"To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?" -- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Miller's Defense Continues: Over the last couple of days Judith Miller has appeared on Larry King Live and NPR's "Morning Edition."

Important revelations: She told Larry King she never used Ahmad Chalabi as an anonymous source. Plus, she indicated to Charlie Tuna that she'd like to stay in journalism, but might seek a position where she can be more open about her opinions.

Will Miller's switch to column writing be as dramatic as this reporter's?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Metaphor Of The Day: Good one from Striding Lion.

Miller Bashing: I dig The Plank blog. I keep a "referral" link to it off to the right and down the page a bit. But this from Franklin Foer is just silly:

Despite everything [Judith Miller] had written, and despite all the damage she had exacted on the institution, she had the Times by the nuts in these negotiations. The simple fact about Miller is that you can't stop her, you can't even hope to contain her. (my emphasis)

So... witnessing Judith Miller walking through the NY Times newsroom was like seeing an early 90's version of Michael Jordan drive the lane.

MoDo In Austin: Admission is free and no tickets needed. Maureen Dowd lecturing at UT-Austin next Wednesday night.

The New iPod: Seen the new iPod commercial featuring an excerpt from the upcoming U2 concert DVD? As I've mentioned before, I missed the concert here in Dallas, so I'll be snagging a copy of that DVD. And when will U2 release its classic Red Rocks concert on DVD? That's long overdue.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Bottom Line: Based on the public record, it looks to me as though Judith Miller has remained true to the ethics of her profession. She drew a journalistic line in the sand--a reasonable one--and fought her case from that line. But there are plenty of individuals in the media (and at the NY Times in particular) who seemingly place their partisan beliefs above their journalistic ideals. And those individuals have wanted payback for Miller's pre-war WMD reporting. This saga, at least as it pertains to Miller, has been about WMD's--not Scooter Libby.

The Arianna's of the world are claiming victory. But understand that theirs isn't a victory for journalism. They've been angry that, in its pre-war reporting, their beloved NY Times allowed for the same assumption as the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration, and most every other serious media outlet--that is, that Saddam harbored WMD's. Since Saddam never threw open his doors to an investigative reporting team, verification of the above assumption wasn't possible. If you're an anti-war partisan, Saddam's obstructions have effectively become Bush's fault. And in the interim, they're also Judith Miller's.

It's going to be interesting to see where Judith Miller goes from here. I doubt she'll find herself in Sidney Blumenthal's world, as a side show in the foreign press. I think it's quite possible that a moderate paper or magazine will offer her a gig. And if that happens, it's the Times that will suffer.

Judith Miller Leaves The Times: In Bill Keller's public letter to Judith Miller he clears her on a key point (scroll down to my Oct. 23 post for background):

[Y]ou dispute my assertion that “Judy seems to have misled” Phil Taubman when he asked whether you were one of the reporters to whom the White House reached out with the Wilson story. I continue to be troubled by that episode. But you are right that Phil himself does not contend that you misled him; and, of course, I was not a participant in the conversation between you and Phil.
I wish you all the best for the future.

So Keller remains "troubled," but won't tell us exactly why. Is he having it both ways--conceding that he was wrong while trying to save a little face? Or does he have legitimate reasons for being troubled? I'd like to know.

Judith Miller's Farewell: Posted here on her Web site.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Mary Mapes Again: Dan Rather's former producer just doesn't get it. In a recent interview with ABC News' Brian Ross, Mary Mapes offers a most bizarre (for a journalist) response to her inability to prove that documents in her reporting weren't forged:

Mapes says she is continuing to investigate the source of the controversial documents whose authenticity was seriously questioned by the CBS panel. She tells Ross that she had no journalistic obligation to prove the authenticity of the documents before including them in the "60 Minutes II" report. "I don't think that's the standard," she said.

Her story ran on 60 Minutes II over a year ago, and today she is continuing to investigate the source of the docs? I'm speechless.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Sully On Plamegate: In a post titled "Libby And Libi," Andrew Sullivan is on target (scroll down just a bit from this link):

It seems to me that we are getting a better picture every day of how this administration screwed up its own war. They were defensive when they should have been candid; they were reckless when they should have been meticulously prepared for every outcome; they were insecure when they should have been forthcoming; they decided to divide, rather than unite the country. None of this means we should follow the anti-war movement and abort the mission. It simply means we have to be very skeptical of the key players in this war - Cheney and Rumsfeld above everyone - and try and prevent them from inflicting more damage on a noble cause.

Friday, November 4, 2005

Kristof Korrects: Thanks to some gentle nudging from Slate's Jack Shafer, Nicholas Kristof has corrected a column from May 6, 2003. In a recent phone call with Shafer (before the correction), Kristof gave his reasons for not having corrected the column:

[Kristof] said [he] was sure his piece accurately reflected what his sources told him. For another, he couldn't think of an example where a Times column or article was corrected after six months.

Kristof's first reason is basically the same as Judith Miller's defense of her pre-war WMD reporting. I agree that the original journalism was satisfactory. But as conflicting information came to light, these guys needed to update the record. I'm less sympathetic to Kristof's second reason, which is more of an indictment of a flawed Times policy.

Editor & Publisher has the full story on Kristof's correction here.

Overall, I'm a fan of Kristof's column. I think he's generally fair and tries to keep an open mind to the world. If it weren't for missing Kristof, TimesSelect wouldn't much affect me. Still, I think Kristof misses the point in this defense of Joseph Wilson:

I think that the attacks on Wilson are overdone. ... More generally, I find the attacks on a private citizen like Wilson rather distasteful. Sure, he injected himself into the public arena with his op-ed column and TV appearances, and so some scrutiny is fair. But I figure it's more important to examine and probe the credibility of, say, the vice president than a retired ambassador.

Some scrutiny is fair? Wilson injected false information into the national discussion of one of the bigger issues of the Bush presidency. As long as his false assertions remain at the root of the criticism aimed at him, things are as they should be.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Democrat Revisionism: The Wall Street Journal arrives on the scene this morning reminding everyone the Bushies had no monopoly on claims that Saddam harbored WMD's:

[M]any Democrats are themselves on the record in the pre-Iraq War period as declaring that Saddam had WMD. Here is Al Gore from September 23, 2002, amid the Congressional debate over going to war: "We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."

Or Hillary Rodham Clinton, from October 10, 2002: "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. . . ."

Or Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic Vice Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who is now leading the "Bush lied" brigades (from October 10, 2002): "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. . . .We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction." If Mr. Bush is a liar, what does the use of the phrase "unmistakable evidence" make Mr. Rockefeller? A fool?

And we're being told by journalism critics that Judith Miller's reporting is the problem?

Movie News: A challenge to Michael Moore's propagandandist supremecy? Only time will tell. Oliver Stone is working on a 9/11 flick.

DVD News: Of course, it's no secret that Revenge of the Sith hit store shelves a couple of days ago. Ain't It Cool News had a man at the Skywalker Ranch press conference. The Star Wars geek in me enjoyed this write-up quite a bit.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Talent Search: Enterprising journalists, Al Jazeera wants you for its new D.C. bureau! The ideal candidate must be "unafraid of controversy."

You know, for purposes of terrorism avoidance, working for Al Jazeera might be like having your own personal mine shaft canary. If all your co-workers call in sick one day, take appropriate precautions.

Hitch On Plamegate: Christopher Hitchens made an appearance in Monday's Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Fitzgerald ... seems to have decided to act "as if." He conducts himself as if Ms. Plame's identity was not widely known, as if she were working under "non official cover" (NOC), as if national security had been compromised, and as if one or even two catch-all laws had been broken. By this merely hypothetical standard, he has performed exceedingly well, even if rather long-windedly, before pulling up his essentially empty net.

However, what if one proposes an alternative "what if" narrative? What if Mr. Wilson spoke falsely when he asserted that his wife, who was not in fact under "non-official cover," had nothing to do with his visit to Niger? What if he was wrong in stating that Iraqi envoys had never even expressed an interest in Niger's only export? (Most European intelligence services stand by their story that there was indeed such a Baathist initiative.) What if his main friends in Niger were the very people he was supposed to be investigating?

Well, in that event, and after he had awarded himself some space on an op-ed page, what was to inhibit an employee of the Bush administration from calling attention to these facts, and letting reporters decide for themselves?

Makes too much sense.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The SPJ & Judith Miller: Two chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists have written an open letter criticizing the SPJ's decision to award Judith Miller a First Amendment prize a couple of weeks back in Vegas. Again, here we find critics of Miller who are either unaware, or choose to ignore, the fact that Joe Wilson is a liar:

Miller, by contrast, knowingly consented to an attempt to mislead the public by allowing her source, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, to hide administration responsibility
for attacks on critic Joseph Wilson.

He's just a critic, eh? But onward: As Miller has written, the purpose of her interview with Libby was to "hear information." Check Miller's response to New York Times Public Editor Byron Calame, who made the same charge:

My second journalistic sin in your eyes was agreeing to Libby’s request to be considered a “former Hill staffer” in his discussion about Wilson. As you acknowledged, I agreed to that attribution only to hear the information. As I also stressed, Scooter Libby has never been identified in any of my stories as anything other than a “senior Administration official.”

If you quiz beltway journalists, I doubt you'll find that Miller's agreement with Libby was out of the ordinary. If she had planned to use Libby as a source in a story, then labelling him a "former Hill staffer" would have been bad journalism. But her interview was more of a sit-down with a relatively familiar source. A fishing expedition. As Miller has pointed out, she would have searched for second and third confirming sources before using Libby's information in the Times.

The open letter from the two SPJ chapters also takes an unfair shot at Miller's pre-war stories on WMD's:

Her coverage of supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq helped the administration make its case for launching a military invasion. Many of Miller's prewar sources turned out to be unreliable witnesses and, worse, self-serving partisans using fabricated evidence. It is irresponsible to relay such grave but anonymous charges without an extra-ordinary effort to corroborate them by other means.

"Extra-ordinary effort" indeed! Miller would have had to journey to Saddam's Iraq herself. Then she could have sought Saddam's full cooperation before embarking upon a one-woman WMD search of the country. It's good to see the SPJ's member chapters are connected to reality.

But seriously, Robert Kagan has fully refuted the above charge. Since I'm short on time, I'll refer you to him.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Quote Of The Day: I don't often offer up QOTD's, but:

"And they, I suspect, will be the stars of tomorrow, assuming there is a tomorrow."

One of my favorite dinner party liberals, James Wolcott, whose brand of dry humor leaves no room for further dehydration. Lock Eeyore in a room full of Depeche Mode CD's for a week, and he couldn't produce material like this.

More On Our Man Joe: The Plank puts Joseph Wilson's blathering in proper perspective:

[I]t seems clear from the indictment that Libby certainly believed Wilson's wife played a role in getting him the assignment--because that is precisely what Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman and an unnamed senior CIA officer told Libby. Which means that the motive Wilson has long attributed to Bush administration officials for telling reporters that his wife worked at the CIA--namely, to punish him and his family for his whistleblowing--wasn't their motive at all. Libby and other Bush administration officials told reporters that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA because they believed that it was her job at the CIA that led to Wilson's Niger mission. Throw in the fact that Libby and other Bush administration officials were pushing back against Wilson because it appears that Wilson exaggerated the importance of his mission in discussions with some reporters, and the Bushies' motives for revealing Plame's employer don't appear so sinister. That doesn't necessarily mean they didn't break the law when they outed Plame. Nor does it mean that Libby was justified when he allegedly lied about the conversations he had with reporters about Plame. It simply means that Wilson's full of it when he says Libby and Rove and whomever else blew his wife's cover purely for spite.

Good stuff. Where the law was broken, we should all hope the guilty parties pay the legal consequences. But I'll donate my glass of Joe Wilson's Kool-Aid to someone else.

Bush Nominates Alito: And Striding Lion points out that Samuel A. Alito Jr. has been unanimously confirmed by the Senate twice. An interesting factoid.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Jaw-Dropper: During the run-up to the war--and even in the first weeks after the initial invasion--we used to hear two things: Iran might be next; and a "Marshall Plan" for Iraq was on the way. Today, a Marshall-type plan isn't even on the table. That's bad enough. Meanwhile, Iran remains more of a military threat than most Americans realize. (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)

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