Plaming On… with the Devil’s Advocate

As AB noted below, Digby’s point about the Plame affair being (partly, at least) about the media itself is a good one. Maybe the media will indeed keep the story going, simply because they get to talk about themselves.

But I also think that in order to answer the question that I posed even further below about whether the Plame affair will die quietly or not, we also need to take a guess at the CIA’s motivation for bringing this business into the public spotlight in the first place. Why does that matter? Because depending on what you think the CIA is trying to accomplish, you may believe that the CIA has only just begun to make life difficult for the Bush administration.

Some of the best discussion that I’ve seen about the Plame affair has been on Brad DeLong’s blog. Among numerous other insightful discussions about this business DeLong makes the following point:

I agree with [Jack Balkin] that the “CIA” has declared bureaucratic war on the White House staff. But it’s not clear to me that his explanation is sufficient — the “you pushed us, we’ll push you back” explanation. At this level, the “CIA” is the Director of Central Intelligence and his deputies, and they are as much the personal courtiers of George W. Bush as they are representatives of the career bureaucracy of the Agency. They would have had every incentive to find an alternative resolution than the one they have chosen: to try to deprive the president of the services of his trusted aides and to mire the White House in scandal is not likely to make George W. Bush happy to see them or eager to listen to them in the future.

If the CIA has really decided to blow up the Bush administration, then they won’t let the story die, and we can probably expect the scandal to widen.

But let me continue to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment. One alternative and plausible theory that DeLong mentions is that Tenet was worried about losing his job – and now, of course, there’s no way that Bush can fire him. That story would imply that the CIA may well be done. They’ve accomplished their goal, and don’t care if the story dies at this point.

Alternatively, we could just go with the most obvious reason for the CIA’s “outing” of the bad Bushies. Isn’t it possible that the CIA was simply tired of being kicked around by Rove, et al? What better way to get the White House to behave than to send them a stern reminder that the CIA is a veteran fighter in the inside-the-Beltway ring? I find it plausible that the CIA was genuinely angry about Plame’s cover being blown (on top of using Tenet as a scapegoat for the 16 words), and so they want the White House to know that they can’t do that sort of thing. If that’s their motivation, then they’ve certainly succeeded, and have no further incentive to damage Bush. They figure that Bush will probably just lick his wounds, refocus on his reelection, and avoid any more embarrassing battles with the CIA over the next 13 months.

Mind you, I’m not convinced that the Plame affair will quietly die – and I certainly hope that it doesn’t. But I do think that the future course of this business is far from obvious. Other opinions are welcome…