Saturday, October 4, 2003
Adam Smith on outsourcing
One of the perks of teaching at the University of Chicago is that the school requires much of its faculty to teach beyond their area of expertise. I'm teaching in one of the "core sequences" at the University of Chicago this quarter, entitled Power, Identity, and Resistance. You can access a copy of the syllabus here or on my teaching page.
We're currently immersed in Adam Smith's An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. There are many great qualities about the work, but what strikes me today is its topicality -- like all great works in social science, Smith's observations are constantly relevant.
For example, consider this passage from Book I, Chapter X, Part II -- "Inequalities occasioned by the Policy of Europe":
William Kristol weighs in on the Plame Game in the Weekly Standard -- and he hits the nail right on the head in two ways.
First, they put the import of the scandal itself in the correct perspective:
Their second good point echoes the one I made in The New Republic Online -- that this incident is endemic of a larger problem:
Indeed (link via Kevin Drum).
Friday, October 3, 2003
Your weekend reading
Arvind Panagariya has an excellent essay in Foreign Policy that points out the true costs and benefits from free trade. You should read the whole thing, but here's what Panagariya says about who benefits from the removal of agricultural subsidies:
He also makes a cogent point about which group of countries are protectionist:
Give it a look.
THE COMPLETE ONLINE ARTICLE ARCHIVE
"Bush the Bumbler" -- December 17, 2003
"Fables of the Reconstruction" -- November 3, 2003
"More Harm Than Good." (review of William Easterly's The White Man's Burden) -- Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2006
"Globalization Without Riots" (review of Jagdish Bhagwati's In Defense of Globalization) -- New York Times, April 18, 2004 (and see the follow-up exchange in the Letters section here)
"Trade Off" -- June 25, 2004
"Fail Proof" -- May 27, 2004
"Up is Down" -- April 28, 2004
"Cornered" -- March 31, 2004
"Hash of Civilizations" -- March 3, 2004
"History Channeling" -- February 4, 2004
"Transparent Move" -- January 7, 2004
"Domestic Disturbance" -- October 29, 2003
"Barely Managing" -- October 3, 2003
"Protection Racket" -- September 3, 2003
"Illiberal Imagination" -- August 6, 2003
"A Credible Alternative" -- July 9, 2003
"An Ounce of Prevention" -- June 11, 2003
"Et Tu, Kristol?" -- May 14, 2003
"Friendly Fire" -- April 9, 2003
"Democracy by America" -- March 12, 2003
"One for All" -- February 12, 2003
"About That Commission Report..." -- June 28, 2004
"The State of Islam -- 2003" -- October 20, 2003
"Against Sedentary Lifestyles" -- October 8, 2003
"What Might Trip Up the WTO" -- September 19, 2003
"What's New About Global Trade" -- September 9, 2003
"Let Them Eat Subsidies" -- July 17, 2003
"Great Responsibility" -- May 6, 2003
Drezner's Hollywood minute for geeks
The University of Chicago campus is abuzz over the location filming of Proof, U of C alum David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play!! Why, earlier this week, your intrepid blogger had to dodge multiple cast trailers parked right outside your correspondent's office!!
This production has attracted only the Hollywood A list!! It stars Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow!! Academy award nominee John Madden will direct!!
OK, enough channeling of the Access Hollywood prose style.
While the Entertainment Weekly reader in me is delighted that Gwyneth is in town, the geek in me is unsated.
Far be it for me to critique Paltrow's amazing acting chops. Clearly, she can excel at the New York socialite/period Briton roles in her own vavoom kind of way. However, the lead in Proof is supposed to be a tortured, brilliant daughter of another mathematical genius. Now I've seen Paltrow on the occasional talk show, and, well, let's just say it's debatable whether she ever absorbed some of the basic mathematical concepts, like, for example, prime numbers.
But who, you ask, could replace Paltrow at the last minute? Why, look no further than Danica McKellar, most widely known as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. She's all grown up now, and has a recurring role on The West Wing. Judging by this picture, I don't think she'd drive away many moviegoers:
More importantly, she knows a thing or two about mathematics, as this Chicago Tribune story points out. The highlights:
Playbill has more!!:
Best of all, the reason McKellar is featured in theTribune and Playbill stories is that she is currently appearing in the West Coast production of Proof!!
Geeks of the world, unite!! Say it loud and say it proud!!
We want Danica!!
Danica!! Danica!! DANICA!!
Assumptions and facts
Yesterday, Mark Kleiman wrote:
This is the premise behind Brad DeLong's assertions that the Bush team has covered this up since July as well.
Here's my question: how are DeLong, Kleiman, and Krugman so sure that senior people at the White House -- besides the leakers -- knew about this? How do they know Bush knew about this? The stories by Novak, David Corn, and Time.com might not have been enough to register on the White House radar. A Lexis-Nexis search reveals that none of the major dailies (NYT, WaPo, WSJ, USA Today) mentioned Valerie Plame during the month of July in a news story. Krugman, to his credit, did raise the issue in his July 22nd op-ed, but I'm willing to bet that that Krugman is not considered required reading at this White House. [But Scott McClellan was asked about it at a White House briefing in late July--ed. Big deal -- do you think the senior staff becomes aware of every issue that Helen Thomas raises?]
Kleiman, Krugman and DeLong might be correct -- but I don't see any evidence confirming it. They're making an assumption.
UPDATE: Nick Confessore -- hardly an administration sympathizer -- blogs in Tapped the following possibility:
Link via Kevin Drum, who offers his own, more pessimistic, speculations.
The disgusting Los Angeles Times
In the past 48 hours, the Los Angeles Times has managed to commit two despicable acts on its pages. The first was the Arnold Schwarzenegger story, which Mickey Kaus predicted would happen if the Times thought Schwarzenegger had a chance of winning. [You saying the story is not relevant?--ed. I'm saying the story has been around since Premiere published parts of it two years ago. Schawzenegger has been a candidate for two months, and now they decide to run it?] The fact that Gray Davis has apparently done worse things goes without mention. Kaus points out the following irony:
I agree with Andrew Sullivan, by the way, that Arnold handled it appropriately by addressing the issue head-on and openly apologizing -- a lesson that would serve the Bushies well right about now.
The Schwarzenegger story, however, is piddling compared to the fact that the Times permitted Philip Agee to write an op-ed on the Plame Game (link via William Sjostrom). Agee published the names of several CIA covert employees during the 70's and now has Cuban citizenship.
I saw Agee in action fifteen years ago when he spoke at Williams College. I can honestly say that it may have been the only talk I have attended that made me physically sick to my stomach. At that talk, Agee, in respomding to a question from the audience, outright accused the CIA of having developed the AIDS virus as a way to destroy both African countries and African-Americans. This guy makes Noam Chomsky look like a hard-nosed conservative.
If the Los Angeles Times thinks Agee is the person to write an op-ed about the Plame Game, perhaps they'll contact Marc Rich the next time a questionable pardon is made. Shame on the op-ed page. [But they let Susan Estritch blast the Schawzenegger story on the op-ed page!--ed. Goody for them. That doesn't excuse publishing Agee]
UPDATE: COINTELPRO has more on Agee.
Thursday, October 2, 2003
Taking a break
Over the past week, I've discovered something very important: scandal-blogging is exhausting. My brain needs a brief diversion.
For all of you who need a break as well, let me warmly recommend a surreal site called Positive Movie Reviews, run by a friend of mine who shall remain nameless. Let me also warn you that the humor in the reviews is of a decidedly bizarre nature, and may not be appropriate for those of you with an emotional maturity greater than thirty years of age.
For a sample, here is an excerpt from a review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace:
Go check it out -- if you dare.
UPDATE: If movie reviews don't float your boat, go check out David Adesnik's literary deconstruction of the Harry Potter series. It turns out they're all about sex [So that's why fundamentalists don't like the series--ed.]
Drezner gets results from Howard Fineman!
Fineman's Newsweek piece is the new "must read" on the Plame Game [Hey, he stole your line!!--ed. Get me Fox's lawyers, stat!!]. Lots of good stuff, but what I'm pleased about are these grafs:
This is basically what I said in my TNR piece from yesterday:
UPDATE: Chris Sullentrop makes a similar point in this Slate essay.
An interesting point on outsourcing
Irwin Stelzer has an interesting essay in the Daily Standard on how economic interdependence can constrain U.S. foreign policy. Buried within it is this nugget of analysis:
UPDATE: In September the U.S. economy shed another 17,000 jobs in manufacturing, according to CNN at the horrible cost of creating 74,000 new jobs in services, most of them in the "professional and business services" category. Oh, wait...
Today's Plame Game meter
Level of outrage rising slightly. Why?
Novak's statements this week directly contradict what he said three months ago. [UPDATE: Novak told Wolf Blitzer yesterday that the Newday reporters misunderstood what he said in July. However, in the same transcript, he acknowledges the accuracy of the above quote.]
I think this falls under the "unbelievably disturbing' category.
I'd be more comfortable if the White House directed a little more outrage at the leak itself and less about the peripheral issues. [But isn't this just an example of spin control, which all administrations do?--ed. Let's go to this Chicago Tribune story and compare and contrast, shall we?:
In both of those instances, the White House felt it necessary to take an active role. Now it's "slime and defend?"]
My suspicion is the White House strategy won't work. First, it doesn't jibe with the poll numbers. Second, it will alienate key Republicans. The Times sttory concludes with:
Cue Hagel in today's Washington Post:
[Hey, you haven't addressed Brad Delong's questions yet!!--ed. If I get a chance I will try to do so this evening. But your readers want a response now!--ed. Then they should read Eugene Volokh's post about the distinction between work and fun in blogging.]
Well, that didn't take long
Rush Limbaugh has resigned from ESPN's NFL Sunday Countdown. A furor erupted over the following remarks he made last Sunday about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb:
Limbaugh's statement today:
The statement of George Bodenheimer, President, ESPN and ABC Sports:
Five quick thoughts:
1) Limbaugh has a legitimate point about the Eagles defense being underappreciated last year.
2) His point about the media is absurd. There are now a lot of successful black quarterbacks in the NFL -- see Steve McNair, Michael Vick, Aaron Brooks, etc. The media focused on McNabb because he was good (I say this as a New York Giants fan) and looked great playing on TV. They want him to do well in the exact same way that they want Brett Favre to do well -- they like star QBs on winning teams.
3) According to this story:
Ducking that appearance strikes me as pretty lame.
4) Limbaugh lost me when he confidently predicted New England would beat Buffalo in week 1. [Yeah, but sports guys make dumb-ass predictions every day!--ed. In their first week?]
UPDATE: This is an excellent opportunity to plus Football Outsiders, a football blog dedicated to taking sabremetrics and applying them to the NFL. If you go to this 2002 page on QB value, you'll see that by their metric of rating quarterbacks, McNabb had a solid if unspectacular season last year -- and a really bad season this year. Sticking to 2002, these stats suggest that McNabb might have been overrated compared to say, New York Giants QB Kerry Collins -- but then again, so were Brett Favre, Drew Bledsoe, Tommy Maddox, and Kelly Holcomb.
Oh, and buried in this otherwise hystrionic King Kaufman piece is an amusing nugget about Howard Dean:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Allen Barra says that Rush Limbaugh was correct, at least in regard to Allen Barra.
Is it my imagination, or does Slate specialize in publishing mea culpas from liberals who say that conservatives are correct about something -- but only after a liberal result has been achieved?
Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Drezner gets results from Republicans!!
There's been a small hue and cry on the left half of the blogosphere that Republicans aren't taking the Plame game seriously. However, this ABC News poll suggests that they do take it seriously. Among Republicans only:
The primary partisan difference is over whether the White House is fully cooperating -- Republicans think yes, Democrats no. Still, Republicans can't be accused of ignoring the issue.
For the full results of the poll, click here.
October's book(s) of the month
There are so many books worth reading, I've decided to highlight two books each month: one "general interest" book, and one dealing specifically with international relations.
The general interest book for October is Virginia Postrel's The Substance of Style, which I was inhaling right up until the quarter started, and I'm aching to get back to it. [Good thing you're hawking the book -- looks like she's having real trouble selling copies!--ed.]
Geek confession: I mark up every book I read, fiction and nonfiction. The Substance of Style is so stimulating that I find myself underline 50% of every page. Go go buy it and mark up your own copy.
The international relations book is considerably older, and, I'm sad to say, depressingly relevant for our times: Stephen D. Krasner's Structural Conflict. This 1985 book chronicled how, in the wake of the developing world's efforts to create a New International Economic Order, the major economic powers protected their own interests by shifting resources and authority to decision-making fora they controlled.
In the wake of the Cancun meetings, I strongly suspect this trend will repeat itself in the near future. In contrast to their agenda from 30 years ago, I have some sympathy with some of the developing world's current aims, particularly the elimination of all agricultural subsidies.
Go check them out!!
It's standard operating procedure to have sources
The David Brooks quote comes from this August 2000 article for Salon.
The postmortems on planning for Iraq are the du jour topic for the newsweeklies. John Barry and Evan Thomas have more dirt in the Newsweek story (this is where the Powell quote comes from), but Brian Bennett et al have some good stuff in their Time cover story, including the lack of communication on the state of Iraq's electricity grid.
On the Valerie Plame business, I've written a bit about it in recent days. You can access my posts in chronological order, here, here, here, here, here, and here. [Been obsessing a bit, have we?--ed. Look, some people care about the California recall, others about national security.]
For more general reading on Bush's decision-making style, check out this Richard Brookshier essay from the March 2003 Atlantic Monthly. Ryan Lizza's TNR piece from January 2001 is also worth reading, particularly the opening paragraph:
For more general reading on bureaucratic politics -- particularly in matters of foreign policy -- the classic source is Graham Allison's Essence of Decision. However, much more pertinent for today's world is Amy Zegart's Flawed By Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC. [Full disclosure: Zegart and I went to graduate school together]. To see bureaucratic politics as it played out in the Reagan administration, you could do far worse than perusing George Shultz's memoirs, Turmoil and Triumph.
The management of foreign policy
[So, Dan, you've been a bit preoccupied with this Valerie Plame business. So what's your TNR Online essay going to be about?--ed.]
Go check it out for yourself. It's mentions the Plame Game -- but it's about foreign policy management in general.
Martin Kramer weighs in
I've already had my say on this, but do check out Kramer's full post.
The Chicago Manual of Style and Microsoft Word
For those who were interested in my previous post on the new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, the must-read for today is Louis Menand's review of it in The New Yorker. Menand's review is particularly useful because he discusses whether the style recommendations are compatible with the travails of using Microsoft Word, for which he has little love. Here's the most amusing part of his over-the-top rant:
Read the whole thing. Then, if you still have free time, do take the opportunity to read Menand's The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America.
My Plame mood today
There are two -- no, make that three -- inputs to my level of outrage at the Plame game. The first is the despicable nature intrinsic to the leak itself. On that score, I'm delighted to see some people on my side of the ideological fence catching on to what's happened. To quote Andrew Sullivan:
Better yet, to quote the source of Sullivan's outrage, former counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson speaking on Newshour (link via Atrios):
[You do know -- as Matt Drudge points out -- that Johnson also said that Plame was a CIA operative for thirty years even though she's only forty?-- ed. Yeah, but my suspicion is that was a misstatement during a live television broadcast. It would be nice if it was cleared up, however.] Heck, even the RNC chairman acknowledges that this is serious.
The second source of my outrage is a direct function of who leaked and that person's relationship to the President. On Sunday, I suspected that it was Karl Rove, which would put the leak very close to George W. Bush himself, which got me very mad. On Monday, Ambassador Wilson admitted that he had no evidence to back up that charge, and so my outrage level diminished somewhat. If this story pans out -- do consider the source -- then my dander will be rising again. UPDATE: Robert Novak goes out of his way in today's column to imply that Rove was not the source of the leak -- "no partisan gunslinger." Again, consider the source -- Novak continues to insist that Plame was not an undercover operative.
The third factor is how the Bush administration handles this emerging scandal -- do they go into denial/cover-up mode or do they address it forthrightly and clean it up? While Bush did say something constructive yesterday, I also think Josh Marshall is correct in pointing out how Bush is trying to reframe the issue. I still think Brad DeLong is overreaching, but we'll see what happens as more facts emerge.
ANOTHER UPDATE: ABC's The Note again manages to look past the morass of charges and counter-charges to get to the nub of the issue:
I respect the Post, by the way, which is why I take this story so seriously.
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
The limits of political science
Y'know, I've got a Ph.D. in political science, and I've vigorously defended the use of statistical methodologies to understand political phenomena. I truly believe that its possible to create general models of human behavior to explain political events. But one must frankly acknowledge their limitations, so let me admit the one thing political science cannot and never will be able to explain -- the mind of Arianna Huffington:
Gray Davis, on the other hand, perfectly fits the axiom that the first thing politicians care about is getting elected:
Must... resist.... urge... to.... snark!!! [Just link to Mickey Kaus--ed. Good idea!!]
Drezner gets results from George W. Bush!!
Yesterday I wrote:
Earlier today I wrote:
From Fox News:
ABC News runs the quote as follows:
See, was that so hard? I would have phrased it a bit differently -- it still sounds a bit too clever to me. However, that statement -- plus a thorough Justice/FBI investigation -- are good if belated first steps for the administration to address this problem. [UPDATE: Josh Marshall appears not to be sated.]
Also check out Jack Shafer's Slate essay on the Plame game. Some highlights:
With his statement today, Bush is starting make the proper noises.
Definitely still developing....
UPDATE: Shafer has another Slate piece up that seems to take a harder line than the previously linked one. The highlights:
Crescat Sententia has moved
Will Baude, Amanda Butler, and the rest of the gang have some fancy new digs -- there are gargoyles and props from Richard Posner!!
Go check it out.
Still a lot of smoke, and Justice thinks there's a fire
The Associated Press reports that the Justice Department has started a full investigation of the Novak leak:
Here's a copy of the memo that Gonzales sent to the White House staff:
The end of the New York Times story also describes where things go from here:
So far, the system appears to be working. As I've said previously, what I would like to see is a strong denunciation by President Bush about what took place. [But his press spokesman, national security advisor, and other subordinates have already said that the President would not tolerate this sort of behavior!--ed. There's a big difference between assertions by intermediaries and a video feed of the President himself. The latter commands a lot more attention -- see the Trent Lott affair. But the Washington Post says the following today:
Surely that counts for something?--ed. Again, this is an anonymous leak -- not a formal statement]
UPDATE: Drezner gets results from ABC!! The Note has some powerful words in today's update:
Let me repeat -- this is a serious allegation, and I want to see the President address it directly and publicly. [But we don't really know if Plame was an operative, and we don't really know whether Bush administration officials leaked the story in the way that the Post alleges.--ed.] Oh yes we do. Kevin Drum provides a solid rundown of the evidence. From CNN (link via alert reader B.M.):
So, to quote James Woolsey from the CNN story:
But we don't know who did what yet. The only connection to Rove in this incident came from an assertion by Joseph Wilson that he later retracted. It's worth noting that Mark Kleiman acknowledges my point on this as well (though he's suspicious of Rove due to prior bad acts).
Monday, September 29, 2003
The oxymoron of conservative academics?
I've had a couple of e-mail request to comment on the David Brooks piece from Saturday on how few conservatives there are in academia.
I really don't want to write anything new on this, but click here, here, and here and you'll have my general take on this problem. Oh, and Bruce Bartlett provides an excellent summary of the data on academic bias.
Well.... let me also agree completely with two of Jacob Levy's main points in his follow-up post on this topic. Point #1:
Good God, yes.
Today's Plame roundup
Developments in the Plame story today:
1) Josh Marshall reprints the relevant section of the daily White House press briefing covering this. Scott McClellan flatly denies that Karl Rove leaked the story to Novak, and that the president knows that Rove didn't do it. This is how the Associated Press plays the story. If you read the transcript, however, there's some confusion as to how McClellan knows this. He intimates a conversation with Rove, but doesn't say he asked him directly:
2) Clifford May has a piece in NRO suggesting that Plame's status at the CIA was common knowledge in DC:
This does raise the prospect that perhaps the leak to Novak -- which at the time, was intended to impugn the CIA's morivation to send Wilson to Niger in the first place -- was unaware that s/he was "outing" Plame. This is, I believe, Tom Maguire's theory of events. As Jacob Levy points out, May conveniently skirts the fact that this is still a crime. However, the level of malice involved would be reduced somewhat.
[What about May's allegation that Wilson wasn't qualified to investigate the Niger claim and performed his task in a half-assed manner?--ed. Those are largely extraneous issues, but if you read Wilson's interview with Marshall, it seems clear that he did a pretty thorough job of looking into the matter -- he wasn't just "drinking sweet mint tea." Furthermore, even May acknowledged in July that, "Wilson's conclusion was probably correct."]
3) There is some evidence that Wilson might be overselling his side of the story. Howard Kurtz pointed something out today in his Media Notes column:
Meanwhile, Wilson appears to be backing away from his accusation that Rove was the source of the leak. From the Associated Press again:
It's also worth noting that the New York Times, playing catch-up, also uses the vague "Bush administration officials" to describe the leakers.
5) Robert Novak just said the following on Crossfire (reprinted by Matt Drudge):
All of these facts suggest to me that it's way too soon to assert with confidence that Karl Rove did anything untoward.
Don't get me wrong -- someone did something wrong, otherwise the CIA would not have requested an investigation from Justice. Furthermore, the MSNBC story contains the following grafs:
The question is, who did it? Maybe it was a high-ranking White House official, maybe not. At this point, however, there's no evidence that Rove had anything to do with this.
There's still a lot of smoke at this point -- but I don't see a fire just yet.
Not exactly like father, like son
Leadership and conviction:
Fair or unfair comparison? Too soon to tell.
In the story, when asked about the possibility of an internal White House investigation, White House press spokesman Scott McClellan said:
That's the best spin to put on the story, because it's true -- with the exception of Novak himself, all of the sources for this story have been anonymous.
We'll see how long this holds up.
A final point -- I really, really, want this story to be wrong. I find the prospect that there are people in the White House capable of such actions to be distasteful. If the entire story turns out to be bogus, great. If not, then this is going to be a long and bumpy ride.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Pejman Yousefzadeh argues that it would be wrong to expect President Bush to take a more active role in the investigation:
Pejman has a point about the futility of catching leakers (though Mark Kleiman disagrees). There is a difference, however, between your garden-variety leak and what took place in the Plame affair, which was a violation of federal law.
I'm not saying George W. Bush should be whipping out the magnifying glass as part of an investigation. I am saying that the President could display a touch more of the outrage that his father hinted at four years ago. That, in itself, would send a powerful message to his staff.
Sunday, September 28, 2003
What could cause me to switch parties
I don't normally blog on Sunday morning out of a combination of wanting to spend time with my family and general laziness. This Washington Post story, however, which folows up on an NBC story, has rousted me out of my torpor:
For more, see Kevin Drum, Mark Kleiman, Brad DeLong, Josh Marshall, Atrios, and Tom Maguire (who also provides a comprehensive chronology of what happened back in July -- check out this Slate piece as well). Also be sure to read Marshall's two-part interview with Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Kleiman reads the Post story the same way I do:
Tom Maguire thinks that
That won't fly, for the simple reason that high-ranking members of the Bush administration apparently know that it wasn't an "innocent mistake." By telling the Post, it's clear that some cabinet officials are not going to let this die quickly.
To which I say, good. What was done here was thuggish, malevolent, illegal, and immoral. Whoever peddled this story to Novak and others, in outing Plame, violated the law and put the lives of Plame's overseas contacts at risk. Compared to this, all of Clinton's peccadilloes look like an mildly diverting scene from an Oscar Wilde production. If Rove or other high-ranking White House officials did what's alleged, then they've earned the wrath of God. Or, since God is probably busy, the media firestorm that will undoubtedly erupt.
Let me make this as plain as possible -- I was an unpaid advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, and I know and respect some high-ranking people in the administration. And none of that changes the following: if George W. Bush knew about or condoned this kind of White House activity, I wouldn't just vote against him in 2004 -- I'd want to see him impeached. Straight away.
UPDATE: More reaction from James Joyner, Glenn Reynolds, Josh Chafetz, N.Z. Bear, and Roger Simon. They all counsel patience, which is of course wise. My rant is predicated on the assumption that someone at Rove's level in the White House was responsible for the leak.
Having had a few more hours to mull this over, however, I'm even more upset than I was when I wrote my original post. The best-case scenario is that the Post's source is Tenet playing hardball in response to the original leak to Novak. Josh Marshall makes the logical case that Tenet was the source. Even if that is true, however, as this TNR profile on Tenet demonstrates, the man is a savvy bureaucratic actor. He wouldn't have taken the risk of talking to the Post unless he knew the facts of the episode -- and knew they would be damaging to the White House.
There are two reasons why this makes me so upset. The first one is spelled out above -- if true, operatives at the White House violated the law and threatened WMD intelligence assets just to stick it to someone. And those operatives should be strung up.
The second reason is more insidious. As Roger Simon put it in a follow-up comment to his post:
Roger is correct -- it does seem weird. If it is nevertheless true, however -- an important "if" -- then a Pandora's box gets opened by asking this question: if the White House was willing to commit an overtly illegal act in dealing with such a piddling matter, what lines have they crossed on not-so-piddling matters? In other words, if this turns out to be true, then suddenly do all of the crazy conspiracy theories acquire a thin veneer of surface plausibility?
If that happens, both the administration and the country will be mired in scandal politics until November 2004. The administration would deserve it -- the country would not.