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The Gross National Debt

Monday, October 17, 2005

"The more I read about this the less I understand it."

I guess I feel slightly less stupid that those words were said by Jeff Greenfield, political analyst for CNN and someone whose coverage and commentary I generally like.

He said it about the entire Judy Miller - New York Times - grand jury investigation issue. Essentially, Greenfield had read Miller's opus in the Sunday New York Times. Then he read the New York Time's account of Miller's reporting, a substantially unfavorable account, and was trying to draw conclusions between the two. In his analysis he made some interesting points.

Make the jump.
In talking about the articles and the entire question of Miller's involvement in the Plame affair:

BLITZER: It seems no one comes out of this situation from the news media looking very well.  Give us your thoughts, first of all, on what you read about Judy Miller's account.

GREENFIELD: Well, the whole... this struck me as sort of a neutron bomb.  Maybe the buildings are left standing but everybody involved seems to have been levelled including Scooter Libby and the Times and Judith Miller.  

But you take the two pieces together and start with The New York Times' coverage - among other things, the executive editor of the Times Bill Keller says as soon as he became editor... executive editor he told Judith Miller - who had been writing a lot of stories about the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - 'Don't do those stories anymore' because the reporting turned out to be wrong, as she conceded.  And he says - and sometimes she kept covering it.  

There are other people at The New York Times raising a whole lot of complaints about Ms. Miller about everything from her personality to her reporting.  And so... here's the paper on whose behalf she went to jail for 85 days - writing a story that paints her in - as you say - extremely unflattering terms.  Moreover, [the article] says that she never told her editors or the reporters doing the story about her some basic facts.  Like, who were these potential other sources?  What did she say to them?  How did she do this reporting?  And so in effect you have The New York Times, the publisher Arthur Solsberger Jr., the editor Bill Keller going to bat for her - putting the paper on the line in some ways - and not really knowing what the fundamental story was.  That alone is just a remarkable and strange occurrence.

My emphasis added.

Nothing overly shocking in those statements.  There's a feeling that I got, personally, that the Times and its publisher and editor were duped by Miller and that that is the way others in the mainstream media will play it (protecting NYT?).  Only it seems to me it can't be a duping when the editor fails to ask for the kind of information that would allow it to keep its nose clean in the first place.

The analysis continues:

BLITZER:  You know... it's pretty surprising to me and to a lot of journalists I've spoken to over the past 24 hours - Jeff - she writes in her notebook 'Valerie Flame' - obviously Valerie Plamee - but she writes 'Flame'.  She says that Scooter Libby was not her source for that but she can't remember who gave her the name.  I've been a reporter for a long time - so have you - a story like that, it's hard to believe you don't remember who told you information like that.

GREENFIELD: Well, you have among many other strange things in this whole story - you have her onetime lawyer Floyd Abrahams, a prominent first amendment attorney Ubasically challenging her on that point, or at least not backing her up*, saying 'well that's her story'.  You know, which gets us to a whole other point.

She says 'I took Lewis Libby - Scooter Libby's letter to me saying 'you know, by the way, all the other reporters say I had nothing to do with the leaking of her name' as a kind of hint that that's what she should say.  And she says in her story 'but I couldn't say that because I had discussed the situation with him'.  And then you have - Mr. Abrahams I believe - saying 'well, that's not entirely clear'.

There's so many mysteries about this fundamental fact: Where did she get that name?  If it wasn't from Scooter Libby, didn't she tell - and didn't she have her lawyer tell - special prosecutor Fitzgerald 'don't ask me about any other sources but Libby because he's the only relevant person', which is something Floyd Abrahams has said.  So you seem to have Judith Miller saying one thing about where she got her name and her onetime attorney saying another.

If I may add one other thing, at one point she agrees with Scooter Libby to describe him as a "former Hill staffer".  Which, in terms of the readers - it's one thing to say 'a highly placed source' if you don't want to tell who it is - but that's almost a deliberate act of misdirection which is why so many people at the Times, Wolf, are saying 'we went to bat for a reporter not who protected a whistleblower but who protected a high government official who was trying to keep stuff, in terms of the leak, secret.  It is one of the most bizarre journalistic stories I've ever run across, Wolf.

Again, my emphasis added.

It sounds to me like The New York Times is finally wising up.  I'm beginning to think of her published story and then the Times' published story as "A Tale of Two Judys".  The Times' story seems a belated attempt to backpedal and protect its reputation.

It also struck me that all the analysis in the press about whether or not she could be jailed for protecting a whistleblower has yet again proven the special prosecutor's decision to jail her.  She wasn't protecting a whistleblower.

BLITZER: Very quickly.  The fact that she says she did get government security clearance when she went to Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction - I don't remember a journalist getting government security clearances when they're on these kinds of stories - do you?

GREENFIELD: No - that was back in Iraq when she was embedded with a WMD search group and that's a whole other element to this story that perhaps makes it even more [unintelligible].  The more I read about this the less I understand it, Wolf.

Amen to that.  I've read every diary on the recommended list regaring the Plame case.  There are so many twists and turns and things that are unexplained that I can't help but thing that it is so much bigger than even what the great minds here have postulated.

In either case, I'm glad to see the wolves turning on Judy Miller.  Maybe now Lou Dobbs (whom I usually like for covering "unpopular" subjects) will shut up already about her "noble" imprisonment.

posted by RenaRF at 4:12 PM 3 comments links to this post


Blogger Paschal Baute said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Paschal Baute said...

Judy Miiller Saga Slimes Journalism and NY Times Slimes Itself, Shame!

Letter to Executive Editor, NY Times

The Judy Miller saga, with many lies and self-deceits, truly so embedded that she is "sleeping" (metaphor) with her sources, that is, ready to cover for them, even lie for them, slimes journalism. The Times executive staff by its lack of oversight slimes itself and its reputation.

Check the blogosphere to see the reaction around the globe from writers, editors, publishers, bloggers to the unfolding stories re her "security clearance," etc. What is emerging is that she refused to testify BECAUSE she was so deeply embedded in the drama that she could not be objective about any of it. Even when taken off the WMD and security beat, she stayed on those, apparently without reporting to any editor. That in itself is reason for firing a reporter.

She should be fired immediately, but that would be too embarrassing to the top dogs. When your own newsroom will not work with her because of her "elbows" and other characteristics, as is now well known, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.

Executive staff should appoint immediately an independent investigative committee to examine all aspects of this sorry saga, and employ very reputable ex Times staff, such as Alex S. Jones, at Harvard, for oversight. The whole story starting with her uncritical writing of White House propaganda pre Iraqi war, needs to be scoped, told and owned by the Times, a paper of now doubtful "record."

If you do not do it, others will and your paper will both deserve and endure much finger-pointing, derision and disdain.

Paschal Baute
Lexington, KY
blogging at

9:39 PM  
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8:25 PM  

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