What is the “central question” of the Valerie Plame leak scandal? The New York Times’ Elizabeth Bumiller provides an answer in the lede of her article today:
These hot months here will be remembered as the summer of the leak, a time when the political class obsessed on a central question: did Karl Rove, President Bush’s powerful adviser, commit a crime when he spoke about a C.I.A. officer with the columnist Robert D. Novak?
Karl Rove couldn’t have put it any better himself.
Surely Rove wants nothing more than for the media’s coverage of the leak case to focus on whether he and other White House officials technically broke the letter of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (which is extremely difficult to break) when they exposed Valerie Plame’s identity. (Exhibit A of the White House strategy: President Bush now saying he’ll fire anyone involved in the leak only if they committed a crime.)
Both Bumiller and Rove are wrong. We already know the answers to the real central questions of the case. We know that Rove, Libby, and at least one other senior official leaked Plame’s identity; that the White House lied about their involvement; and that President Bush has betrayed the trust of the American people by not following through on his pledge to fire them.
It’s no surprise the White House wants to play down these basic facts. But why does the New York Times have to help them out?