VALERIE PLAME: HERE TO STAY?….Via the MinuteMan, we get some sharp criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of the Valerie Plame affair from an unexpected source. Donald Luskin, NRO’s resident Paul Krugman stalker, says it’s a big deal, whether conservatives want to admit it or not:

This story is just not going to go away, despite the big-press silence this week. Based on my conversations in the last 36 hours with Washington contacts, here’s how I’m very sure it’s going to turn out — and it will hinge on two key questions.

Was Plame really a covert operative? Yes, but this will be difficult to officially confirm and there will be debates as to just how covert she really was, and what real harm was done by outing her.

Who outed her, the White House or the CIA? Both. Both are understandably furious with Wilson — the White House for the embarrassment he has caused and for what they see as his disingenuous and partisan statements in the media. But outing Ms. Plame was not to punish Wilson, but to refute him: Ms. Plame’s involvement in Wilson’s selection for the Niger assignment trivializes him, makes him seem less an expert and more of a hack on a nepotistic boondoggle. The administration officials who spoke to the press probably weren’t even thinking about outing Ms. Plame, as such — after all, Wilson had effectively already done that when he outed himself by going public with his CIA-sponsored work. And therein lies the reason why the CIA is furious at Wilson — what he has done is an enormous breach or protocol and security.

Luskin must be dead serious about this: he even mentions Paul Krugman in a tone that is ? barely ? non-derogatory. (Of course, he wrote several hundred derogatory words about Krugman’s mention of Plame in a previous post, and then later had to add several hundred more saying, essentially, that Krugman was probably right. So maybe he’d already had his fill of Krugman bashing for the day.)

I’m surprised this story isn’t getting more attention, although I can see that unless you have some very good sources it’s probably pretty hard to add anything new. But I agree with Luskin: I don’t think it’s going away, and the longer the White House stonewalls, the worse it’s going to get. Something big is bound to break on this story sooner or later.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias reports that Chuck Schumer is also on the case, and since he’s got a big mouth that should help things along nicely.