There have been quite a few remembrances
of conservative columnist Robert Novak, who died yesterday. There was
praise, and there was scorn, but only one writer has made the case that a key
moment of the man's life and legacy remains an absolute mystery. Marcy
"Emptywheel" Wheeler of FireDogLake, who produced definitive reporting
and analysis on the CIA leak scandal of which Novak was such an integral part, pointed out
the gaping unanswered questions about Novak's role. When others opined
on the columnist's character and style, Wheeler dug through facts and
details, and that is why she may have more success in defining Novak
"The fact is that Novak died with most of his role in the [Valerie] Plame outing
still shrouded in secrecy," she wrote. "That's partly true because of the significant changes
in Novak's story over time." Wheeler detailed those changes, including
who gave him the name of Plame, the CIA agent he outed, and how he
learned the details of a CIA report on Plame's husband.
also asked how Novak got a very specific "talking point" that also
showed up in a note from Dick Cheney to his chief of staff, Scooter
"Yet today, most journalists assume Novak's final answers--the ones
that eventually shielded Rove and Libby and Cheney from most
consequences--were truthful, and believe they know what happened," she wrote. "Me, I don't claim to know what happened.
But I see no reason to trust Novak's most recent answers when there was
so much volatility in his story over time."
She concluded, "Short of [Bob] Woodward making up some wildarsed story about a conversation
with Novak on his deathbed, much of this story will likely remain
question, implied but not raised explicitly by Wheeler, is whether
these unanswered questions will define Novak's legacy. Occurring as it
did at the tail end of Novak's five decades in journalism, the mystery
surrounding his role in the Plame scandal may yet mark Novak's
tombstone in our collective memory.
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