The Nixon Comparison

It’s not the lies, it’s the cover up:

Two top White House aides have given accounts to the special prosecutor about how reporters told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to persons familiar with the case.

Lewis “Scooter’’ Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn’t tell Libby of Plame’s identity.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who was first to report Plame’s name and connection to Wilson. Novak, according to a source familiar with the matter, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor.

These discrepancies may be important because one issue Fitzgerald is investigating is whether Libby, Rove, or other administration officials made false statements during the course of the investigation.

Let me employ some of my old journalism jargon: this is turning into a Mongolian Pig Fuck, a neverending marathon of a story where every day starts out normal and ends with another revelation that throws lighter fluid on the bonfire. I’m starting to feel sorry for the reporters covering this mess, because it’s just got to be godawful, everybody’s on it, all over it, you’re one more git holding your microphone above your head trying to get at the tuna-covered lure that is Scott McClellan (see Holden’s excellent obsession below), and really, even if you do get a bite it’s going to have some other shark’s spit all over it.

The remarkable thing about Watergate, from the Post’s end, is how all alone they were on that story in the beginning. Nobody wanted a piece of it. Nobody wanted to jump in there with them until everybody else was SURE it was genuine sharkbait and not some counterfeit junk. That’s a scary feeling, being that far out in front of the pack. You start to wonder, am I wrong? Why isn’t anybody else picking up on this? Am I gonna get sunk over this? Am I a crazy person? Is this not my beautiful house?

But eventually everybody else piled on because if they didn’t, they were gonna miss the feeding frenzy entirely and there’d be no scrod left for them. That’s the part about reporters a lot of bloggers dismiss: when they see a story that’s big they’d walk over their own mother in golf spikes to get a piece of it that nobody else has. And this, this thing I told somebody a year ago would turn out to be nothing, this thing the White House obviously thought was nothing at all, is finally turning into one great big giant glorious bohemian rat fuck of a story.