Was it Robert Novak who jolted aficionados of the vendetta-against-Joe-Wilson conspiracy theory, or was the message coming from . . . a Higher Authority? You be the judge, after having a look at the screen capture from this evening's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC. Yes, that's a lightning bolt. No, it wasn't photo-shopped - it's the real thing.
The bolt hit while the panel was discussing the electrifying implications of Brit Hume's just-aired interview of Bob Novak. Hume questioned Novak about his disclosure of Valerie Plame's employment by the CIA. Novak had revealed Plame's employment in the course of reporting that she had recommended that her husband - Ambassador Joe Wilson - be sent to Niger to look into reports that Saddam Hussein had been seeking to acquire uranium for purposes of constructing nuclear weapons.
There's no doubt that Novak's words were a devastating bolt to those who had spun the theory that the White House had intentionally leaked Plames' identity to Novak as retribution on Wilson for his criticism of the president's Iraq policy. For Novak could not have been much more unequivocal in debunking that notion.
Brit: "The allegation has grown . . . this was part of a campaign by the Bush administration to discredit Joe Wilson after he wrote a column in the New York Times critical of the administration in Iraq . . . You're the person that's at the point of all this. What is your view on whether there was a campaign underway to discredit Wilson?"
Novak: "I saw no such campaign. Nobody in the administration ever said anything critical about Wilson to me. And my column was not critical of Wilson. The information came out to me in the course of an interview by a person who was not, believe me, not in the business of playing political dirty tricks. I initiated the call to Karl Rove [for confirmation]. We talked about Joe Wilson's wife for maybe 20 seconds in the course of the conversation, which I took as a confirmation."
For the record, I find Mara Liasson, shown on the bolt's receving end, to be a fair-minded professional. In any case, I suppose there will be some bitter-enders clinging to their vendetta theories. Yet there's no doubt, as you can see for yourself, that's it been a real shock to their system.
Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle.' Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org