Thursday, March 22, 2007

Novak on Plame Testimony: Republicans Wimp Out!

I predicted little political fallout from Scooter Libby's conviction. Well, here it is, in the form of Valerie Plame testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. This congressional "dog-and-pony show" may not get on the radar of the average Joe or Jane, but it bolsters the "big lie" theory, and will be used against supporters of the Iraq front in the war on Islamist terrorism. I still believe it's political effect will be minimal, unless it presages a wholesale surrender by Republicans on the war. This excerpt is from the latest Evans Novak political report email:

Plame Testimony: The long-awaited first public testimony by Valerie Plame Wilson demonstrated both the determination of Democrats to try to politically milk this story and the weakness of Republicans.

The goal of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is to connect the "outing" of former CIA employee Plame to the Oval Office. The principal target is senior adviser Karl Rove, with the intent to strip him of his security clearance.

To rehabilitate the shopworn story of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, it is necessary for Waxman to establish that Plame was a "covert" operative at the CIA. Without that, there simply is no point to all the fuss. Waxman surprised Republicans by claiming that he had authority from CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden to say that Plame was covert. Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee had tried without success to get from the CIA any definition of Plame's status.

Actually, Hayden apparently told Waxman that Plame was covert but not covert under terms of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. However, this did not come out during the course of the hearing. Republicans in Congress familiar with the situation were furious with Hayden, whom they believe is too cozy with Democrats and plays into anti-Bush sentiment at the agency.

Republicans let Waxman and the Democrats have their way at the hearing, permitting Plame to come over as a poor, persecuted patriot instead of a Democratic partisan. Only two Republicans showed up at the hearing, and they seemed afraid to challenge Plame or bring out the truth about her.

The Plame hearing was an example of the power of the congressional hearing intended to be used by the Democratic majority for political ends. The weakness of the Republican response may also be typical.

If Mr. Novak is correct, this is a disgrace. In her testimony, Victoria Toensing tried to make the point about the difference between a covert agent and a "covered" (under the act) covert agent in the hearing, but was interrupted by the senator who was questioning her.

The Republicans on the committee shirked their duty. They should have been there, to follow up on the real story here. I am shocked, and appalled at the lack of congressional support on this issue. It looks as if the congressional Republicans are showing Bush their "power," which is to let the Dems put the whole Iraq war on trial, in this case.

Politics aside, Ms. Plame's husband tried to undermine US policy, with or without her help. He has been exposed as a prevaricator by the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as by Mr. Novak. This attempt at rewriting history should not have been countenanced by any House Republican, or person of good concience. The real investigation should be into the Wilsons, and the others involved in the Niger mission.

How did it come to pass that there is no written report to the CIA from this mission? Why did she testify about how he got chosen for this mission only after the Democrats had control of Congress? Why was he cleared by the CIA to write an article in the NY Times about his mission?

One last question: Who at the CIA OK'd Joe Wilson's NY Times article? I'd like to know, even if their status is "covert." Some help, Mr. Novak?

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