The Armitage Payback

Adam's Apple

Senior Member
Apr 25, 2004
The Disloyalists
By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
September 6, 2006

There was only one thing truly astonishing about the revelation last week that Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's deputy at the State Department during George W. Bush's first term, was the source of Bob Novak's first column about Iraq war critic Ambassador Joe Wilson and his CIA agent wife, Valerie Plame. That was Mr. Novak's subsequent description of the man who first "outed" Mrs. Plame's place of employment as "no partisan gunslinger."

Rich Armitage in truth is the consummate partisan gunslinger. It's just that his partisanship is not usually defined by his allegiance to the Republican Party, and certainly not to its current standard-bearer, President Bush. Rather, more often than not, Mr. Armitage slings his gun--or, more accurately, wields his stiletto--in the other sense of a partisan: one who wages war from behind enemy lines.

During the first term, Colin Powell and Rich Armitage lost policy battle after battle to the president's loyal subordinates. It fell to Mr. Armitage to try to overturn or undermine those policies Mr. Powell opposed, in the interagency process, through leaks to the press (whose appreciation has been reflected in generally kid-glove treatment of the revelation of his role in the Plame affair), via back-channels with foreign governments and, not least, through attacks on his bureaucratic rivals.

Rich Armitage's mean-spirited partisanship is especially evident in the fact neither he, nor Mr. Powell nor their lawyer, then-State Department Legal Adviser William Taft IV, saw fit to inform the White House that Mr. Armitage was the source of the Novak leak. The reason, say reporters Michael Isikoff and David Korn: Mr. Armitage did not want to give the White House a pretext for placing the blame where it belonged -- with disloyal denizens of the State Department's seventh floor.

To be sure, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was informed, in the hopes of minimizing the danger that the deputy secretary would be indicted and tried. But, in an act of real betrayal, the elected president who appointed Messrs. Powell, Armitage and Taft and his senior subordinates were kept in the dark -- even as Mr. Fitzgerald's inquiry subjected several of the latter, and the administration more generally, to relentless hectoring from Democrats and the media, career-imperiling grand jury appearances and dangerous distractions in time of war. Had the White House known the truth, the whole inquisition may have come to a screeching halt virtually at its outset.

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