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Republicans Cheer as Woodward Moves from Plame Game to Blame Game

February 26, 2013

With the March 1 sequester looming, conservatives have a new hero. Bob Woodward, whom the Nixon Library once accused of "offering bribes" as part of a "coup" engineered by Tricky Dick's enemies, is now being cheered by Republicans for his campaign to blame President Obama for the job-killing budget cuts almost certain to come. Of course, Woodward's shabby revisionist history in the Post last week was conveniently silent about the GOP's unprecedented debt ceiling hostage-taking that produced the August 2011 Budget Control Act's sequester process and the Republicans' sabotaging of the Congressional debt "Super Committee" designed to avoid it. As it turns out, this isn't the first time his silence has proven helpful to the Republican Party. For two years, Bob Woodward refused to divulge his role in the Bush administration's outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.
As you'll recall, Plame's identity was revealed a week after her husband Joseph Wilson's July 7, 2003 New York Times op-ed which debunked President Bush's pre-Iraq war claim that Saddam Hussein sought to acquire uranium in Niger. While President Bush promised that leaking the name of the covert CIA operative would be fired, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald launched a probe that in the fall of 2005 led to the indictment and later conviction of Cheney chief of staff, Scooter Libby.
But on November 16, 2005, Fitzgerald's investigation led to another revelation. As Woodward's own paper reported "Woodward Was Told of Plame More Than Two Years Ago":

Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.

As the Post also explained, Woodward "has been publicly critical of the investigation." That was an understatement, to say the least. Because just three weeks before, he appeared with Michael Isikoff on the Larry King show both to announce his ignorance of the Plamegate affair and to ridicule Fitzgerald's investigation into it. As the October 27, 2005 transcript shows:

ISIKOFF: I talked to a source at the White House late this afternoon who told me that Bob is going to have a bombshell in tomorrow's paper identifying the Mr. X source who is behind the whole thing. So, I don't know, maybe this is Bob's opportunity.
KING: Come clean.
WOODWARD: I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker. I'm sorry. In fact, I mean this tells you something about the atmosphere here. I got a call from somebody in the CIA saying he got a call from the best "New York Times" reporter on this saying exactly that I supposedly had a bombshell.

As Duncan Black pointed out, Woodward wasn't done. The whole affair, the Watergate star journalist claimed, was just a bunch of "gossip" pursued by a "junkyard dog" prosecutor.

WOODWARD: Now there are a couple of things that I think are true. First of all this began not as somebody launching a smear campaign that it actually -- when the story comes out I'm quite confident we're going to find out that it started kind of as gossip, as chatter and that somebody learned that Joe Wilson's wife had worked at the CIA and helped him get this job going to Niger to see if there was an Iraq/Niger uranium deal.
And, there's a lot of innocent actions in all of this but what has happened this prosecutor, I mean I used to call Mike Isikoff when he worked at the "Washington Post" the junkyard dog. Well this is a junkyard dog prosecutor and he goes everywhere and asks every question and turns over rocks and rocks under rocks and so forth.
KING: And doesn't leak.
WOODWARD: And it doesn't leak and I think it's quite possible that though probably unlikely that he will say, you know, there was no malice or criminal intent at the start of this. Some people kind of had convenient memories before the grand jury. Technically they might be able to be charged with perjury.
But I don't see an underlying crime here and the absence of the underlying crime may cause somebody who is a really thoughtful prosecutor to say, you know, maybe this is not one to go to the court with.

If Woodward's language sounds familiar, it should. Because his lines about "junkyard dog" special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the claims of "no underlying crime" and "perjury technicality" became standard Republican talking points in defense of Scooter Libby. (Among the biggest amplifiers in the right-wing media was Tucker Carlson, who similarly did not disclose that his father Richard Carlson was one of the leaders of the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Fund.)
As we fast forward to the sequester imbroglio, Carlson's Daily Caller has been quick to come to Bob Woodward's defense. "If you want a good indication of the level of fealty reserved for the president by the media," Matt Lewis crowed, "their willingness to so cavalierly sacrifice the avatar of liberal journalism on the altar of Obama is a pretty good indication." But given's Woodward's recent history in both the Plame game and the blame game, Charles Pierce has it about it right:

He's no more a liberal than he is a member of Motley Crue. He's a courtier to all the right people, the scribe to powerful. He's a journalistic Sadducee. He tends the Temple grounds.

And, it once again turns out, Bob Woodward's own place in it.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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