Dancing as Fast as They Can

Given that it’s the home of so many avid partisans, if there’s one thing the blogosphere is good at, it’s spin, spin and more spin. The newest example of this tendency of blundits (pundits with blogs) to selectively cherry-pick bits and pieces of a larger story to make hay for their cause is, of course, the current controversy over what Karl Rove knew, when he knew it, who told him and who he told.

Armchair pundits on both the left and right have been busily spinning like dreidels during the Festival of Lights, trying to prove that the other side is to blame — with the right taking the lead in twisting the story into an even more convoluted mess than it has become on its own.

Making the rounds today is an article in the Chicago Sun Times by Mark Steyn in which he claims that “Joseph C. Wilson IV conceded on CNN the other day, [Valerie Plame] wasn’t a ‘clandestine officer’ and, indeed, hadn’t been one for six years. So one can only ‘leak’ her name in the sense that one can ‘leak’ the name of the checkout clerk at Home Depot.”

Kevin Drum knocks Steyn around a bit on this point, writing on his Washington Monthly blog that when Wilson said “my wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity,” what he was saying was that “his wife stopped being clandestine as soon as Novak wrote about her, not that she was never clandestine.” Drum asks, “Can’t these guys do any better than that?”

“It’s pretty sad when conservatives become so obsessed with protecting their own that they’re reduced to claiming that outing a CIA agent is no worse than outing a Home Depot clerk. That’s some heavy duty moral clarity for you, folks.”

The Mahablog takes it a step further, writing that “The fact is that the cavalier outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative has done incalculable damage to this nation’s intelligence efforts. And the fact that the Right brushes off Plame’s outing as a minor consideration exemplifies why it’s the Right, not the Left, that has lost its patriotism. On the Right, love of country has been replaced by blind partisan loyalty and a cult of personality surrounding George W. Bush.”

On the other side of the aisle, the Asylum blog thinks that Rove is actually in the clear, and places the blame on — who else? — the Wilson’s: “The only people that outed Valerie Plame were her and her husband. The White House didn’t leak her name. No one connected to the administration did. Joe Wilson did. Valerie Plame did. It was their inability to shut the hell up that brought this down on them.”

This seems to be the considered opinion of a large segment of the right blogosphere — that Plame and her husband are somehow to blame for Plame getting burned. This stems from the fact that an online bio of Joseph Wilson states that, “He is married to the former Valerie Plame and has two sons and two daughters.” One has to think that it’s a bit disingenuous to say that he outed his wife’s CIA cover by simply acknowledging her existence, but hey, facts and beliefs are a fluid thing on the Web.

Over the weekend, Mark Kleiman laid out the legal implications of some aspects of the case, noting that the Nondisclosure Agreement (SF 312) Rove had signed holds that “even if Rove did no more than confirm something Novak already knew, in doing so he violated the agreement he had signed.” The text of SF 312 states that “before disseminating the information elsewhere or confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of the SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified.”

Whatever the outcome of the case, there’s one thing we can likely all agree on: every segment of the blogosphere will come to its own conclusions — way before it all plays out.

Paul McLeary

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.