Jonathan Alter's 25 July Newsweek article "Why the Leak Probe Matters" is available online now.
Alter has joined Frank Rich, Dan Shor, and knucklehead bloggers like me in pointing to the larger issue in the Plamegate story.
"For all of the complexities of the Valerie Plame case," Alter writes, "for all the questions raised about the future of investigative journalism and the fate of the most influential aide to an American president since Louis Howe served Franklin D. Roosevelt 70 years ago, this story is fundamentally about how easy it was to get into Iraq and how hard it will be to get out. We got in because we 'cooked' the intelligence, then hyped it."
I know I've been harping on this for almost two weeks now, but I think the ramifications of the issue justify the level of attention. Indeed, the scope of the story is such that it darn near defies comprehension: America's leaders concocted a hoax to justify a preemptive invasion of another country.
To date, the administration has been fairly successful at keeping this pachyderm in the middle of the room away from the public's attention--largely by smearing or otherwise destroying everyone who tried to blow the whistle, and through a comprehensive campaign to discredit the mainstream media.
Now, the issue is in the justice system, being (to all appearances) competently pursued by special federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. How comprehensive his investigation will turn out to be is uncertain. But it seems likely that we will find out more of what actually happened in the manipulation of intelligence information at the highest levels of government. It's quite possible that we'll discover proof of specific acts, and perhaps criminal ones, committed by Vice President Cheney and even President Bush himself as part of a conspiracy to deceive the American public and the rest of the world.
The next issue for consideration: if, in fact, the president and/or vice president come under felony indictment, how will America react?