for which her identity was still classified, was running someone's campaign out in Wyoming, all while raising twins in DC? All the weirder since the most famous Wyoming Congressman of recent memory was one Dick Cheney. No, seriously, Novak hasn't ever asserted that Plane is a politician. So why call her an operative?
One of Russert's finer moments, though, came when he forced Novak to admit that Plame was undercover.
Russert: But she was undercover, you grant her that?
Novak: There’s a difference between undercover and being a covert, uh uh, agent. [ed. note: Note Novak's difficult, yet ultimately successful, attempt to avoid using the most natural word here, "operative."] She was doing analytical work at the CIA. She was not involved in any covert activities.
But underlying the issue of Novak's use of the word "operative" is his description of her job at Counter-Prolfieration (CPD). Like Libby (who similarly learned Plame was in CPD, though he learned it straight from Dick), Novak probably knows more about the CIA than I do. So he probably knows that CPD is on the Operations side of the CIA. Now, curiously, he reverts to his earlier assertion that his "primary" source (presumably Armitage) told him Plame worked at CPD. So to review:
July 2003: Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.
October 2003: He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife.
Last week: His wife worked in the office of nuclear nonproliferation in the CIA, and she suggested he go.
Today: Well, you know, his wife suggested it she works at the Counter-Proliferation Division of the CIA.
And they said John Kerry flip-flopped? Novak seems desperate to fuzz this issue, even though it goes straight to Novak's consciousness that Plame was an operative. Twice he has said his source identified Plame as an employee of CPD, suggesting strongly she's an operative. Once more, he identified her as an operative. You seem to be suggesting, Bobby, that you had been told--or had concluded, having been told she worked at CPD--that she was an operative.
His Use of the Word "Suggested"
And again, Novak tries to rationalize why he would state that Plame had "suggested" Wilson for the job, when:
- One source used the word "suggested" or "initiated" in an off-hand comment.
- One source simply confirmed whatever Novak said.
- The most knowledgable source told Novak he was wrong, that Plame had not "suggested" Wilson.
Now, Novak again tries to justify why he chose to ignore his most knowledgable source and print language from his off-hand source in 2003 by a document that came out in 2004, claiming that he was right because the Senate Intelligence Committee had concluded that she had suggested Wilson. Russert tried a gotcha in response:
The Senate Intelligence Committee had indicated that but they did not conclude it.
To which Novak, backing off his claim that the committee had unanimously decided Plame sent Wilson, now simply admits that the "Republican majority" had concluded this. So let me ask again. In 2004, these 8 Republicans were on the SSCI:
Of those, only three--the first three--"concluded" that Plame "suggested" Wilson. So, your best-informed source told you she didn't, you published it on the word of an off-hand comment from a less well-informed source, and now you're saying that because a minority of Republicans on the SSCI claim Plame "suggested" Wilson, you're right?
Boy you're a shitty journalist, Bob. Plus you seem to be playing fast and loose with the two meanings of the word "majority." Of course, Russert must need some of Rush's help on his Gotcha pills, because he agreed with Novak, that the Republican "majority" had concluded that Plame sent Wilson.
Hot and Cold Running Novak Mouth
Russert has a little fun with Novak (no doubt because he has been such a target of criticism for such issues), pointing out that NBC, NYT, and Time all fought the subpoenas, but Novak just rolled over like a little puppy getting his belly scratched. Novak pointed out, fairly, that he bore most of the costs of his legal defense. But he didn't answer my questions about why he rolled over like a puppy in face of the waivers:
Why did you have a dilemma because Fitzgerald had waivers, but when Fitzgerald came to you with waivers from Armitage and Rove, your dilemma disappeared?
If Fitzgerald hadn't brought the waiver from Harlow, would you have told him who you spoke to at CIA?
Though Novak has answered a question I've been wanting him to answer. Regarding Novak's fib about getting the name from Who's Who:
Russert: Was that the very first time you had seen or heard the name, Valerie Plame?
Russert: No one told you?
So I suppose that rules out an earlier source for Valerie Plame's name as Valerie Plame (How about Victoria Wilson, Bob, anyone give you that?). But if I were Russert, I would have asked, "was this the first time you had heard of Wilson's wife?" Perhaps the cocktail weenies have addled Russert's brain and he can't figure out the critical issues like this.
Russert is more successful with the other burning question (and again, something Russert got flack for himself).
Russert: Why did you wait almost three years to thell the public that you had been subpoenaed and what you said.
Novak: Mr. Fitzgerald asked my lawyer not to divulge our contacts.... When he announced that Karl Rove would not be indicted my attorney went to Mr. Fitzgerald and asked him if that request now no longer held true, and he said that his investigation had been concluded, as far as I was concerned.
There are two critical issues here. First, as I've suspected, Fitzgerald asked Novak not to speak about his testimony, unlike most of the other journalist witnesses. Make of that what you will. And second, the implication is that Novak asked Fitzgerald if he was free to reveal his testimony when Rove learned he escaped charges. Presumably, not last week. Which suggests (as I have argued) that Novak's recent blabbering has more to do with the expected filing of the Wilson suit than it did with any new news from Fitzgerald. Of course, if Russert had taken Rush's Gotcha pills, he might have asked about that, too. But alas, it was not to be.
My Favorite Bit
So does anyone out there spend a lot of time on the cocktail circuit? Have you seen Novak talking to, say, Bush? Hadley? Cheney? Armitage?
Russert: Have you spoken to your primary source?
Russert: Not since that interview?
We could probably eliminate some of these guys by checking those cocktail party invite lists.
But I'm also struck by this. If Novak's source is Armitage, that says a reasonably long-term relationship froze--perhaps even ended--when Novak outed Plame back in 2003. Why?
Update: Raw Story has a transcript up.