I used to think highly of Colin Powell. I used to think he would have been much preferable to the current White House occupant as the first black president. Unlike Obama, Powell had real experience: as an army officer, a war veteran, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of State.
But Powell’s role in the spectacularly preposterous Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame affair should have, but has not, destroyed or even tarnished his reputation and credibility.
Why? It is an indisputable fact that Powell’s close friend and aide Richard Armitage was the source of the leak to the late Robert Novak that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, which dispatched her husband to Niger to investigate rumors that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy yellow cake uranium. It is an also an indisputable fact that Powell knew Armitage was the leaker, but kept silent about it while independent prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (who also knew Armitage was the source) went off on a very expensive and destructive fishing expedition.
Fitzgerald’s fishing trip eventually netted Cheney aide Louis Libby who was then convicted of the crime of contradicting the late Tim Russert who had previously contradicted himself, but was nonetheless believed by a jury of 12 Democrats, one of whom was Russert’s neighbor and acquaintance. How, you might ask, did the star witness’s neighbor get on the jury? Answer: The rest of the pool was worse.
Now Dick Cheney’s memoir takes Powell to task (at least someone has) for allowing the Fitzgerald-Libby travesty to go forward:
…Cheney recalls that during the CIA leak investigation, Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage stayed silent: “And, it pains me to note, so did his boss, Colin Powell, whom Armitage told he was [Robert] Novak’s source on October 1, 2003. Less than a week later, … there was a cabinet meeting. … [T]he press came in for a photo opportunity, and there were questions about who had leaked the information that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. The president said he didn’t know, but wanted the truth. Thinking back, I realize that one of the few people in the world who could have told him the truth, Colin Powell, was sitting right next to him.”…
I hope, but doubt, that someone in the media will someday ask Powell to explain his behavior. I suspect his defense would be that Fitzgerald told him not to talk and he could not disobey an independent prosecutor.
Allow me to preemptively say Bullshit! No pasty-faced prosecutor would dare go after the mighty Colin Powell for refusing to enable a witch hunt when the identity of the witch was already known.