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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Friday, 28 October 2005

Topic: The Law

Broken Scooter: A Liar Indicted, Resigns from the White House, But No Fat Lady Sings

All day, Friday, October 28, the headlines were screaming about this (NY Times)
I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and one of the most powerful figures in the Bush administration, was formally accused today of lying and obstruction of justice in an inquiry into the unmasking of a covert CIA officer.

A federal grand jury indicted Mr. Libby on one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and two of making false statements in the course of an investigation that raised questions about the administration's rationale for going to war against Iraq, how it treats critics and political opponents and whether high White House officials shaded the truth. The charges are felonies.

Mr. Libby was not charged directly with revealing the identity of a CIA undercover operative, the accusation that brought about the investigation in the first place.
And he resigned.

The second key figure in the two-year-old investigation, Karl Rove, the man some refer to as "Bush's Brain" - his chief advisor and strategist and life-long friend - was not charged with anything at all - but may be in the future. And Libby wasn't indicted specifically for the leak. Just for lying. Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the matter, in his long news conference, said he was still working on matters, the facts of what happened.

So this was Scooter Libby's day. No more. No less.

The text of the indictment is here, and the video of the press conference here. The Wall Street Journal has an hour-by-hour timeline of the day's events here.

From here, just above Sunset, all the information and commentary is just overwhelming. Instead of reading everything posted in the media everywhere and writing, your editor, and associate editor, Harriet-the-Cat, watched the news folks on television doing their speculating before the announcement of the indictment, watched the news break, watched Patrick Fitzgerald do the news conference, then, on and off, watched the political commentary on Fox, CNN and MSNBC.

Two points here - 1.) All these people on television are old political hands, in the news business for many years, many of them having been in middle of things politically as members of this administration or that, and some are federal prosecutors or even targets of federal prosecutors, some are historians, and most personally know the key players, so they know far more about how these things work than some fellow in Hollywood, or his surly housecat, and 2.) The whole thing is a bit of a let down. All of the speculation, about this exposing Rove and Libby and maybe even the Vice President in some sort of loose conspiracy to not only break the law by exposing the secret agent to undermine the credibility of a troublesome critic of their effort to "sell" the war, but this even exposing a plot to lie to the American people to start a war, was all for naught.

All that conspiracy stuff may be quite true, and very plausible. But that's not what the issue was on Friday. This federal prosecutor announced he had indicted one key person at the White House for lying, in five felonious ways. He has misled the investigators and lied to the grand jury, and obstructed justice, as they say. This wasn't about the big issues, or even about the crime of exposing a covert agent. It was about a guy who "threw sand in his eyes" and, for now, kept the investigation from getting at what was going on.

Building on what Kevin Drum says here, the two "false statement" charges are that, first, this Libby fellow told the FBI that reporter-commentator Tim Russert told Libby about Valerie Plame - but Russert never told him this, and Libby knew about Plame's status long before that. Secondly, Libby told the FBI that he told Matt Cooper of Time Magazine that reporters had told him about Plame, and Libby said then told Cooper he didn't know if it was even true - but Libby actually confirmed "without qualification" to Cooper that Plame worked for the CIA. The two perjury charges? Libby said the same thing to the grand jury. The obstruction of justice charge is based on the false statement and perjury charges.

Basically, the charges are that Libby consistently tried to mislead both the FBI and the grand jury about how he had learned of Plame's status. On multiple occasions he told investigators that he had learned about it from reporters in July, but the truth was quite different. In reality, Libby actively sought out information about Joe Wilson's trip to Niger starting in late May; learned from both State Department and CIA sources in early June that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA; and received the same information from Dick Cheney shortly after that. Libby subsequently discussed Plame with quite a few people within the White House, at one point admitting to his deputy that "there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly," an indication that he knew perfectly well that the CIA didn't want Plame's status disclosed. He later told Ari Fleischer that the fact that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA was "not widely known."

These are serious charges. Apparently Libby figured he'd never be caught out because the reporters would stay mum and go to jail on his behalf. He lost that bet.
Yes he did. But it's not the big story everyone was expecting.

Of course, that the Chief of Staff to the VP, who is also National Security advisor to him and special assistant to the president, had to resign, is big news. He was lying about his efforts in this attempt to spread the word that Wilson's "secret agent wife" set this all up because the two of them hated Bush and wanted to expose the questionable rationale for the war. He got caught in the lying about the effort he was making, and not charged for the illegal effort itself.

It's a mess for the administration, but it could be worse. Think of it as being charged for lying about planning a successful bank robbery, but not being charged for the bank robbery.

And the indictment mentions one "Official A" who actually told Robert Novak about Wilson's "secret agent wife" setting up the trip, so that Novak would publish just that. Patrick Fitzgerald said that wasn't his topic today. One assumes that's Karl Rove. Maybe. The indictment mentions some "Under Secretary of State" who helped Libby track down information about Wilson's trip to Niger. Patrick Fitzgerald said that wasn't his topic today. One assumes that's John Bolton, our current UN ambassador. Vice President Cheney told Libby about Wilson and his wife, which implies he might have set up the whole thing. Patrick Fitzgerald said that wasn't his topic today.

This was a very narrow scandal. Was Libby guilty of any underlying crime in the case? Fitzgerald himself wasn't saying. Kevin Drum suggests Fitzgerald did have the goods on Libby but just decided not to bother trying to prove it in court - the idea there is that "the public interest in punishing the leak is served regardless of what charges are brought, so why waste time trying to prove a complex and precarious case of espionage or mishandling classified data when there's a nice easy perjury case to be made instead? Either way, the bad guy does the time."

No fun, but it worked in the case of Al Capone - they got him for tax evasion. And many say Fitzgerald reminds them of Elliot Ness.

Fitzgerald: "When citizens testify before grand juries they are required to tell the truth. Without the truth, our criminal justice system cannot serve our nation or its citizens. The requirement to tell the truth applies equally to all citizens, including persons who hold high positions in government. In an investigation concerning the compromise of a CIA officer's identity, it is especially important that grand jurors learn what really happened. The indictment returned today alleges that the efforts of the grand jury to investigate such a leak were obstructed when Mr. Libby lied about how and when he learned and subsequently disclosed classified information about Valerie Wilson."

Bad stuff. He lied to the grand jury and disclosed classified information, or so he is charged. He should resign. With such charges, and we'll see how this goes in court, unless he pleads out.

But it's a bit of a letdown. On the right, Glenn Reynolds here: "There's not even a charge of 'outing' a covert agent ... If there's no more, this will probably do Bush little harm." Well, Rove is still at risk, but things seem to be winding down.

So what can be added here? Just some observations.

First, this Patrick Fitzgerald is cool. He takes his job seriously, and, in spite of all the probing in the press conference, he explained, again and again, he would say no more. The principle is that what is presented to the grand jury, and what is investigated, must be secret. He cannot say anything else about anyone else he may or may not be investigating still - if the grand jury doesn't bring charges it's just not right to discuss what was investigated as a possible crime, because there was no crime. If there seems to be one, indictments will be handed up and made public. There will be charges. If there doesn't seem to be sufficient proof a crime may have been committed, you don't blab about what you were doing and mess with people's reputations. Good for him.

Now this may be fully justified -
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said the CIA leak case is about how the White House both "manufactured and manipulated intelligence'' to boost its case for the Iraq war.

Reid also said Libby's indictment shows the Bush administration tried to "discredit anyone who dared to challenge the president."

Senator John Kerry, meanwhile, is calling the CIA leak case "evidence of White House corruption at the very highest levels." The former presidential candidate says that's "far from the honor and dignity" Bush pledged to restore when he was elected five years ago.
But that wasn't what Fitzgerald was dealing with. He said it wasn't his business.

And Rove is still at risk. Note this from Jerry Bowles -
Like all fair-minded Americans, I'm disappointed that Karl Rove didn't get his comeuppance today, too. But, let's be honest. Scooter Libby is a much bigger fish than Rove. Libby's been at the epicenter of the whole let's invade Iraq movement since Bush Senior was booted out of office. He's a wall-to-wall neocon with real power to make policy. Karl is a bush (pun intended) league thug who got lucky, a Colonel Parker who found his Elvis and rode him into the big time. His symbolic worth in the eyes of us fair-minded Americans exceeds his true importance. And, cheer up; he may very well provide another occasion for celebration. Watching the prosecutor's news conference just now on CNN, I wouldn't want to be left to twist slowly, slowly in the wind with this guy Fitzgerald holding the rope.
One senses this is far from over.

Posted by Alan at 19:33 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005 19:36 PDT home

Topic: Photos

New Photo Album: A Tour of the Sunset Strip

The mile and a half stretch of Sunset between Hollywood and Beverly Hills is "The Sunset Strip" - Crescent Heights Boulevard to Doheny Drive - rock clubs, restaurants, boutiques, and "Hollywood nightspots" - some say the cutting edge of the entertainment business. Ciro's, the Mocambo and the old Trocadero are gone, as are the Garden of Allah apartments and original Schwab's Drugstore. The Whisky A Go-Go is still around (start of The Doors, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and Frank Zappa) as is the Roxy. London Fog is now the Viper Room. Gazzari's is now the Key Club. There is no "77 Sunset Strip." Most of the Strip is actually in West Hollywood - in November 1984 voters in West Hollywood passed a proposal on the ballot to incorporate and the area became an independent city.

This photo album, thirty-nine shots, is an idiosyncratic view on a foggy fall morning - Thursday, October 27, 2005.

See the October 30 issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly magazine-format parent to this daily web log, for many of these shots in much higher resolution.


Café Life - Gold Stairs at Le Dôme (now closed)

Café Life - Le Petit Four

An appropriate movie poster -

An overview - visual clutter

The Sunset Strip (Wikipedia)
Promo from the West Hollywood Convention and Visitors Bureau
Notes on '77 Sunset Strip' (1958-64, ABC Television, 205 60-minute episodes)
More notes '77 Sunset Strip'

Posted by Alan at 17:01 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005 17:09 PDT home

Thursday, 27 October 2005

Topic: The Law

A Bad Week: Harriet the Church Lady Just Fades Away

Thursday, October 27th was a fruitless day to write about politics. The White House was waiting on what the Fitzgerald investigation would yield, and there was no news.

But one hot issue was taken off the table - Miers withdraws nomination; new selection to be made 'quickly'.

Oh well.

This particular item, from Dallas Morning News, opened this way:
The fight for the philosophical soul of the U.S. Supreme Court took a new and different direction Thursday, as Harriet Miers - the president's friend and lawyer - withdrew her nomination to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Her decision was accepted with reluctance by the embattled President Bush, with jubilation by anxious conservatives and with suspicion by Democrats who accused the president of "caving in" to the right wing of the Republican Party.
And everyone, even the Brits, had something to say: Bush nominee sabotaged by right wing hawks from The Scotsman and Humiliated Bush forced to retreat as moral right turns its guns on him from The Guardian.

Back here, from The Chicago Tribune (Mark Silva) there's this -Withdrawal marks rare moment of weakness, surrender for Bush: "President Bush has reached a deep valley of his presidency, a place where even some of the ideological voices of his own party have abandoned him and his harshest critics are openly declaring a failed administration."

But then there's Ann Coulter - IT'S MORNING IN AMERICA!

She's happy. She's expects now we'll get a nominee who is a fire-breather, someone who will end this nonsense with the court coddling criminals, insisting folks have a right to sexual privacy, and allowing Christianity to be suppressed by a tiny heathen minority, and suggests the executive's powers may be limited in some way. Oh, that may be reading her wrong. She may just hope we get someone with "intellectual rigor" who will end this "legislating from the from the bench" and understand that, if any law is passed the does this or that, the Supreme Court has no right at all to thwart the "will of the people" and say it's wrong, by looking up stuff in the constitution - or some such thing.

Rather than cite the thousands of commentaries one can find in the media, and on the web, perhaps a summary will do.

Miers and the president said the nomination had to be withdrawn because the senate was asking, since there was no paper trail - the woman had never been a judge, even in traffic court, and had never written anything or said anything at all about constitutional law - for some documents about what she had done or said as Bush's personal attorney and later as White House attorney. Well, that was privileged, and he admires her decision to withdraw her name, to preserve this important principle of separation of powers.

No one bought it. That explanation had been proposed by a Washington Post columnist, Charles Krauthammer, the previous week, as a fine face-saving excuse to cut her loose. He was on all the talk shows being congratulated all day long. He was appropriately "ah shucks" humble.

It didn't matter. This was going nowhere. Any out would do.

The Democrats sat back and said little of substance, but all seem a bit concerned that the president is now really ticked-off and will nominate some judicial Neanderthal. But they have a dim view of his personality, thinking of him as a vindictive, spiteful person who lashes out at others and doesn't think things through, and would rather have a messy fight and destroy things, rather than do the right or even sensible thing. Of course, that's why his base admires him. But is it true?

Some say his days of sneering and petty vindictiveness are over - the bad news this week was too much. Those indictments were looming. The congress forced him to rescind his executive order suspending the Bacon-Davis act, and now the companies rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina have to pay workers "prevailing wage" rather than below minimum wage, or whatever they felt like paying. He must have hated that, and his contributors must think him a wimp. But he did it. He didn't have the votes to stop the congress from passing an override to his executive order. And then this was the week we reached two thousand soldiers killed in Iraq. The Pentagon said it wasn't a milestone. Brit Hume on Fox News said it was insignificant - we lost that many on one beach on one June morning in 1944 after all. But I was all over the news.

And then, to top it all off, the Chicago White Sox beat the Houston Astros in four games, a sweep, in the World Series. Texas loses, big time - in a final game in Texas itself. And his father and mother were in the stands.

And he has to withdrawn the Miers nomination.

Is he now spoiling for a fight? Seems unlikely. He's probably feeling pretty beat-up.

On the left there was talk that this may not be a good thing because now the "evangelical Christian right" is feeling its oats - they got the president to back down and dump this wimp with no real views. They want an anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-privacy zealot. Miers may have been "born-again" - but she wasn't sufficiently enthusiastic about Jesus or something. Bush lost his mojo. They found theirs.

And there was talk that this may not be a good thing because now the "intellectual right" is feeling its oats - they got the president to back down and dump this wimp with no real mind of her own. The want another Scalia, deeply read and with vast experience, who will be an anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-privacy zealot, and explain carefully why that is what the founding fathers wanted in this country. Scalia said it is "a fact" this country was established on Christian principles. Enough has been written about him in these pages. You could look it all up.

There was some talk the real reason this nomination was withdrawn was that James Dobson and a number of evangelical leaders were going to have to testify in the confirmation hearings about their meeting with Karl Rove, the one where he seems to have told them exactly how she'd vote on matters of concern to them. They called Bush and told him to dump the woman. They weren't going before congress. No one is confirming that story, by the way.

There were reports the majority leader of the senate, Bill Frist, called White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and then there was a conference call where Frist explained there just weren't enough votes to pass the nomination. What was the point in fighting it out?

It was a bad week. So now what?

And as mentioned in these pages a few weeks ago, one big problem seems to be that the Republicans made a commitment to the religious right, the evangelical born-again crowd, that for their support they would throw them a bone now and then. And the religious right felt - after all the years of being mocked and having to endure people arguing "under God" had no place in the Pledge of Allegiance, and being told officers at the Air Force Academy couldn't demand all cadets find Jesus, and they couldn't force all children in public school to mouth their approved prayers every day, and they couldn't have cities and states finance religious displays, and so on - well, this was pay-back time. They'd get this born again church lady or someone like her. Hell, maybe the teaching of evolution, and much of biology and geology supporting it, could be outlawed.

Now these folks want their payback for all those years of support.


And add that former Republican Senator John Danforth - who Bush had as our UN ambassador for a time - back in June denounced the whole new Republican evangelical party as being just about the opposite of what anyone would consider Christian (see this for the particulars) - but that may be a theological dispute as Danforth is also an ordained Episcopalian minister, and the religious right suspects that's a fake religion anyway. But he did it again, Wednesday, October 26th, at, of all places, the Bill Clinton School of Public Service, a graduate branch of the University of Arkansas on the grounds of the Clinton presidential library. Ouch. That's here on the AP wire: "I think that the Republican Party fairly recently has been taken over by the Christian conservatives, by the Christian right. I don't think that this is a permanent condition, but I think this has happened, and that it's divisive for the country." And he said the evangelical Christian influence would be bad for the party in the long run.

Well, it hasn't helped George.



In a discussion of pending legislation in the UK on outlawing criticism of the other guy's religion, no matter who you are, Christopher Hart has some comments in The Sunday Times, October 23 -
Jonathan Swift observed that the problem with religion was that there wasn't enough of it around: "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another." Three centuries on there is even less of it around and we still hate each other.

The difficulty, at least for the scientifically educated but spiritually malnourished, is not the idea of religion itself, meaning some system of ritualised worship that helps us to make sense, if only symbolically, of the human, natural and supernatural worlds. The difficulty is rather that all the religions on offer are so patently preposterous, if not downright unpleasant.

Judaism tells us in its most sacred text, the Torah, that a donkey once turned round and started an argument with its master (Numbers, chapter 22); and that the supreme creator took time out to instruct his chosen people not to carry dead badgers, pelicans, hoopoes or bats (Leviticus, chapter 11).

Christianity, while accepting these texts as sacred, further believes that God manifested himself on earth in the form of an excitable and frequently ill-tempered 1st-century Jewish rabbi called Joshua ("Jesus" in Greek) who disowned his family and believed that the world was soon going to end. How do we know Jesus was Jewish? Because he lived at home until he was 30 and his mother thought he was God.

Then there is Islam. Its followers believe that its sacred text, the Koran, is the word of Allah as dictated to his prophet Muhammad. Non-Muslims might regard Muhammad as a deluded and bellicose man who had far too many wives than was good for him. His private life as recorded in the Koran itself, for instance sura 66, is also rather surprising.

Buddhism is an increasingly popular choice for westerners these days with its distinctive mix of cowardice, escapism and self-absorption. Hinduism has always been the colourful and vibrant national religion of India, although under the guidance of that wicked imperialist power, the British raj, it did at last begin to accept that burning women alive on their husbands' funeral pyres might not be such a good idea.

Shintoism, the national religion of Japan, venerated the emperor as a living god, at least until 1946 when Hirohito, under gentle pressure from the US army, admitted on the radio that he wasn't really.

The emperor Vespasian's last sardonic words, as he lay awaiting death and the posthumous deification bestowed on the Caesars, best put this religious belief into perspective: "I think I'm turning into a god."

Some like to believe that primitive tribal religions were much nicer. Unfortunately many of them practised human sacrifice. When the British (wicked imperialist power, etc) captured the Ashanti capital of Kumasi in present-day Ghana, they found a grove of death where the ground was saturated with the blood of thousands of human victims.
So much for religion.

But see Cenk Uygur here -
It is a chilling fact that most of the world's leaders believe in nonsensical fairytales about the nature of reality. They believe in Gods that do not exist, and religions that could not possibly be true. We are driven to war after war, violence on top of violence to appease madmen who believe in gory mythologies.

... Osama bin Laden is insane. He believes God whispered in the ear of Mohammed 1,400 years ago about how he should conquer Arabia. Mohammed was a pure charlatan - and a good one at that. He makes present religious frauds like Pat Robertson look like amateurs.

He said God told him to have sex with as many of the women he met as possible. I'm sorry, I meant to say "take them as wives." God told him to kill all other tribes that stood in his way or that would not placate him with assurances of loyalty or bribes. God told him, conveniently, that everyone should follow him and never question a word he said.

He sold this bag of goods to the blithering idiots who lived in the Arabian Peninsula at the time. If that weren't shockingly stupid enough, over a billion people continue to believe the convenient lies that Mohammed told all that time ago -- to this very day.

... George W. Bush is the most powerful man alive. He is a class A imbecile. He is far less intelligent than the average Christian. But like most of the others, he believes Jesus died for his sins. That idea is so perverse and devoid of logic it should shock the conscience. Instead, it gets him elected, and earns him the reverence of a great percentage of America. America! The most advanced country in the world -- run by a bunch of villagers who still believe Santa Claus is going to save them.

There is no damn Easter Bunny. There is no Jesus waiting to return. Moses never even existed. These were all convenient lies from the men of those times to gain power. Their actions were rational -- they wanted to deceive their brethren so that they could amass power. I get their motivations. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand our motivations, thousands of years later, still following the conmen of yesteryear into our gory, bloody, violent end.

Jesus is said to have said on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Because Jesus was insane and the God he thought would rescue him did not exist. And he died on that cross like a fool. He fancied himself the son of God and he could barely convince twelve men to follow him at a time when the world was full of superstition.

... I know most of you don't actually read your religious texts, and when you do, you assiduously try to avoid the parts that make no sense whatsoever or hide underneath the comforting grasp of your religious leaders who have concocted a bunch of circular logic (a crime to even use that word in regards to Christianity, Islam or Judaism) to shield you from the obvious folly of the written text.

So, I'm not calling you stupid if you haven't really read the material. And I know how powerful brainwashing is. We all received it when we were young and it is exceedingly difficult to break its grasp. But people dance around the issue out of politeness because they don't want to call you what you are -- ignorant.

There are a lot of people I love dearly and respect wholeheartedly who believe in religion. I hate to do this to them. But we have killed far too many people, wasted far too much time on this nonsense for us to keep going in this direction for fear of offense.

... Jesus was a lunatic. God is not coming to your rescue. He hasn't come to anyone's rescue in thousands of years, including Jesus. Mohammed was a power hungry, scam artist and ruthless conqueror. Moses and Abraham were figments of the imagination of some long dead rabbi. He would probably laugh his ass off at all of you who still believe the fairytales he made up thousands of years ago. He probably wouldn't even believe it if you told him.

... Have I offended you? That's too bad. Stop killing each other in the name of false and ridiculous Gods and I will stop ridiculing you. Trust me, your offense is much worse than mine.

... Right now as you read this, there are ignorant, hateful Muslims teaching other ignorant Muslims how to put on a suicide belt. There are orthodox Jews telling other Jews how they must never leave their "holy land" no matter what the consequences are to other human beings. They assure their followers -- remember, they are not the chosen ones, we are. If we crush and oppress them, don't worry, God will excuse it, and even desires it, because He is on our side.

There are maniacal Christians who are praying for the end of time. Who are hoping that most of the world's population is wiped off the face of the Earth by their vengeful and murderous God. Whom they believe is, ironically, a loving God. Unless, of course, you make the fatal mistake of not kissing his ass and appeasing him, in which case he will slaughter you and condemn you to eternal torture. What kind of sick people believe this?

The kind who live next to you. The kind who voted for George Bush.
Other than that, religion is fine.

Posted by Alan at 20:27 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005 07:41 PDT home

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Topic: The Media

Diva Journalism: Getting the Scoop, and Getting it Wrong

So what are reporters supposed to do? As mentioned last weekend in these pages here, Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times had posted on Jim Romenesko's website, Poynter Online, an internal Times memo he thought should be made public, some comments about his star just-out-of-jail reporter Judy Miller. To wit: "I wish that, when I learned Judy Miller had been subpoenaed ... I had sat her down for a thorough debriefing, and followed up with some reporting of my own. ... I missed what should have been significant alarm bells."

Alarm bells? He thinks he should have sensed that this reporter was compromised. She was being used by the very powerful to plant stories in his newspaper to get what they wanted. He doesn't say that directly, but he implies just that.

As in this: "... if I had known the details of Judy's entanglement with [Scooter] Libby, I'd have been more careful in how the paper articulated its defense, and perhaps more willing than I had been to support efforts aimed at exploring compromises."

He basically questioned whether she had been "open and candid with the paper about sources, mistakes, conflicts and the like."

And the next day Times columnist Maureen Dowd opened up with both barrels, pretty much saying Miller was a shill for the neoconservative leaders in the White House and that odd leader of the then exiled Iraqi Nation Congress -
Judy's stories about WMD fit too perfectly with the White House's case for war. She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on Iraq, and I worried that she was playing a leading role in the dangerous echo chamber that former Senator Bob Graham dubbed "incestuous amplification." Using Iraqi defectors and exiles, Mr. Chalabi planted bogus stories with Judy and other credulous journalists.
The day after that, the Times public editor Byron Calame had this item saying it was time for the Times to "review Ms. Miller's journalistic practices as soon as possible."

They had a journalistic loose cannon on their hands. And they had for years, and they just realized it? It would seem so.

She seems to have had an agenda that was different than that of the organization for which she worked, and an ego as big as Montana, and an in with the publisher to whom Keller, just the editor of the paper, reported.

But what had they been thinking before?

She got them big stories, and increased circulation and influence, and if later they had to retract a few of these items, well, so be it. A newspaper is a commercial enterprise, after all.

On the 25th there is this from Jeremy Gerard, and insider's view -
I hold no brief for Judy Miller. In February 1989, after she'd worn out her welcome at the Times' Washington bureau, she returned to West 43rd Street as deputy editor of the newly created Media Business department, where I was a reporter covering the television industry. "It worked out great!" Miller burbled to the New York Post. "I know nothing about communications, but I hope to learn."

She arrived with her own stationery - no black Times Gothic for Judy, but embossed vellum, with a girly pink font announcing her name and title - and the clear signal that every member of our beleaguered cadre would do well to just ignore that troublesome deputy before the word editor. This was going to be The Judy Show, a personal mission to prove that no mere relocation and change of portfolio would get in the way of using the Times to promote herself and her vision of the world.

Even 20 years ago Judy Miller was known as a willing bullhorn for the ruling class, including some she knew intimately. Those men in power are there for a reason, and you're not. Shut up and listen. Morphing from reporter to editor merely gave her more venues to sell that vision. If, like Judy, you understood power at the Times - where the furtive seduction of the boss's boss while twisting the shiv in subordinates can be as important as a talent for getting the story - you did fine.
Well, that's unpleasant, but consider what the Times had on their hands. They had an insider. She knew people. The powerful would talk to her. They'd get things off the record no one else could touch. We're talking scoops here.

Why not let her loose? Sure, she'd piss off everyone else around her, but sometimes you absorbed that cost for what you would get in exclusive information.

Anyone who has been a manager knows all about this. We've managed brilliant prima donnas, who'd offend everyone, but deliver the goods. In the systems world, these were the systems analysts who solved the intractable problems by calling some software insider they knew who knew who wrote the code, and then would present a simple fix that would save a month's worth of work. And then they'd ask for a week off and sneer at the other co-workers on the way out the door. No fun at all, for the manager.

Note this from Gerard -
The fact is, ever since I joined the Times in 1986, Judy Miller has been infamously unfettered by the professional and personal constraints most other journalists assume to be part of the job. As it happens, I was the last reporter hired by executive editor A.M. Rosenthal before his retirement. Escorting me out of his office upon offering me the job, he sent me off with these words: "You know, it's a bigger risk for us than it is for you."

Though I left the Times in 1991, Abe was half right. Every hire is a risk for the paper; its reputation is always on the line.
And now the chickens have come home to roost, oddly because of the CIA leak scandal exposing all the misinformation everyone was being fed, and this prima donna was feeding the Times. The paper is deeply embarrassed.

Well, one can take this all too seriously. It's just a newspaper.

Gerard has it right here -
Here's something else a lifelong editor told me when I joined the Times as an eager reporter anxious to leave my mark at the most important newspaper in the world. He was pretty loaded at the time (it was, after all, 12:30 in the afternoon), and he'd just been shifted from one position of uncertain power to another, considerably lower, to make way for someone on the rise, someone who understood better than he that loyalty was for losers. "Love the job," he told me, "but don't ever make the mistake of loving the institution."
And that is because the institution needs the insider pain-in-the-ass loose cannon. Miller was the one who knew all the right people in power - her "anonymous sources" were the big guns, the movers and shakers. Funny, they just didn't anticipate those guys would be using her, and the Times, to run a con.

Well, sometimes you win and few, and sometimes you lose.

As for Miller's extraordinary "anonymous sources" about Saddam's active and dangerous nuclear and chemical weapons programs, and those perilous Aluminum tubes, Duncan Black notes this comment at Jim Romenesko's website, Poynter Online -
As the New York Times has learned, to its apparent chagrin, when a newspaper quotes anonymous sources, it is substituting its credibility for that of the source. Given the current public opinion of American journalism, should the Times be using its credibility to advance the interests of Scooter Libby, Ahmed Chalabi or anybody else unwilling to stand up for what they say? Should anybody?
And Black adds this -
Not only is the paper substituting its credibility, arguably a paper has a greater degree of credibility to offer (or it least should) than self-interested politicians advancing an agenda. ? I think this has the bizarre effect for casual readers of giving the words of anonymous sources more credibility generally than those sources would have if they are named. Statements by anonymous sources written in the Times are essentially read as statements by the Times itself.
No wonder the Times is upset. They bought the farm here, as they say.

So what do you do when some insider gives you information no one else has? Of course, you could do you best to verify it. You could do some of what is called "investigative journalism." You could seek some secondary source to make sure you not being fed a line of crap. Or not.

Sometimes the scoop is too good. And in these cases it was too good to be true. (Another pressure, noted by Juan Cole here is what comes from organizations like Fox News - skepticism about what our leaders are saying, particularly in times of war, or possible war, for our very survival, is much like treason. He reminds us that when CNN reporter Christian Amanpour blamed Fox News for creating "a climate of fear and self-censorship" regarding coverage of Iraq, a Fox spokeswoman shot back, "Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.")

But this is a mess.

And how will the Times recover?

Note this in the Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, October 26 -
New York Times reporter Judith Miller has begun discussing her future employment options with the newspaper, including the possibility of a severance package, a lawyer familiar with the matter, said yesterday.

The discussion about her future comes several days after the public rupture of the relationship between the Times and Ms. Miller, a 28-year veteran of the paper. Both the editor and the publisher of the Times have expressed regret for their unequivocal support for Ms. Miller when she spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the unmasking of a Central Intelligence Agency operative.

The negotiations began with a face-to-face meeting Monday morning between Ms. Miller and the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., said the lawyer familiar with the situation. A spokeswoman for the New York Times declined to comment. Ms. Miller didn't return calls.
She sunk the paper, and this is an effort to re-float it as best they can? Perhaps.

It may be too late. And they may be addicted to "anonymous sources" that will only speak to the right people, to other insiders - or maybe "seduced" is the word, not "addicted."

And they may still want to appear on the side of the administration, but maybe not as the indictments are handed up.

We'll see.

But who is this Judy Miller?

The best profile of here is here, from Franklin Foer in New York Magazine, from long ago, from the June 7, 2004 issue. It's more than a year old, but it's on the money.

First the history:
During the winter of 2001 and throughout 2002, Miller produced a series of stunning stories about Saddam Hussein's ambition and capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, based largely on information provided by Chalabi and his allies - almost all of which have turned out to be stunningly inaccurate.

For the past year, the Times has done much to correct that coverage, publishing a series of stories calling Chalabi's credibility into question. But never once in the course of its coverage - or in any public comments from its editors - did the Times acknowledge Chalabi's central role in some of its biggest scoops, scoops that not only garnered attention but that the administration specifically cited to buttress its case for war.

The longer the Times remained silent on Chalabi's importance to Judith Miller's reporting, the louder critics howled. In February, in the New York Review of Books, Michael Massing held up Miller as evidence of the press's "submissiveness" in covering the war. For more than a year, Slate's Jack Shafer has demanded the paper come clean.

But finally, with Chalabi's fall from grace so complete - the Pentagon has cut off his funding, troops smashed his portrait in raids of the INC office - the Times' refusal to concede its own complicity became untenable. Last week, on page A10, the paper published a note on its coverage, drafted by executive editor Bill Keller himself. The paper singled out pieces that relied on "information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors, and exiles bent on 'regime change.' " The note named Ahmad Chalabi as a central player in this group.

This time, however, the omission of Judith Miller's name was conspicuous. "Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated."
Yes, it was.

In February 2004 in these pages you'd find a discussion of what Michael Massing was getting at when he quoted Miller as saying "my job isn't to assess the government's information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq's arsenal."

The Times had accepted her definition of "reporter as stenographer." Foer says the Times loved her other qualities, what he notes as her ambition, her aggressiveness, her cultivation of sources by any means necessary, her hunger to be first - or at least they thought those qualities outweighed any need to assess anything.
Miller is a star, a diva. She wrote big stories, won big prizes. Long before her WMD articles ran, Miller had become a newsroom legend - and for reasons that had little to do with the stories that appeared beneath her byline. With her seemingly bottomless ambition - a pair of big feet that would stomp on colleagues in her way and even crunch a few bystanders - she cut a larger-than-life figure that lent itself to Paul Bunyan-esque retellings. Most of these stories aren't kind. Of course, nobody said journalism was a country club. And her personality was immaterial while she was succeeding, winning a Pulitzer, warning the world about terrorism, bio-weapons, and Iraq's war machine.
But now? Foer says her story is a bit of a cautionary tale about "the culture of American journalism."

And he tells it, of course.

The item is long, so click on the link. You find all sorts of things.

Like this:
During the forties and fifties, her father, Bill Miller, ran the Riviera nightclub in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Famed for its retractable roof, the Riviera staged shows by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Tito Puente. When the state highway commission ordered the Riviera condemned in 1953, Miller made his way to Vegas, proving his impresario bona fides by reviving the careers of Elvis Presley and Marlene Dietrich.
That might explain a lot about how she sees the world.

And there's this:
From her first day at the Times, Miller's life and work have been hard to separate, which for a reporter is both a strength and a weakness. "She's a passionate person - she gets caught up in her sources passionately," one of her Times colleagues told me. Friends from her earliest days in Washington noted that she didn't surround herself with people her own age. She sought out the best and brightest at the city's highest levels, dating Larry Sterne, the Washington Post's foreign editor, and hanging out with the defense gurus Richard Perle and Walter Slocum. "These people were powerful. But they were also interesting, and Judy liked talking to them. She is curious and enthusiastic," says one friend from this period.
Yeah, and she doesn't mess with low-life folks.

And she got all wrapped up in the Middle East, finally running the Cairo bureau and knowing everyone import, and became obsessed with the WMD issues and terrorism, which led to her "string of grim exclusives."
There was the defector who described Saddam Hussein's recent renovation of storage facilities for nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. There was her report that a Russian virologist might have handed the regime a particularly virulent strain of smallpox. To protect themselves against VX and sarin, she further reported, the Iraqis had greatly increased the importation of an antidote to these agents. And, most memorably, she co-wrote a piece in which administration officials suggested that Iraq had attempted to import aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons. Vice-President Dick Cheney trumpeted the story on Meet the Press, closing the circle. Of course, each of the stories contained important caveats. But together they painted a horrifying picture. There was just one problem with them: The vast majority of these blockbusters turned out to be wrong.
Oh well, they were dramatic. Think Marlene Dietrich, as a journalist.

Or think Mata Hari -
Her Iraq coverage didn't just depend on Chalabi. It also relied heavily on his patrons in the Pentagon. Some of these sources, like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, would occasionally talk to her on the record. She relied especially heavily on the Office of Special Plans, an intelligence unit established beneath Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. The office was charged with uncovering evidence of Al Qaeda links to Saddam Hussein that the CIA might have missed. In particular, Miller is said to have depended on a controversial neocon in Feith's office named Michael Maloof. At one point, in December 2001, Maloof's security clearance was revoked. In April, Risen reported in the Times, "Several intelligence professionals say he came under scrutiny because of suspicions that he had leaked classified information in the past to the news media, a charge that Mr. Maloof denies." While Miller might not have intended to march in lockstep with these hawks, she was caught up in an almost irresistible cycle. Because she kept printing the neocon party line, the neocons kept coming to her with huge stories and great quotes, constantly expanding her access.

? In the early eighties, she shared a Georgetown house with her boyfriend, Wisconsin congressman Les Aspin - a rising star in the Democratic Party, who went on to become Bill Clinton's first secretary of Defense. Aspin, many noted, had appeared a dozen times in Miller's pieces, offering sage words about national security. Certain catty colleagues liked to read these stories aloud.
Each time the phrase "Aspin said" appeared, a reporter would add, "rolling over in bed." When Reagan nominated Richard Burt to be assistant secretary of State for European affairs, Jesse Helms and other right-wingers bludgeoned him for their relationship. "It would help [your chances for confirmation]," Orrin Hatch delicately wrote to Burt, "if you could lay to rest the rumors about Judith Miller's articles on arms control appearing so soon after your own meetings with her."
Oh my! But she got the stories.

And you might want to read what happened when she was embedded in this current war, with a team searching for WMD.

The whole thing is a profile of "journalist as diva" and of an organization that just hated that, and needed her to be just that - until now.

So what are reporters supposed to do? Get the story, of course.

Those who want more - some assessment of what you're told, some attempt at finding out whether it's true, or even likely, sourcing things, fact-checking, evaluation - are now on Miller's case.

There's change in the air.

Posted by Alan at 20:40 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005 20:47 PDT home

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Trouble Brewing: Tuesday Indictment Rumors, For the Record (and "The Italian Job")

This is where the CIA leak scandal rumors stood, Tuesday, October 25, 2005, as the sun was setting over the Pacific out here.

Note late the week before, Friday, the 21st, in "Find Law," there was this from the famous John Dean of Watergate fame -
It is difficult to envision Patrick Fitzgerald prosecuting anyone, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, who believed they were acting for reasons of national security. While hindsight may find their judgment was wrong, and there is no question their tactics were very heavy-handed and dangerous, I am not certain that they were acting from other than what they believed to be reasons of national security. They were selling a war they felt needed to be undertaken.

In short, I cannot imagine any of them being indicted, unless they were acting for reasons other than national security. Because national security is such a gray area of the law, come next week, I can see this entire investigation coming to a remarkable anti-climax, as Fitzgerald closes down his Washington office and returns to Chicago.
But late Tuesday, October 25th, Steve Clemons was reporting this from a an "über-insider source" in "The Washington Note" -
• 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end.
• The targets of indictment have already received their letters.
• The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.
• A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.
And on the CBS Evening News there was John Roberts saying this -
Lawyers familiar with the case think Wednesday is when special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will make known his decision, and that there will be indictments. Supporters say Rove and the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, are in legal jeopardy. But they insisted today the two are secondary players, that it was an unidentified Mr. X who actually gave the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame to reporters. Fitzgerald knows who Mr. X is, they say, and if he isn't indicted, there's no way Rove or Libby should be. But charges may not focus on the leak at all. Obstruction of justice or perjury are real possibilities. Did Rove or Libby change statements made under oath? Did they deliberately leave critical facts out of their testimony or did they honestly forget? Some Republicans urged Rove to step down if indicted. Not a happy prospect for president Bush.
No kidding, and not at all helped by the New York Times frontpage story, upper-right, above the fold, that reported this - it was CIA director George Tenet who originally told Dick Cheney that Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA. Cheney then passed this along to Scooter Libby, who passed it on to Judith Miller.

Scooter Libby seems to have testified he heard the name from a reporter, but his own notes show otherwise. Oops. Dick told him, and they discussed "press strategy" of all things. And for twenty-eight months Cheney has been saying he knows nothing about this Wilson fellow - never met him, never heard of him, didn't ask him to take any trip, never saw any report. Well, the last two seem to be true. Ah well, he said all these things to the public, not under oath. No crime there. And one sees here that MSNBC correspondent David Shuster reported that Tenet denies he told Cheney anything - he didn't tell Cheney or anyone in Cheney's office about Wilson, nor was he asked about this by investigators two years ago. Tenet is not playing along, or he's ticked that he actually did tell these fools about the woman and then they went and exposed one of his key covert agents. Well, that could be one reason the CIA pressed for this investigation in the first place. Tenet was mad at Cheney?

Well, the rumors were flying. And Kevin Drum here is bothered that the indictments will be sealed: "Steve's source confirms my worst fears: Fitzgerald will be handing down sealed indictments. If that's true, it means we won't be any wiser tomorrow than we are today. All we'll have is some names and some charges, but no evidence."

Oh well.

But that's not all. All over the wires today was the Italian connection, reported in the most detail here by Laura Rosen.

What Italian connection?
With Patrick Fitzgerald widely expected to announce indictments in the CIA leak investigation, questions are again being raised about the intelligence scandal that led to the appointment of the special counsel: namely, how the Bush White House obtained false Italian intelligence reports claiming that Iraq had tried to buy uranium "yellowcake" from Niger.

The key documents supposedly proving the Iraqi attempt later turned out to be crude forgeries, created on official stationery stolen from the African nation's Rome embassy. Among the most tantalizing aspects of the debate over the Iraq War is the origin of those fake documents - and the role of the Italian intelligence services in disseminating them.

In an explosive series of articles appearing this week in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo report that Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy's military intelligence service, known as Sismi, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after his insistent overtures had been rejected by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 and 2002. Sismi had reported to the CIA on October 15, 2001, that Iraq had sought yellowcake in Niger, a report it also plied on British intelligence, creating an echo that the Niger forgeries themselves purported to amplify before they were exposed as a hoax.
You can click on her link and read it all, in Italian, or read her summary, which has been confirmed as accurate all over the place.

The whole "he's buying uranium in Africa" thing rests on these documents, forged by the Italian military intelligence service on letterhead they stole from the Niger embassy in Rome. The government of Silvio Berlusconi was helping out George. Sure they were crude - wrong names, wrong dates - but they tried.

The problem was they shopped them to our CIA and then our State Department, and both said, "No thanks, these are forgeries." The IAEA said the same, at the UN, as you recall. They shopped them to the British government. Same thing, but Bush got to say in his speech explaining the threat, "the British have learned that?" He just didn't mention they didn't believe what they had been told.

And the best twist to this all is what was reported in the Tuesday, October 25th article in the Italian paper - on September 9, 2002, this Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy's military intelligence service, met with Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones has confirmed the meeting. Of course now this fellow has been bumped up a notch - he's now Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, not just a lowly deputy.

The big deal? Hadley apparently bypassed State and the CIA and took the documents to the White House, directly to the National Security Council, chaired by the National Security Advisor then, Condoleezza Rice, with Vice President Cheney on her right at the table. So Rosen asks the obvious question - "Was the White House convinced that the Niger yellowcake report was nevertheless true because the National Security Council was getting its information directly from the Italian source?"

Well, that would explain a lot. They never trusted the CIA, as has been widely discussed. The State Department also had been cut out of all discussion and planning, as diplomacy was scorned and Rumsfeld had the most say on any relations we still had with countries that would still deal with us - Secretary of State Powell had been effectively neutered. The hawks knew better. And now they had the REAL scoop on Saddam.

And then Wilson was making sounds that this was all bullshit, and then went public in the New York Times.

Patrick Fitzgerald subpoenaed the source Italian documents, and not in their redacted form with names and dates removed. Perhaps he's investigating motive here?

These guys didn't want to be caught telling us we all could be dead in a radioactive crater if we didn't take out Saddam and his government right now, using evidence they knew was bullshit, provided by one of our few allies in the endeavor, and, if you are conspiracy-minded, evidence that was created to our specifications.

There was a motive to whack Wilson and his wife.

And maybe they'd find something in Iraq to make it all work out.

Didn't happen. Had to admit the sixteen words were a mistake

Rosen adds this -
Although Berlusconi's government clearly sought deniability while pushing the Niger uranium claims, the Bush White House went still further by trying to blame its citation of exaggerated and discredited Iraq WMD claims on the CIA, the very same agency that consistently discounted the Niger claims. The White House's war on the CIA and on the Wilsons - the extent of which has been revealed in recent news reports emerging from the Fitzgerald investigation - has always had an excessive and almost hysterical quality. Why was the White House so worked up over Wilson and the Niger hoax, when there was so much evidence that the administration had based its drive for war on claims that were so thoroughly discredited from top to bottom? Why did Wilson and his CIA wife become the primary targets, when Wilson was hardly alone in pointing out that the White House should have known better about the Niger claims?
Rosen suggests this Hadley meeting with the Italian dude and his subsequently trotting back to the White House with "direct evidence" - bypassing the intelligence services of the CIA and State Department - was something no one was supposed to find out.

Wilson may have been coming too close.

Ah, does it matter now? We're there. We got our war.

The same day note this from CNN, Poll: Bush would lose an election if held this year -
A majority would vote for a Democrat over President Bush if an election were held this year, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released Tuesday.

In the latest poll, 55 percent of the respondents said that they would vote for the Democratic candidate if Bush were again running for the presidency this year.

Thirty-nine percent of those interviewed said they would vote for Bush in the hypothetical election...
Things are not going well at the White House.

But then if not Bush, who?

You could ask those on the right, as even they are not too happy with all this. And someone did, polling the web logs on the right, asking who should "rule the world."

The results are amusing:
15) Paul Wolfowitz: Former US Deputy Secretary of Defense. World Bank President (4)
15) Arnold Schwarzenegger: Governor of California (4)
15) Rush Limbaugh: Talk radio host (4)
15) Junichiro Koizumi: Prime Minister of Japan (4)
15) Christopher Hitchens: Pundit (4)
15) Bill Gates: Founder of Microsoft (4)
15) Tommy Franks: Former US General (4)
15) Dick Cheney: US Vice President (4)
15) George W. Bush: US President (4)
15) Tony Blair: British Prime Minister (4)
12) Donald Rumsfeld: US Secretary of Defense (5)
12) Václav Havel: Former President of Czechoslovakia (5)
12) Pope Benedict XVI: Pope (5)
10) Mark Steyn: Pundit (6)
10) Victor Davis Hanson: Pundit (6)
7) Thomas Sowell: Pundit (7)
7) Antonin Scalia: US Supreme Court Justice (7)
7) Ann Coulter: Pundit (7)
4) Natan Sharansky: Soviet dissident, former Israeli cabinet member (8)
4) Rudy Giuliani: Former Mayor of New York City (8)
4) Milton Friedman: Economist (8)
2) Margaret Thatcher: Former British Prime Minister (10)
2) John Howard: Australian Prime Minister (10)
1) Condoleezza Rice: US Secretary of State (14)
Note Bush is in the middle of the list, with Cheney. It is odd that Václav Havel is there, as he's a friend of Bill Clinton and a fan of the late Frank Zappa. And Margaret Thatcher just turned eighty she's probably not up to ruling the world.

This was, by the way, inspired by a BBC poll that gave these results on the question of who should rule the world.
1 - Nelson Mandela
2 - Bill Clinton
3 - Dalai Lama
4 - Noam Chomsky
5 - Alan Greenspan
6 - Bill Gates
7 - Steve Jobs
8 - Archbishop Desmond Tutu
9 - Richard Branson
10 - George Soros
11 - Kofi Annan
Bill Gates on both lists? Yipes!

Well, the president had better hope John Dean is right and Patrick Fitzgerald is going to fold up his tent and go back to Chicago, indicting no one and saying nothing at all.

But it may be too late.

Bruce Bartlett in TOWNHALL, the news service of the right, has this to say:
The truth that is now dawning on many movement conservatives is that George W. Bush is not one of them and never has been. They were allies for a long time, to be sure, and conservatives used Bush just as he used them. But it now appears that they are headed for divorce. And as with all divorces, the ultimate cause was not the final incident, but the buildup of grievances over a long period that one day could no longer be overlooked, contained or smoothed over.

... George W. Bush has never demonstrated any interest in shrinking the size of government. And on many occasions, he has increased government significantly. Yet if there is anything that defines conservatism in America, it is hostility to government expansion. The idea of big government conservatism, a term often used to describe Bush's philosophy, is a contradiction in terms.

Conservative intellectuals have known this for a long time, but looked the other way for various reasons. Some thought the war on terror trumped every other issue. If a few billion dollars had to be wasted to buy the votes needed to win the war, then so be it, many conservatives have argued. Others say that Bush never ran as a conservative in the first place, so there is no betrayal here, only a failure by conservatives to see what he has been all along.
As Ryan Lizza, the senior editor of The National Review explains it here -
... the real split ... is between conservatives who worship Bush and those who worship conservatism. One camp believes in the infallibility of the president. The other camp believes the evidence before them.

... In 2001, conservatives were deeply frustrated by low-level Bush heresies like the education bill. Then, September 11 silenced all dissent. In 2002, things got worse: An enormous agriculture bill, steel tariffs, a bloated budget, and a campaign finance bill that Bush once argued was unconstitutional. (Bartlett goes so far as to say Bush "violated his oath of office" by signing it.) Then, the Iraq war silenced all dissent. Next came the Medicare prescription-drug bill, which simultaneously funneled money to the pharmaceutical industry, expanded government more than any entitlement since LBJ, and violated the traditions, if not rules, of the House when the vote on the bill was held open for nearly three hours while conservative Republicans were bullied into reversing their no votes.

Absent a new war or domestic enemy like Kerry, Bush was suddenly exposed to the whole world, including the conservative movement, as a less-than-great president. Social Security reform fizzled. Bush signed an outrageously pork-laden transportation bill. He vacationed while New Orleans drowned.
And so on and so forth.

Patrick Fitzgerald folding up his tent and going back to Chicago, indicting no one and saying nothing at all, can't fix things now.

Tuesday, October 25 -

Good News: Iraq's Constitution Adopted by Voters
Bad News: US death toll in Iraq reaches 2,000
Sad News: Rosa Parks dies at 92 in her Detroit home

On the last item, this -
Okay, sure, you can admire Rosa Parks for sparking an idealistic, peaceful movement for racial equality if you want to. Mostly, we like her because she was pissed. Anger is an important part of successful activism and it's rare that it's so legitimately righteous. Activists these days tend to make statements by voluntarily putting themselves in positions that lack dignity - giant puppet costumes; Michael Moore films; Crawford, Texas - here's the woman who made history by keeping hers.
There's not a lot of dignity going around these days.

Posted by Alan at 20:10 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005 20:30 PDT home

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