Columnist David Broder says he wrote "almost nothing about the Wilson-Plame case, because it seemed overblown to me from the start." As for the rest of the media, Broder says Newsweek "and other publications owe Karl Rove an apology. And all of journalism needs to relearn the lesson: Can the conspiracy theories and stick to the facts."
The only time I commented on the case was to caution reporters who offered bold First Amendment defenses for keeping their sources' names secret that they had better examine the motivations of the people leaking the information to be sure they deserve protection.
But caution has been notably lacking in some of the press treatment of this subject -- especially when it comes to Karl Rove. And it behooves us in the media to examine that behavior, not just sweep it under the rug.
Sidney Blumenthal, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and now a columnist for several publications, has just published a book titled, "How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime." It is a collection of his columns for Salon, including one originally published on July 14, 2005, titled "Rove's War."
It was occasioned by the disclosure of a memo from Time magazine's Matt Cooper, saying that Rove had confirmed to him the identity of Valerie Plame. To Blumenthal, that was proof that this "was political payback against Wilson by a White House that wanted to shift the public focus from the Iraq War to Wilson's motives"....
Newsweek, in a July 25, 2005, cover story on Rove, after dutifully noting that Rove's lawyer said the prosecutor had told him that Rove was not a target of the investigation, added: "But this isn't just about the Facts, it's about what Rove's foes regard as a higher Truth: That he is a one-man epicenter of a narrative of Evil."
And in the American Prospect's cover story for August 2005, Joe Conason wrote that Rove "is a powerful bully. Fear of retribution has stifled those who might have revealed his secrets. He has enjoyed the impunity of a malefactor who could always claim, however implausibly, deniability -- until now."
These and other publications owe Karl Rove an apology. And all of journalism needs to relearn the lesson: Can the conspiracy theories and stick to the facts.