I’m visiting my Mom in Palm Springs and read a terrific article in Vanity Fair in the bathroom. No, not the Jennifer Aniston interview, but a Michael Wolff column on the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plume’s identify to various journalists by Karl Rove. Wolff looks at the scandal from an entirely different perspective — that to tell one story, the press conspired to cover up a much, much bigger one.
While President Bush and Karl Rove were issuing denials that the White House blew Plume’s cover, TIME Magazine and the New York Times both knew it was a lie — and said nothing to protect the identify of their source in the original story.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but what they knew was something of such news value, of such moment, of such certain consequence that it might, reasonably, have presaged the defeat of the President, might hafve even — only to be slightly melodramatic — altered the course of the war in Iraq. So possibly changed history, saved lives…hmmm.
Not only did highly placed members of the media and the vaunted news organizations they worked for know it, not only did they sit on what will not improbably be among hte bigges news stories of the Bush years, they helped cover it up…
Wolff argues there was no excuse for their actions, that the implications of the bigger story trumped the ethical issues of keeping the sources private for the smaller one.
As soon as it becomes clear that an event had occurred that, if exposed, might change the course of government, one which you, the gallant news organization have got the skinny one… you print the story.
How do you rationalize doing otherwise? To whom do you owe your greatest allegiance, source or readers? Again, the greatest news organizations in the land had a story about a potential crime that reached as close as you can get to the President himself and they punted, they swallowed it, they self-dealt.
It’s the most compelling take 0n the scandal I’ve heard yet…and curiously, one no one else seems to be talking about (at least not on the front pages. I’m sure Bill Rabkin, among others, will say this POV has been discussed in a number of opinion pieces…but I don’t read the Opinion section)
UPDATE: Reporter Warren Olney had Wolfe, among others, on his KCRW radio show today to discuss the article and the questions it raises.