Political Hay

Three Weeks of the Con Man

"Covert operative" in the mouths of leftists was once an occasion for cursing and gnashing of teeth; now they utter it in the hushed tones of admiration.

By 7.19.05

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The left used to pride itself on blowing the identities of CIA agents and mucking up their operations. Look at some of the left's favorite movies, such as Robert Redford's anti-CIA, pro-leaking vehicle Three Days of the Condor. "Covert operative" in the mouths of leftists was once an occasion for cursing and gnashing of teeth; now they utter it in the hushed tones of admiration.

The left-wing press have been itching to nail Karl Rove for some time, lying in wait for something, anything, to buttress their sinister-schemer storyline about him. So even though they normally enjoy foiling CIA bumblers -- as Michael Barone pointed out, the New York Times had no qualms about blowing the cover of a CIA-run airline -- the media have suddenly become the agency's most conscientious ally. Karl Rove, it would appear from their concerned coverage and talmudic reading of laws protecting the agency, has done more damage to the CIA than the Church committee they championed.

I noticed last week that one of MSNBC's hosts, working hard to generate moral outrage about the damage Rove might have done to the CIA, asked her guest to detail the reasons one should never identify even a former CIA covert operative. And who was her guest? A former CIA covert operative. For a media that was huffing about the dangers of identifying inactive spies, it seemed to spend a lot of time last week interviewing them.

Joseph Wilson, by the way, has written for that pro-CIA publication, The Nation. A media that loves to label conservative public officials according to the publications for which they have written never mentions Wilson's musings in a magazine that has operated as a sustained screed against the CIA for decades. "Joseph Wilson, who has written for the radical left-wing magazine The Nation," isn't the beginning of a line you will see in any of the mainstream media's stories. No, no, Wilson is a former ambassador who has worked for both "Republican" and Democratic presidents, the mainstream media are always careful to remind their readers.

In March of 2003, Wilson quoted approvingly in the pages of The Nation pro-CIA spy novelist John le Carre's contention that "America has entered one of its periods of historical madness." Writing in praise of the United Nations, Wilson observed that the enlightened nations of the world "will not want to jettison the one institution that, absent a competing military power, might constrain United States ambition."

Can America even be trusted with a CIA? Anyone who reads and believes Wilson's Nation article shouldn't think so. "Nothing short of conquest, occupation, and imposition of handpicked leaders on a vanquished population will suffice," he warned darkly. "Iraq is the linchpin for this broader assault on the region. The new imperialists will not rest until governments that ape our worldview are implanted throughout the region, a breathtakingly ambitious undertaking, smacking of hubris in the extreme."

Maybe Wilson can take to the pages of The Nation again to write a stern reassessment of the career of Philip Agee in the light of his wife's trauma, though perhaps that's not necessary. I'm sure the editors of The Nation called for Agee to be frogmarched to jail after he exposed fellow spies.

Have people also noticed that where nepotism at the CIA might once have troubled Watergate-era liberals they now look upon spousal recommendations there as a new branch of affirmative action? It turns out that according to the left, nepotism is good government. As CNN's Wolf Blitzer said to Wilson last week, a rhetorical question to which he enthusiastically concurred even as he dismissed the idea that his wife threw CIA work his way, "What would have been so bad if your wife would have recommended you to go to Niger for this investigation?" Wilson's response: "Of course, from my perspective, it wouldn't have been bad at all."

In its new mature acceptance of the CIA and zealous regard for covert operatives, the left may yet produce a pro-CIA movie. Spying has finally won the left's esteem. Three Days of the Condor can be reworked into Three Weeks of the Con Man, and then there's The Falcon and the Snowman, a title that won't need much changing as Wilson keeps opening his mouth.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.