Saturday, August 06, 2005

More Novak Than You Can Shake A Subpeona At

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; when Jay Rosen covers a story, said story is covered. Rosen's latest on the Novak 'Inside Politics' brouhaha is a case in point. Even this lengthy excerpt doesn't do justice to the thoroughness of the piece, but it's a good taste:

Why did it go down Thursday? Because on Monday, Aug. 1, Novak violated the terms of a professional stand-off that had been keeping him just this side of legitimate in the eyes of his colleagues in Washington journalism. He had previously said that, on the advice of his lawyer, he couldn't talk about the case, or answer any questions interviewers might put to him, until the prosecution had run its course.

But then he went ahead and talked about the case in Monday's Chicago Sun-Times column ("Ex-CIA official's remark is wrong") in which he disputed the account given by Bill Harlow, the official spokesman at the CIA whom Novak called for more information about Valerie Plame.

That was the fail safe conversation. That is where the system broke down. If Novak was going to be successfully warned off the naming of Plame, it was by Harlow as spokesman for the Agency, responding to the questions of a reporter with a story. Harlow told the Washington Post last week that he warned Novak in the strongest possible terms not to name Valerie Plame. He said he told Novak that his story was wrong, and would harm U.S. interests. Harlow said he told the federal grand jury the same thing.

Novak, in order to counter the suggestion that he had been properly warned but went ahead anyway - which he said would be "inexcusable for any journalist and particularly a veteran of 48 years in Washington" - decided to take up his pen. Ladies and gentlemen, he said, people have got to know whether their columnist is a crook. Or a jerk. Or a tool. Did I go ahead with the name of a CIA covert operative despite being warned? No, I did not.

Old Novak rules: sorry fellas, can't talk. New rules: Novak chooses when. When to take the Fifth on advice of counsel, when to ignore counsel and respond to the news with his own explanations of what happened to reveal Plame's name.

This, I believe, is the real cause of Thursday's break down of professional discipline on air. The legitimacy of Novak's exemption from questioning had collapsed earlier in the week. Ed Henry knew it and was ready with that news. Novak was not ready to receive it. So he invented an out.

Makes sense to me; after all, Novak, you, me, and the whole world know James Carville's a jerk; always has been, always will was the Plame game, and that copy of Who's Who, that made the difference...

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