Imagine if a major newspaper reported that the CIA wanted the Clinton Justice Department headed by an attorney general whose former political consultant is now the president's top political adviser to investigate if the White House improperly revealed the name of an agent for apparently political purposes.
We are in the phase of the story in which reporters are mostly going to the Chuck Schumers of the world to let them express moral outrage.
But what happens when the press goes to the Duncan Hunters of the world (long-time defenders of the importance of protecting the names of agents)?
What will Rush Limbaugh say about this?
And will the Democratic Party see this as a "when your opponent is shooting himself in the foot … " situation? Or will they pile on?
It's probably going to remain irresistible to end-of-quarter fundraising presidential Democrats.
As we all know, there are two kinds of White House scandals: those in which the president's party circles the wagons, opposes any investigation, and downplays every aspect of the controversy, and ones in which a Howard Bakerian "what did the president's men do and when did they do it?" question makes it a bipartisan horse of a different color.
If you haven't read the original Wilson/ Washington Post story that escalated this from NBC's Web report on the referral to Justice to the mega position it is in now, read the entire Mike Allen/Dana Priest extravaganza — one of the most memorable pieces of White House journalism produced in the Bush era. LINK
The keyest parts:
"Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife."
"'Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge,' the senior official said of the alleged leak. … "
"The official would not name the leakers for the record and would not name the journalists. The official said there was no indication that Bush knew about the calls."
"It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another. Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were 'wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility.'"
There is more, of course, than the Wilson matter going on. But there is lots more on that below.
There's other trouble brewing for the administration on Iraq, as they try to get the $87 billion approved.
There's that letter from House Intelligence saying we need more humint, broken by the Washington Post ; there's the Washington Post today taking yet another whack at the Cheney Prague-Atta claim; and Doug Jehl's lead New York Times story (which we are sure Judy Miller will read with great interest) suggesting some of the U.S. government Iraqi dissident sources haven't been so accurate.
And on the Democratic side, the kind of bickering to which we have all become inured had quite a weekend.
Gephardt and Kerry versus Dean on Medicare and consistency.
Edwards versus Clark on the profit motive.
Dean versus Clark on Democratic bona fides.
Clark's spokespeople versus Clark's spokespeople on criticizing other candidates.
More on all that below too.
The Democratic National Committee meets in D.C. from Thursday to Saturday, and the presidential candidates are expected to make appearances.