Another Question About the Press: Why Didn’t Novak Help Libby?

Re: Recent revelations about the Plame affair (via Rachel).

So if Armitage behaved so dishonorably, why did Novak feel bound to continue to honor Armitage’s anonymity? Armitage is by far the bigger villain here — though not as big a villain as Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, but that’s another issue — but doesn’t Novak deserve criticism for not revealing Armitage’s identity when Libby and Rove were twisting in the wind and he, Novak, might have been able to help get them off the hook?

Novak seems to set great store by his commitment to maintain the confidentiality of his “sources,” but shouldn’t he have acted otherwise in this case? It looks as though Novak was more concerned with not scaring off the government leakers who are his bread and butter than he was with saving innocent men from disgrace, great expense and possible (actual in Libby’s case) prosecution. I don’t see how Novak’s position was different in principle from that of a psychiatrist who learns that one of his patients plans to commit a serious crime. In such a case the psychiatrist’s professional duty to maintain patient confidentiality is outweighed by the need to prevent great harm to others.

Of course there was no reason why Fitzgerald couldn’t have subpoenaed Novak long ago and asked him to reveal his source, as more than one blogger long ago pointed out. But was there any reason, besides professional self-interest, for Novak not to reveal that information on his own?

(cross posted at 26th Parallel)

7 thoughts on “Another Question About the Press: Why Didn’t Novak Help Libby?”

  1. Novak’s column had the power of a cleansing anger that he had clearly held in for a long time. Nonetheless Watergate & the rise of international agencies has led the most ill-educated and parochial of news reporters to assume a citizenship in a nation of nations. There isn’t one. They do belong to humanity; Libby has been out of his job, the Bush administration has been slimed & slurred. How could Novak not have had an ethical duty to do so? Priorities seem awry.

    In Novak’s anger as in Eason Jordan’s letter about Iraq (and we can go on and on), we see a press that has put the press above not only nationalism but the truth itself. They mistake means for ends: a free press is valuable if through its reporting, its investigations, and even its editorials the truth emerges. The end is not the press but what the press can/should provide.

    Probably the nepotism & politization of that particular mission wasn’t in the national good (and one wonders how much of our tax money is spent on people getting junkets for their spouses & then turning them to political advantage). But by denying us, consistently, the identity of sources reporters deny important context. For instance, we can note allegiances. (Armitage’s is pretty obvious and it isn’t Bush.)

  2. Besides, Novak could simply have stood up and said in no uncertain terms that while he was not releasing his source, it was NOT Rove, Cheney, Libby or whoever. That would not have completely removed all suspicion, especially among the more crazed leftists, but it would have forced rational people to reexamine the suspects.

    Just about everyone acted badly in this mess, Novak among them.

  3. For all but those who assume words have any meaning “not a political gunslinger” covered that. (I’m not saying Novak was a good guy – but if it had been any of those guys he would have been called a liar.)

  4. I have nothing but contempt for Robert Novak — He started the Plame Affair and could have ended it at any time.

    If you want to look for the “Prince of Darkness” in this sorry episode, look to further than Robert Novak who should be kicked out of the conservative movement for this nonsense.

  5. Novak didn’t start the ‘Plame Affair’. Her husband whispered in David Korns ear and off it went. Novak disclosed almost 3 years ago(Dec 2003) who told him about Ms Plame.
    The prosecutor knew from the very beginning of his ‘crusade’.
    This whole thing was politics of smear by “ambassador out of a job” Wilson.

  6. Again we see a case in which the traditional catagories, conservative / liberal, do not express the true antagonistic tribes that are contending in our information space. The media/liberal media has its own agenda that does not seem to include the search for the truth, or even information much. It is all about agenda, sensation and spin.
    The New York Times tried to frame several inocent men, because of their politics alone.
    The gross miscarriage of justice on view in the Palme affair, began with Wilson’s lies but continued to the perversion of Libby’s prosecution when there was no underlying crime and the malign silence of both Novak and Armitage.
    Studying the entire affair in depth, may give us an idea of what a cesspit Washington DC really is.

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