Bush supporters who are in disbelief about l’affair de Valerie Plame seem stuck on the revenge motive (also here) as the reason why the unnamed White House staffers did the outing. Revenge clearly was not the motive. The motive, when you look back on the original Novak column, is apparent:
Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. “I will not answer any question about my wife,” Wilson told me.
First of all, from day one we see that two “senior administration officials” are mentioned, not one, as was confirmed this weekend in the Washington Post. Those two people spread the word of Plame’s CIA employment so that they could allege that it was she, and not the White House, that suggested sending Wilson to look into the Niger mess. If, as was asserted originally, Wilson was sent to Africa in direct response to questions by Dick Cheney’s office, then the administration would have no excuse whatsoever for dismissing the findings that Wilson brought back (and thus putting the uranium line in the State of the Union address). So they told reporters that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA (which was classified) and that it was she who suggested sending him to Africa. The purpose was not to discredit Wilson nor was it revenge against him, rather it was a way of substantiating White House claims that they hadn’t seen Wilson’s report.
Update: obviously I’m completely in the grips of this story and can’t help but post about it more than I should, but if you really want to follow what’s going on, turn to Mark Kleiman and Josh Marshall.
Another update: here’s why I think that the administration has been caught dead to rights, knows it has been caught dead to rights, and is just trying to keep its head down and skate through at this point. One thing we know for sure is that someone who knew the true identity of Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife leaked that information to at least Robert Novak. Clearly whoever did this broke the law and to some degree hindered our efforts to keep track of weapons of mass destruction worldwide. Regardless of your position on the story, you can’t argue with those facts, right?
So if the Bush defenders are right and this is somehow a plot against Bush, then we’ve entered bizarro world. Either Novak lied about his sources or his sources are disloyal senior administration officials looking to bring Bush down. In either case, wouldn’t the administration have launched a full court press to figure out who the leakers are back in July? If someone is feloniously leaking information to journalists and simultaneously trying to bring down the sitting administration, wouldn’t logic demand an investigation to find and lynch the leaker? Instead the administration has ignored this incident entirely. If this was a betrayal of Bush by someone in the executive branch, then it makes no sense that the Bush administration officials who are commenting on the affair are so blas