SUCH SUBTLETY, SUCH...

SUCH SUBTLETY, SUCH NUANCE. As Greg Sargent notices, a leak is a leak is a leak, except when the leaker is the president. But in some ways, the more interesting wrinkle of this little saga is the ways a lie isn't a lie when the administration utters it. As others have noticed in the past, this crew deceives, misleads, and insinuates, but they rarely, rarely, lie. Take Bush's famous statement from the investigation's early days:

"If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," Bush told reporters at an impromptu news conference during a fund-raising stop in Chicago, Illinois. "If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.

Now parse it. I'm sure Bush would like to know if there were any leakers in his administration. Who wouldn't want that information? And if a person violated the law, exposing the rest to criminal prosecution, I've no doubt that he'd be "taken care of." But, in this case, no laws were broken. The president can declassify information at will, so his involvement renders the leak no different than any other background tip. His comments were totally truthy, his actions fully legalesque. John Kerry never dreamt of such nuance.

Update As Al notes in comments, the leak in question was from the National Intelligence Estimate, not Plame. My mistake.

--Ezra Klein

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