However, the questions that seem to be most on the mind of Fitzgerald are "Why would the Vice President order his chief of staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, and Presidential hatchetman, Karl Rove, to expose the identity of a covert CIA operative? Was this simply an attempt to discredit an Administration critic? Or was there more to it than that?"
While it is true that Richard "Dick" Cheney has been called the most vindictive man in Washington, he did not achieve the reputation as "the most powerful Vice President in history" -- even the de facto Prime Minister of the Bush Administration (although "C.E.O. of Geo. W. Inc." might be more appropriate) -- by being as reckless with his position of power as he has been with statements of WMD "fact".
No, this uncharacteristically ham-fisted action -- of exposing a CIA operative, which would predictably, and did ultimately, provoke a firestorm of criticism, including accusations of everything from obstruction of justice to treason -- smacks of an act of unmitigated desperation, by someone in power cracking under enormous stress, like President Richard "Dick" Nixon, three decades ago.
Consider not only the conventional wisdom for why Plame was outed -- to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson, and his criticism of the intelligence that took us into the war that Cheney championed more than anyone else -- but also two other motivations much less reported but of at least equal importance to the Vice President, former C.E.O. of energy-services company Halliburton Inc., a man for whom power is his stock in trade.
In June and July 2003, such major American energy companies as ExxonMobil were scrambling to salvage historic, multi-billion-dollar deals that had just gone sour with the Saudi national energy company, Aramco, for some of the world's largest reserves of natural gas -- which, particularly as globally transportable Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG, is considered by energy insiders as the most profitable energy resource for the 21st Century -- and cutting Brewster Jennings, the eyes and ears of the CIA in Aramco, out of the picture would do nothing but simplify matters. But that wouldn't change the fact that these once-in-a-lifetime deals had gone bad on the watch of, and despite the good offices of, Vice President Dick Cheney, the American energy industry's chief representative in the federal government.
Overall, Mr. Cheney's credibility -- the coin of the realm for a person in his position of power, both in business and in government -- was effectively being called into serious question by the public at large; by his corporate colleagues in his still barely secret Energy Task Force; and even by his good friend, confidant, and fellow de facto prime minister, then-Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
June through July of 2003 was a most desperate time indeed: As Valerie Plame was losing her cover, Dick Cheney was losing his grip on power.
Next -- The Conventional Wisdom: Trying in Vain to Salvage the Hostile Takeover of Iraq
Then -- The Inside Story: Trying in Vain to Salvage the Historic Saudi LNG Deals
Finally -- The Bottom Line: Trying in Vain to Salvage Dick Cheney's Credibility