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Open Mouth, Insert …?

The leak columnist Bob Novak revealed in his infamous Valerie Plame column may have been one of the last he can expect out of the Bush administration after curious comments he made recently to a John Locke Foundation luncheon in Raleigh, North Carolina. Throughout the entire investigation into who leaked Plame's name we've endured a parade of journalists who've leapt from ring to ring to ring of this circus. After countless battles with the special prosecutor, testimony before grand juries, jailhouse drama, public purges and newsroom explosions, I thought this tale couldn't get stranger.

Now it has, courtesy of Novak, the one person whose name has been attached to this story and the one person who has refused to speak about it. Plame's name first appeared in Novak's syndicated column, which was the basis of the investigation into who made the CIA agent's name public and whether that action was part of a coordinated effort to damage Plame's husband, Joe Wilson. But from that day until Tuesday, Novak has not spoken to it.

Why he decided to say anything now remains very much a mystery. What he had to say wasn't. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Novak told the lunch crowd:

"I'm confident the president knows who the source is. I'd be amazed if he doesn't. … So I say, 'Don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is."
The statement had to be like manna from heaven for scandal-starved reporters and operatives. Since Lewis "Scooter" Libby's indictment, the Plame story has gradually slipped off the radar screens for most of the media. Novak's given it a boost, at least temporarily. No sooner had we begun to digest the meaning of his remarks, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) jumped into the void by sending a letter to the White House asking President Bush to name the source of the leak.

And the blogosphere began to churn the news over. Left-leaning blogs joined the call for the president to speak. Right-leaning ones stayed largely silent. And of course, conspiratorial minds united. My favorite was this idea that White House guru Karl Rove got Novak to make his comments in an attempt to garner a public show of support since Rove remains under the gaze of the prosecutor.

Whatever the reason, Novak can't be the most popular person around the Oval Office these days unless they believe no reporter would dare actually ask President Bush the question. We've finally heard something from Novak. Maybe someday we'll hear why.