All The President’s Betrayers

The President delegates – a very effective style that Reagan used. But it only works if the manager has a keen sense of the moral qualities of his subordinates, and emerging detail of the Wilson/Plame affair shows the President trusting flawed people. He may still be doing that.

Here’s the latest story (my ellipsis) on who blew the cover of CIA desk-jockey Plame – I’d caution it isn’t confirmed:

…the Bush official who first disclosed Ms. Plame’s identity was none other than former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.According to a new book …Mr. Armitage was Mr. Novak’s primary source for his now famous column of July 14, 2003, that first publicly revealed Ms. Plame’s CIA pedigree.

In other words, the leaker wasn’t Karl Rove or Scooter Libby or anyone else in the White House who has been accused of running a conspiracy against Ms. Plame as revenge for her husband Joe Wilson’s false accusations against the White House’s case for war with Iraq.

Mr. Armitage…was part of Colin Powell’s team at State and well known as an internal Administration opponent of the “neo-cons” who supported the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The book alleges that Mr. Armitage knew as early as October 2003 that he was Mr. Novak’s prime source, yet he kept quiet about it even as his colleagues in the Administration were dragged through years of criminal investigation and media accusations as the possible leaker.

Mr. Armitage never did tell the White House or his boss, the President, that he was the leaker. Instead, in October 2003 he told Mr. Powell, who told the State Department general counsel, who in turn told the Justice Department but gave the White House Counsel only the sketchiest overview of what he’d learned and didn’t mention Mr. Armitage’s name. So while Mr. Fitzgerald (the Special Prosecutor) presumably knew when he began his probe two months later that Mr. Armitage was Mr. Novak’s source, the President himself was apparently kept in the dark…

At a minimum, there appears to be a serious question of disloyalty here. By keeping silent, Messrs. Powell and Armitage let the President take political heat for the case, while also letting Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby and other White House officials twist in the wind for more than two years. We also know that it was the folks in Mr. Powell’s shop–including his former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson and intelligence officer Carl Ford Jr.–who did so much to trash John Bolton’s nomination to be Ambassador to the U.N. in 2005.

If this is true, Powell is a dishonest and disloyal creature – and since leaving the administration he’s confirmed that:

In 35 years of service as a soldier, Colin Powell earned a reputation as the quintessential disciplined warrior. As secretary of state in President Bush’s first term, Powell was widely seen as a disciplined, moderate — and loyal — voice for the administration. Now out of government service, Powell is airing openly his disappointments and frustration on everything from the invasion of Iraq to the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

I’d never have trusted Powell – his speech, phrasing, and body language are way too controlled and yet he presents himself as a simple soldier.

And I have the same feelings of instinctive distrust towards Powell’s successor, Ms Rice.


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