ONE OF THE great pleasures of studying history is the discovery that the interesting stuff is often in the footnotes.
That's where you find material not important enough for the main text, but too much fun to omit altogether.
This is such a footnote. It has to do with one of the great controversies of this political season - columnist Robert Novak's outing of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame - and the controversy's Houston connection.
There were reports last week that the FBI's probe into what may be a criminal offense of disclosing the name of an intelligence operative has expanded.
Agents have questioned a number of high White House officials, and with good reason.
James Reston, former New York Times Washington bureau chief and columnist, once described government as "the only vessel that leaks from the top."
Novak brought that quip to mind when he wrote that "two senior administration officials" told him of Plame's profession.
The disclosure appeared to be part of an effort to discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who publicly debunked a White House contention that Iraq had been trying to buy uranium to build nuclear weapons from Niger.
Washington gossip mills immediately focused on President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, as the possible leaker to Novak.
And in Houston, some eyebrows raised.
The reason: The Rove-Novak speculation seemed an echo from the 1992 re-election campaign of President George H.W. Bush.
Novak wrote a column then describing a secret Dallas meeting in which Houstonian Rob Mosbacher was stripped of his authority as state campaign manager for Bush because "the president's re-election effort in Texas has been a bust."
Novak wrote that the meeting was called by then-U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm.
"Also attending the session was political consultant Karl Rove, who had been shoved aside by Mosbacher," wrote Novak.
Mosbacher met with top leaders of the campaign, including George W. and Dallas Republican heavyweight Fred Meyer, who assured him they did not consider the campaign to be a bust.
Mosbacher laid out his suspicion that Rove was the source of the Novak column.
Rove, a direct mail specialist, had the entire contract for that service in Bush's 1988 campaign, Mosbacher recalled recently.
"I thought another firm was better," he said. "I had a million dollars for direct mail. I gave Rove a contract for $ 250,000 and $ 750,000 to the other firm."
"I said Rove is the only one with a motive to leak this," Mosbacher recalled. "We let him go."
Novak has since denied Rove was the source of that leak. In a profile last spring, Texas Monthly quoted Rove as saying, "As far as I know, Mosbacher still thinks I am the one who did it."
"I still believe he did it," says Mosbacher, who is not pleased to have the matter resurrected.
Mosbacher does believe Rove's denials this time, however.
"I think he's a smart guy, and I don't believe he would break the law," he says.
That 1992 Novak column echoed again last week when former President Bush riled some conservative Republicans by presenting the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service to Sen. Ted Kennedy at the Bush Library at College Station.
"The right grumbles that moderate Republican Tom Luce, Ross Perot's lawyer and chairman of his aborted presidential campaign, was feted by the Bushes with an overnight White House stay," wrote Novak. "Luce still has not endorsed Bush at this writing, while right-wing activists who labor for the president are snubbed."
Current President Bush, with Rove at his side, clearly has taken Novak's warning to heart.
From the Houston Chronicle in 2003.
Thank God the UT journalism school never changes its Lexis-Nexis password.