Mon. Oct 17, 2005
Valerie and the Flames, "I Told You So"
The web is a-buzzin’ about the fact Judy Miller and the New York Times finally “showed us what they got,” and the reaction has been a bit like the one a stripper would get at a frat party if she unclothed to reveal … a beige full body suit. “That’s all you got? What a ripoff.”
And I decided I’d also take the opportunity to look back at the only articles I’ve written about the Wilson-Plame Affair, from two years ago when it first raised a stench. And there may be a closing chorus of “I told you so’s.”
The main article in the New York Times, The Miller Case: From a Name on a Pad to Jail, and Back, is several thousand words long, but much of it is summed up in this one sentence: “In two interviews, Ms. Miller generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written account of her grand jury testimony or allow reporters to review her notes.”
You can read her own lengthy self-serving BS, My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room, but be prepared to take a magnifying glass to read between the lines. Still, after all this hub-bub, with Miller clear of potential indictment and legally free to tell all, she stiffs her colleagues, and the readers of the Times. She provides a partial and self serving account that contradicts any high moral claim of having gone to jail for the First Amendment.
She was the conductor of a train wreck, and no one, no one comes out of this with one atom of gain.
Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher writes “As the devastating Times article, and her own first-person account, make clear, Miller should be promptly dismissed for crimes against journalism — and her own paper. And her editor, who has not taken responsibility, should apologize to readers.”
Jay Rosen, who has been all over this recently, addresses Miller’s Professional Senior Moment:
Miller cannot recall where the name at the center of the case came from? Wowzer. Sure to be the center of controversy over the next week. Claiming memory loss about the most important fact in the story is weak. Very.
Miller actually subtracts from public knowledge in this part, a feat. She introduces into the narrative a new “source” who must have been around to plant the name on her, and then promptly tells us she cannot remember anything about him.
Which absolutely pegs the BS meter. Miller claims, well, it was two years ago. Uh-uh. Within a week of her last talk with Libby, it was hot news. Within a month, Joe Wilson made his quote about frog marching Karl Rove out of the White House. Does she truly expect us to believe that within one week to one month of this becoming a huge story, she’d forgotten who told her Plame’s name?
No one buys it.
And I don’t buy much of anything from the New York Times any more. Heck, their columnists are behind a firewall, and they let Judy Miller build her own little firewall, too. At their cost. If she’s ever paid to write another word for them, they will have burned the few tattered shreds of credibility they have remaining after this fiasco.
While Judy’s peers have already cast judgement, it’s still uncertain if any actual indictments will come from all this. The case has morphed so much over the past two years, it’s simply impossible to say, despite the fact many seem so certain. But I said it two years ago, and it’s just as true today; for me, it was never about any law.
I started off in September of 2003 by calling it Premeditated Felonious Stupidity:
First of all, all reports indicate it was two people in the White House doing the leaking, which means it wasn’t some “lone rogue.” It was a premeditated act, decided upon by someone who is so used to running their own arena that they didn’t feel the need to get their boss’ approval.
That’s somebody pretty darn high up the chain.
Let’s see; Vice President’s Right Hand Man, Libby? Check. President’s Right Hand Man, Rove? Check. Next?
There is no way to spin this as representative of “smarts” in the White House. This was flat stupid. And ineffective.
Of course, the best thing a politician can do in this kind of circumstance is to get out in front of it, quickly police your own house, and thus grab control of the news cycle. Given the alleged discipline and loyalty to the The Leader in the White House, surely the culprits are willing to step forward and say, “yep, we did something really stupid, and the President had no idea. Now excuse me, but I’ve got to go pick up my unemployment check.”
Game over. Before the opposition even gets fully suited up.
Of course, that won’t happen. Bush is also known for his loyalty, and I’m not sure he knows when to cut his losses. Rather than one big mea culpa, quickly and under their own control, they will now suffer a thousand cuts, for months, with no control.
A thousand cuts, for months? Well, I was wrong about that. It’s been years. Between this and other more recent debacles, they’re nearly bled out now.
But imagine ... if they’d had a Oval Office pow-wow and accepted “we’re gonna lose a man on this one.” They could have mitigated this two years ago by having Libby fall on his sword. If he’d resigned while admitting he’d spilled the beans to reporters, there probably never would have been a special prosecutor. Rove could have juked right around any culpability with the cover of a scapegoat, and stuck around to help get Bush re-elected. “Game over. Before the opposition even gets fully suited up.”
And in that alternate reality, the Bush administration might still be battered by the same forces they have been over the past two months … minus the cloud of potential indictments that has seemingly paralyzed them of late. That whole “PlameGate” thing would have been resolved and forgotten old news.
Oh sure, you say, that’s easy to predict with 20/20 hindsight. Um, no, that’s my point. My suggestion above was in September of 2003, and all I lacked was the names we know now. In the White House, they knew who was involved.
But the Bush administration personifies the phrase “loyal to a fault.” And rather than lose one man and put the issue to bed two years ago, they now have “contingencies” to lose them both:
Even before testifying last week for the fourth time before a grand jury probing the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity, Bush senior adviser Rove and others at the White House had concluded that if indicted he would immediately resign or possibly go on unpaid leave, several legal and Administration sources familiar with the thinking told TIME.
Resignation is the much more likely scenario, they say. The same would apply to I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the Vice President’s chief of staff, who also faces a possible indictment.Time: Contingency Plan
But there may be no indictments at all. And if that happens, there will be thunderous chest beating about complete innocence and much ado about nothing. Sorry, no sale here. The reason I stopped writing about this affair two years ago is because I’d already made my judgement. I already had all the facts I need to make it.
Because all the microscopic parsing of whether Suspect A or B used the phrase “Joe Wilson’s wife” or the actual name “Valerie Plame,” or whether she was a covert operative, or who knew what when and where did they hear it … all obscures and obfuscates my original indictment, one that has nothing to do with law:
Even if Joe Wilson is the Devil, and his wife wears a red dress, there was a wrong committed here. This was not a “defense” drawn from the playbook of Compassionate Conservatism. Some are saying this was a use of national security information in an attempt to gain political advantage.
Maybe. But I’m not going to gum up the works with such complications. For me, it’s pretty simple. At least two people in the Bush administration wanted to damage an “enemy’s” credibility so bad … they went after his wife.
Go ahead, defend that.The Daily Whim: Defending Premeditated Felonious Stupidity
And they didn’t have one shred of shame about it. No sense of the irony that they’d just toppled a dictator who loved the tactic of going after the families of those who opposed him. No, Karl Rove told a reporter that Wilson’s wife was “fair game.”
Even more ironically, when the spilling of her name became a controversy, it quickly became clear how unnecessary it was:
Meanwhile, right now, Joe Wilson is being tarred, feathered, and painted as a Liberal Moonbat by all kinds of Bush defenders. In a matter of 72 hours or so, Joe Wilson’s credibility has been quite tarnished, using only tightly edited versions of his resume and opinions.
It’s a shame no one had the smarts to think of that back in July, instead of going after his wife, eh? Then we wouldn’t be in this mess. If you’re on the side of the administration on this one, you really ought to think about the lack of savvy displayed, then and now (why shotgun it to 6 reporters, when one well placed nugget would accomplish the same thing without leaving a large trail?)
And that’s the bottom line I keep coming back to. There were dozens of options to propagandize Wilson, as so many have proven this week. But they didn’t go after him on the basis of his position, his background, or his beliefs; they tried to use his wife to get to him.
I’ve asked here and elsewhere if someone would please come forward to defend the tactic of going after the family of those you deem your enemy (Saddam, are you out there?), but everybody seems to be too busy parsing whether she was an “analyst” or an “operative,” “overt” or “covert,” etc. Which entirely misses the point of what she was: the “wife” of their target.The Daily Whim: Leaking Irony
And it’s a point that continues to be missed today. If you bring it up, you’ll be told, “well, that’s not illegal.” No, but if someone who didn’t like you decided to go after your wife, in order to get to you, would you just shrug and say she’s fair game? Or would you be more inclined to go looking for some cowardly nuts to kick?
If you bring it up, you’ll also be told “That’s just the way politics is.” And that is true, in the way that you might respond to an initiation murder, “well, that’s just the way street gangs are.” But it doesn’t mean it is acceptable. Moral. That there shouldn’t be a price for it.
As I wrote in Sliming Yourself, I contrast “A ‘compassionate conservative’ who vows ‘to restore honor and integrity to the Oval Office,’ versus an administration that says ‘his wife is fair game’ and then proceeds with a strategy of ‘slime and defend’” ... and I think there should be a price for that.
For four years, I’ve seen an administration that regularly speaks of a high moral calling and hopes to propagate “American Values,” yet their actions befoul and betray their rhetoric. And I think there should be a price for that.
If I look at the law and the stretched and strained “facts” of this case as others have seen fit to reveal them to us, I’d almost call it a toss up. My brain says indictments are a 50-50 shot. But I also have to factor in karma, if only because I believe in it more than I do politics (which ain’t sayin’ much). I definitely believe it offers me more hope than the political world does (which ain’t sayin’ much).
And I think there will be a price for this. There already has been. They’ve bled from a thousand cuts for two years over this, due to their own inaction and lack of transparency from the start. This could have been over, at their own hand, and not on the terms of a special prosecutor … years ago. But now at a critical time when they are beset from every angle, and hardly have the capital to push a pebble up Capitol Hill, this black cloud still hangs over them.
Karma doesn’t require indictments.