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The "Strategy Session" segment on the July 11 edition of CNN's Inside Politics featured former Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti -- who was ostensibly representing the Democratic point of view -- wondering what the "big deal" is about the Valerie Plame case. As Media Matters for America has previously noted, Valenti has not worked in partisan politics in nearly four decades; it showed here, as his comments were representative of neither a typical Democratic viewpoint nor of reality.
Asked how much trouble White House senior adviser Karl Rove is in for his involvement in the outing of covert CIA agent Plame, American Cause president Bay Buchanan ably -- if optimistically -- represented a Republican viewpoint, saying: "I still do not think he is the focus of an investigation; that's what we're told, I believe that. And I don't think he broke any laws."
In response, Valenti essentially agreed, dismissing in the process the significance of a leak that revealed the classified identity of a CIA officer. With Buchanan looking on approvingly -- a smile on her face -- Valenti explained:
VALENTI: As I have read in the papers, what the law is, that you have to deliberately know that this woman was a covert agent. If she wasn't a covert agent, there's no law broken on this. And I think the lawyers will have a field day here. I think this is a little setback for Mr. Rove for a few weeks, but it will pass away.
The fact is that all administrations leak. This is not something that -- you know, "I'm shocked that something is going on upstairs." Uh, it happens. My judgment is that there is no long-term damage here. Because I'm not even sure what's the big deal about this [former ambassador Joseph C.] Wilson [IV], uh, and, and his wife, Valerie Plame thing? It's not what I would call a huge issue facing the American public today.
Valenti's reading of the situation was so favorable to Rove that host Candy Crowley was moved to respond, "Well, probably from your lips to Bay's ears."
As Valenti should know, there is simply no comparison between the run-of-the-mill "leaks" that "all administrations" engage in and the vindictive, possibly illegal leak -- for partisan political purposes -- of the name of a covert intelligence operative. The former happens every day; the latter is prohibited precisely because it puts lives at risk and endangers national security. If Valenti doesn't understand what the "big deal" about that is, he is in a poor position to represent the Democratic viewpoint on CNN.
Asked about progressives who have suggested that Rove should lose his security clearance and/or resign, Valenti replied: "Well, that's politics." It was left to Buchanan to eventually concede that "it is a federal investigation, and so it is very serious, and if he [Rove] does become the focus of that, it's extraordinarily serious."
After devoting only three and a half minutes to Rove and Plame, the "Strategy Session" team spent more than four and a half minutes on a comparatively insignificant matter: a reference Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) recently made to President Bush and Alfred E. Neuman. During that discussion, Valenti gently criticized Clinton, and provided further evidence that he is a less-than-ideal choice to represent the Democratic viewpoint, as he repeatedly said he is "very reluctant" to criticize the president:
VALENTI: Having worked for a president in the White House myself, I'm very reluctant to go after a president because I know better than most the agony and the problems and the life and death decisions that they're called up on to make, so I really stand back from something like that. I don't feel good about it. ... I'm reluctant to go after somebody like that in a comic personal way.
Later, Valenti seemed to repeat a frequent right-wing talking point, saying that Clinton "understands how to transform herself, which she is doing right now, and she is doing it, I think, in a very, very subtle and discursive way."