JOSH MARSHALL DOES NOT NEED REFERRALS from my site. I owe him a great deal for giving the world some notice of what I’ve been doing.
That said, I really like his post today exploring the ethics of journalistic discretion about sources. With regard to the Valerie Plame affair, he expressed admiration for Matt Cooper who went to jail and posted bond for refusing to testify about whether they knew if White House sources had exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. In contrast, Tim Russert agreed to meet with the grand jury. Josh, with some interesting commentary drawn from Mike Kinsley, gets into the subject of when and when not the responsibilities of a journalist to protect sources ends.
There has been a great deal written about Joe Wilson and the Valerie Plame disclosure — and I’m going to add to this in coming weeks. I spent an hour and a half with Joe at the Starbucks near the White House on the 1700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday. (U.S. Trade Representative Bob Zoellick said hello and said that the New America Foundation, where I work, was generating “great stuff.”)
What interests me about this incident overall is that it seems to be about the only game going for legally constraining this presidency. The tussle over Vice President Cheney’s energy briefing roundtables with industry leaders never really rose to the level of serious consequence for the administration. The only other challenges came by way of challenges of incompetence or distraction from reality by people like Paul O’Neill or Richard Clarke.
But only the Valerie Plame affair raises the possibility of systematic cover-up by this White House. And as presidential administration after administration have taught us, it’s never the crime that mattered as much as the cover-up. I once exchanged emails with Sidney Blumenthal about whether he might speak at the New America Foundation on the subject, “How to Construct Presidential Deniability.” I still think it would be a great topic to learn more about — but the program never came about.
When we find out who made those calls to Robert Novak, Matt Cooper, Tim Russert, Andrea Mitchell, and others — then the question needs to be (and hopefully U.S. Attorney Pete Fitzgerald has already posed this question to President Bush and his newly hired consulting attorney)”What did the President know? And when did he know it?”
Perhaps “West Wing” could delve into this topic — or we could ask the Washington Post to consider a feature piece on the topic of the presidency and deniability.
— Steve Clemons