Washington D.C.--Just a few years ago, the legendary Gore Vidal observed that the Bush administration was cursed, and that George W. Bush and those surrounding him couldn't do anything right and that they were a plague upon wherever they went and whatever they touched. Of course, if you touch people you've kidnapped from another country too hard, it's a war crime and a human rights violation.
Today, we have the news that partisan journalist--usually referred to as a "columnist"--Robert Novak has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. If only this were some indication that we live in a meaningful and just universe, but it isn't, and we don't. Has Novak served the Fourth Estate or a "Fifth Column"? History is likely to record the latter as his master.
For a long time, Novak has written a blustery column of business-politico propaganda for The Chicago Sun-Times (and in syndication), echoing the glory days of the barking apparatchik in the Soviet Union. From 1980-2005, Novak was a co-host of CNN's "Crossfire." He was the argument for the right-wing on a decidedly right-wing news network, contrary to the assertions of Ted Turner and his admirers...all three of them.
Novak's leaving for Fox News as a sometime contributor wasn't much of a change. But it does raise suspicions that he was part of a propaganda campaign to promote the war, and one that was very mainstream. He has hardly been alone in his tacit support and bias for the war on terrorism, the invasion of Iraq, and essentially the entire GOP/Bush agenda. So why call him a "journalist" at all? Why call stenographers to power "journalists" at all? To serve the fix, the boys currently holding power illegitimately.
Take it from someone involved in the DC Madam story: when you're part of a story you're not necessarily a journalist. You're a participant-of-sorts, a chronicler, but not a journalist.
Thankfully, this isn't the end of the world for anyone, especially considering the profession of journalism is about as popular as Congress at this particular historical moment. On July 14th, 2003, Novak illegally revealed the identity of an acting CIA officer Valerie Plame in a Washington Post piece:
[Former US ambassador Joseph C.] Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counterproliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. "I will not answer any question about my wife," Wilson told me. ("Mission to Niger," The Washington Post, 07.14.2003)That's not acting as a journalist, however, but as a mercenary for the White House, a Republican one. By writing these lines in the Post, Novak was aiding and abetting the Bush administration by exposing the covert identity of the former US ambassador who went to Niger to examine the evidence of whether Saddam Hussein had been attempting to procure uranium-ore from the African nation for a nuclear program. His sources were not "whistle-blowers," but the kind of politicians who often beg to be exposed for their abuse of office. Et tu, Judith Miller.
Like all of the experts on nuclear proliferation were saying back in 2002-2003, former ambassador Wilson didn't find any credible evidence of Iraqi attempts at a nuclear program. This didn't support the already eroding pretext for invading Iraq--namely WMDs pointed at the United States--and Wilson suddenly became a target of the Imperial Vice President's office. Novak was very consciously helping the White House in discrediting Wilson's very credible conclusions that Iraq had never attempted seriously to obtain the "yellow-cake" from Niger. This was done to salvage the pretext for the war in Iraq and punish and silence critics of the invasion .
There are worse things than being a journalist these days, and Novak embodies it, just as the late Tim Russert. However, it's even money that Novak is going to be enshrined as "one of the greats" of journalism soon. He's not.
Knowingly disclosing the identity of an undercover intelligence agent can bring a federal prison term of up to 10 years under the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
Novak wrote Tuesday that none of his sources have been indicted.
The Libby indictment stated that Rove, identified as "Official A," had discussed Plame's identity with Novak. But Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin said in June that Rove had been informed that he would not face charges in connection with the probe.
Novak said a third source, CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, confirmed Plame's identity.
Harlow was not available for public comment on Novak's latest account. But a former intelligence official said Harlow did not know what Plame's position at the CIA was at first and that he tried to talk Novak out of publishing her name when he did find out, making it clear the disclosure could be damaging. ("Novak: Rove confirmed Plame's identity," CNN.com, 07.11.2006)
They broke the law, and Robert Novak kept his mouth shut for them until he knew there would be no convictions and that he was in-the-clear. This is because he was compromised early-on by his illegal participation in the propaganda campaign. He furthered this compromise by publishing Plame's identity as an acting CIA officer. Yet, despite this fact, an increasingly irrelevant mainstream media is going to prop-up Robert Novak just as they did Tim Russert. That's OK, the internet is now here to counter the lies.
Like Congress, political creatures like Novak compromised themselves to the Bush administration and are still her captives--enter former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, the other option. While McClellan served the Bush administration back when the candidate was still the governor of Texas and it was merely a campaign, he was never completely an "insider"--not nearly as much as the GOP's commissar Novak who was told much more and involved in much more. Success has its price.
An October 1, 2003 press conference on the then-expanding Plame investigation underscores how in-the-dark the White House press secretary was being kept:
Q Scott, this is not hypothetical at all. You say the issue is leaking classified information. So my question is did Karl Rove or any others in the White House talk with reporters, not leak classified information, but talk with reporters about Mr. Wilson's wife and her CIA status after the initial report by Robert Novak?
MR. McCLELLAN: After his initial report? Again, you're -- now the issue is changing. The issue was --
Q No --
MR. McCLELLAN: The issue is, did someone leak classified information. That's a serious matter.
Q Right. But if someone --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's being investigated. Do people talk about what's in the news? That's a whole a different -- that's on a different --
Q There is talk about a woman who's still undercover.
MR. McCLELLAN: And I just made clear --
Q I believe --
MR. McCLELLAN: I just made clear that -- well, was it reported that, one, was that what was reported in the article?
Q I'm just asking, did --
MR. McCLELLAN: Was that what was reported in the article?
Q She was an undercover operative.
MR. McCLELLAN: In the original article?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was reported "operative" in the Novak column.
Q Operative by definition --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was reported -- and he said, you shouldn't use the word "operative." I think the word was "operative." So, I don't know that it said -- I don't --
Q My question is pretty straightforward. Did Karl Rove or others have conversations with reporters about Mrs. Wilson?
MR. McCLELLAN: In what way?
Q And her CIA status.
MR. McCLELLAN: There's an investigation going on in asking everybody to preserve any information they would have related to some of the issues you bring up. I'm not -- there's been no information brought to our attention to suggest that anyone leaked classified information [Ed. My emphasis.], and the President certainly doesn't condone the leaking, or the tactics you're suggesting.
Q You seem to be suggesting that perhaps they had conversations, but weren't leaking classified information.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's an investigation going on to pull together all the information. But the issue is, did someone leak classified information? That's a serious issue. And I just made it -- I made it clear early, you brought up Karl's name. Let's be very clear. I thought -- I said it was a ridiculous suggestion, I said it's simply not true that he was involved in leaking classified information, and -- nor, did he condone that kind of activity. This has been answered, and now we're trying to get in a whole bunch of issues, separate and apart from that. ("Press briefing by Scott McClellan," Whitehouse.gov, 10.01.2003)
But Rove lied to the Press Secretary, as did "Scooter" Libby, the Vice President's Chief of Staff and right-hand man. McClellan was a Sphinx (and still is)--you had to be paying very close attention to his wording. He was telling us all-along that all he could tell the public is what he was being told. That's bad. His employers were keeping him in the dark too, but he was covering his own posterior. That was wise, but it doesn't make him a hero. But compared to the Robert Novaks or the Judith Millers, he is one.
According to pundits in the GOP, the mainstream media (including the unethically biased Novak himself), McClellan is simply "bitter," but this doesn't wash: When individuals like Novak stand down and recuse themselves of checking power, you know a fix is on and that the game is rigged. When they chime in that some former associate is "bitter," it's best to see where the strings coming out their backs lead to. That's right, follow the money.
These kinds of American "apparatchiki" aren't a new phenomena at all, they've been with us the entire, short, run of our history. Why do these creatures yearn to be slaves so badly? Foolishness and delusions of adequacy. If you have any sense at all, you don't miss people like this when they're gone, let alone admire them. Without a blanket rollback of Bush policies and precedents, the war on terror's curse will hold long after Jonah has left us.
Candidate Obama is already showing troubling signs that he's going to play the same game as this administration. It isn't about George W. Bush in the end, and never was, but the mess we're allowing our world to become. There's a cancer on the presidency...and the press, and the public.
Robert Novak is diagnosed with a brain tumor:http://enews.earthlink.net/article/ent?guid=20080728/488d4440_3426_1335020080728-1071750391
"Mission to Niger," The Washington Post, 07.14.2003: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/20/AR2005102000874.html
"Novak: Rove confirmed Plame's identity," CNN.com, 07.11.2006: http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/07/11/cia.leak/index.html
"Press briefing by Scott McClellan," Whitehouse.gov, 10.01.2003: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/10/20031001-6.html
"President Jonah," by Gore Vidal, 01.25. 2006: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060206/vidal