'Stone Age' Armitage's crumbling story


In the current dispute between former Bush administration higher-up Richard Armitage and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, I'll take the Pakistani.

Rich Armitage, the former Navy officer with a bodybuilder's frame, likes to be depicted as a tough guy. He is fully capable of making the quote about the Stone Ageif Pakistan did not cooperate in the war against terrorism and finding Osama bin Laden.

In fact, Armitage's position in the State Department as deputy to then Secretary of Defense Colin Powell reflects poorly on Powell's judgment since he picked him in the first place.

Armitage has enjoyed a good press in Washington at least in part because he is a leaker. Leakers are often appreciated by us ink-stained wretches. We give them full sway too often.

Musharraf's new book, in which this charge was leveled at Armitage, is certain to be challenged further by the Bush spinners. Armitage, however, is apparently fond of the Stone Age reference.

On another hot controversy involving Armitage, I'll take the word of columnist Bob Novak on the details of disclosing the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame and her connection to the CIA.

Armitage seems to dismiss the whole thing as a casual reference to citing Plame's name to Novak. Nonsense. He knew exactly what he was doing.

(In the interest of full disclosure, Novak and I have been friends for many years. Outside of being sports enthusiasts in every season, we agree on almost nothing in politics. He is conservative; I am a liberal. But he is an honest man. I believe him, not Armitage.)

Again, Armitage's actions suggest that Powell's judgment of people is open to debate. Even more than Armitage, Powell has been treated well by the press corps. Perhaps too well.

Powell's place in history could have been enhanced had he resigned as secretary of state in Bush's first term. It was widely accepted that Powell was the loser in policy matters against the advice of Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Powell was portrayed as the good soldier he was by hanging in there to pitch his differences. He should have told President Bush that if his ideas and suggestions in these disputes were ignored at every turn, he would leave on his own terms. He didn't.