For months, we have been waiting for conservative columnist Robert Novak to break his silence about the Valerie Plame outing.
You may recall, that Novak was the columnist who finally, after a half dozen other journalists had refused to, published the name of Plame, a CIA agent, in what was clearly an act of political retaliation against her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for his calling into question some of the information that the White House had been using to build its case for the war against Iraq. Of course, we know by now that the claim that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase yellowcake Uranium from Niger was patently false, so in that regard Wilson has been vindicated.
Novak, however, while testifying before the grand jury about the affair (hint, he never went to jail like Matt Cooper and Judith Miller did, so he must have not done what they did-- that is, refuse to answer the grand jury's questions), has maintained a stony silence in public about the whole matter. When asked directly, he has said that on the advice of legal counsel he would say nothing, and the rest of the time he has gone about his usual venom laced attacks on liberals on every other subject, but avoided any discussion of Plame, Wilson, yellowcake Uranium or the country of Niger the way most people would avoid a rooster known to have the Bird Flu.
This week, however, Novak broke his silence. And what a break it is. This erstwhile paragon of Republican punditry, this attack dog of the right, not only discussed the leak, but pointed a finger-- at none other than President Bush himself.
Novak is quoted in a speech he delivered Tuesday.
Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who has repeatedly declined to discuss his role in disclosing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, said in a speech this week that he is certain President Bush knows who his mystery administration source is.
Novak said Tuesday that the public and press should be asking the president about the official rather than pressing journalists who received the information.
Novak also suggested that the administration official who gave him the information is the same person who mentioned Plame and her CIA role to Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward in the summer of 2003.
"I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, according to an account published yesterday in the Raleigh News & Observer. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't."
"So I say, don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is," Novak said.
Now, keep in mind that President Bush has said the following about the leak:
"If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is,..."If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of." -- Feb. 10, 2004
When asked in June 2004 if he would fire anyone who had leaked Plame's name, the President answered, "Yes. (Houston Chronicle, 7/19/05).
So where is it? Since Scooter Libby is already gone, it seems unlikely that Novak is talking about Libby. So there is someone else, and it all seems to lead back to Karl Rove. In fact, according to the New York Daily News on Oct. 19, 2005, the President reportedly chewed out Rove two years ago about the leak. If Novak is right, then he would have chewed him out about the leak knowing who the source was, so ergo Rove was responsible.
Which leads one to question why Novak would come out with this accusation now. Those of us who have watched Novak trash anyone on the left for years and reached for the barf bag every time he is on TV, have to wonder about why he would jump out of his bunker of silence and point a finger at President Bush.
It might be that darn 'legal advice' again. Novak may have answered the questions of the special prosecutor, but since he took the step of actually being the one to publish the name of the agent, it is certainly possible that he could still face charges, and he may be looking out for number one (certainly plausible since he showed less guts in being willing to squeal to the grand jury and Peter Fitzgerald than either Cooper or Miller; he comes across as someone who can dish out a lot of heat, but has a low tolerance for pain when the heat is turned up on him).
It could be that even Novak is getting disgusted at this administration (though I don't believe that to be the case, having listened to Novak on TV for at least a decade and have never seen him to ever be disgusted at anything Republicans were doing, except maybe for when they have done something that wasn't partisan enough for him).
It might be that he has been advised that it will all come out sooner or later and that he had best tell it when things are starting to pick up for the President in the hopes that it will get lost in the rest of the news.
But for whatever reason, he decided to say something about it this week, and what he said was neither a mea culpa, nor a bold attack on the left. No, it was a 'he is culpable,' and a bold attack on the President.
One person can feel relieved at this though. Dick Cheney. The scrutiny is now moving above him, to the next person up the line.