TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Just as his former deputy confessed to being Robert Novak's source in the outing of Valerie Plame, Sir Colin the (Self-) Righteous came riding into the Senate on a white-paper horse (PDF), stating his moral indignation and opposition to the Bush administration's attempt to legislate the terms of its torture of so-called "enemy combatants."

I must admit, like many in the media, I salivated at the specter of Karl Rove in cuffs, so perfect a villain is he. On the other hand, most reporters I know who have dealt with former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage like the man, believing him to be, in the words of one editor of a respected journal of politics, "a straight-shooter."

But alas, Novak's insistence that Armitage summoned the Prince of Darkness to the State Department in order to dump those beans makes good sense. After all, the argument debunked by Joe Wilson in his famous New York Times op-ed was the one that Powell made himself before the United Nations: that Saddam Hussein had tried to procure uranium yellowcake from Niger. Nothing has ever sullied Powell's reputation so deeply as Wilson's account of his investigation.

By so publicly protesting the president's policy on the treatment of enemy combatants -- and by doing so in a letter to Senator John McCain, a victim of torture himself -- Powell has deftly removed himself, for the moment, from scrutiny in the continuing saga of Plamegate.

Do note, though, dear reader, that nothing in the revelation of Armitage as Novak's Deep Throat exonerates Rove or former vice presidential chief of staff I. Scooter Libby from their roles in dropping the same information, respectively, on Matt Cooper and Judith Miller or, in the case of Libby, lying to the grand jury. And nothing has changed in a timeline that suggests it wasn't Vice President Dick Cheney himself who got the whole counteroffensive rolling against the Wilsons.

--Adele M. Stan