Avoiding “A Foolish Consistency” In The Plame Case

Lee over at Right-Thinking From the Left Coast points out that George Bush is backpedaling by only pledging to fire whoever was involved in the Plame leak if a crime was committed:

“(I)t can’t be denied that the administration has gone from firing anyone “involved” with the leak to anyone “convicted of a crime” involving the leak. You can argue if you like that what Rove has done does not constitute a fireable offense, and there’s probably some merit to that argument. But it can’t be denied that Bush and the gang are backpedaling from what they originally said.”

It is fair to note that when this story initially broke, the spin was that Valerie Plame was a covert agent whose life had been put in danger by someone at the White House who had maliciously outed her, thereby committing a felony, in order to stick it to Joe Wilson.

If all of that were true, then Bush should fire the person responsible for revealing Plame’s identity.

However, while Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of the matter is not complete yet so we don’t have the full story, it appears none of the original spin is true. Plame doesn’t look to have been a covert agent, her life wasn’t put in danger (or she wouldn’t have appeared in Vanity Fair), her identity doesn’t appear to have been maliciously revealed, and it looks as if no crime was committed.

Given all that, the leakers shouldn’t be fired.

Now, is it a climb down for George Bush to move from firing anyone who leaked to firing anyone who committed a crime by leaking? Absolutely. He’s not saying the same thing he did when this story broke.

But, should Karl Rove, a man who has been very valuable to Bush, be fired even though it looks as if he has done nothing wrong at this point just so Bush can say he’s being consistent? Well, as Emerson said: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

And it would be foolish to fire Karl Rove unless some new damaging information comes to light.

Keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of conservatives seem to be rallying behind Rove, the Democrats and media are going to scream their heads off no matter what Bush does, and from what I’ve seen, outside the Beltway, the general reaction to this whole scandal has either been confusion or yawning.

So is Bush backing off a bit from what he said originally? Yes, but it’s the right thing to do given the unusual circumstances in this case…

*** Update #1 ***: JustOneMinute has written a long post with lots of quotes on this subject and argues that Bush hasn’t moved the goalposts at all.

You can certainly make a case for that point of view, but until recently, the perception was that Bush was going to fire whoever was involved in the leak, whether they committed a crime or not. Here’s an exchange from a June 2004 press conference, for example, that buttresses that viewpoint:

Q: Given — given recent developments in the CIA leak case, particularly Vice President Cheney’s discussions with the investigators, do you still stand by what you said several months ago, a suggestion that it might be difficult to identify anybody who leaked the agent’s name?

THE PRESIDENT: That’s up to —

Q: And, and, do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. And that’s up to the U.S. Attorney to find the facts.”

Yes, I know that you could counter that Bush originally pledged to fire the leaker if he/she broke the law and therefore he was probably just reiterating his original pledge, etc., etc., but I think that’s a bit of a leap.

*** Update #3 ***:

Let me also add that this scandal has turned into a hair splitting festival on both the right and the left and, in my opinion, this whole thing has been over-analyzed into the ground.

To me, it comes down to whether Plame was a covert agent or not when her name came out. Right now, the answer to that question appears to be, “no.” Since that’s the case, it means that revealing her name wouldn’t have been illegal or unethical. That means that Rove did nothing wrong and shouldn’t be fired.

There’s your whole case in a nutshell and nothing else matters very much in comparison…

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