A BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
by James C. Moore, Co-author of "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W.Bush Presidential"
Mr. Robert Novak
Dear Mr. Novak,
In your numerous interviews last week, you were quoted as saying, "If I gave up my sources, I would get out of journalism." I would like to suggest to you that it is time you do both. Kindly inform the CIA or the FBI who tipped you on the identity of Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, and then leave journalism in steadier, less mercenary hands.
There is a higher ethic than source protection, Mr. Novak. You ought to be more concerned about the security of your country, and the safety of millions of your fellow citizens. As a result of your gratuitous insertion of Valerie Plame's name into your column, you have exposed her family, and our nation to unnecessary risk. I assume, as an experienced columnist, you gave some consideration to the potential harm you might have caused by using Ms. Plame's identity, which makes your actions all the more confounding.
During Ms. Plame's service to our country, she was placing herself in danger to apparently deal with people who might help us avoid being harmed by weapons of mass destruction. Undoubtedly, there are dozens of other operatives whose lives have also been endangered by this publicity. Since you are someone who has written about the challenge of WMDs and our national security, I find it disturbing that you chose to forsake your own patriotism in order to serve the political purposes of the White House. As a minimum, you have caused fear to enter the Plame-Wilson household every time a door bell or phone rings, and for this alone, you ought to feel shame.
During an interview on MSNBC's "Buchanan and Press" last week, I described you as a "hod carrier" for Karl Rove. In this particular instance, I prefer to be proved wrong. And there is one simple method for doing that. Speak to federal investigators, provide them the name of the individual, within or without of the White House, who gave you Ms. Plame's identity, and help those investigators to protect our country. The release of this information is of far greater importance than your journalist's obligation to protect sources. We are a nation at war, and our safety has been compromised by this leak. By naming your source, the FBI can easily determine how wide a treasonous web has been cast, and find anyone who offered assistance to facilitate the leak.
My own suspicions about Mr. Rove being the source of your information date back to the Bush/Quayle Presidential Campaign in 1992. As a Texas journalist, I had heard Mr. Rove's constant complaining about the state of the campaign in Texas. He was a consultant to Bush/Quayle, and was reporting to Rob Mosbacher, Jr. When you wrote a column about the campaign being in disarray, and poorly managed, those of us in the Texas press corps immediately suspected Mr. Rove as the source of your information While you have denied that is the case, your column sounded very much like the kind of carping Texas political reporters had been hearing from Mr. Rove for many weeks. Of course, we were not the only people who were suspicious. President George H. W. Bush, who cannot abide disloyalty, chose to fire Mr. Rove for the indiscretion.
Journalists in Texas are, not surprisingly, convinced that Mr. Rove gave you Ms. Plame's identity. We know how he works. Reporters in high-profile positions in Texas were constantly leaked information by Mr. Rove, and it always served his political or professional goals. In some cases, Mr. Rove used spurious rumor in attempts to try to destroy business competition, and even the reputations of former friends who had somehow aggrieved him. In Washington, Mr. Rove's motivations for such a leak were clear. The White House had kept a lid on data from the intelligence community, which contradicted the Bush administration's arguments for war with Iraq. Ambassador Wilson's refusal to countenance a lie likely prompted Mr. Rove and the White House to "out" his wife, and send a message to any intelligence officer who thought about going public with research that might undermine the Bush agenda for war.
And now, Mr. Novak, the resolution of this crisis is in your hands. Think about your country, not your career. Give up the leaker, and retire, ending your journalism career with the same honor you brought to your profession, before you made this terrible misstep.
James C. Moore
Co-author of "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential"