...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bush's bomber.

We can't really do much about the carnage in London (though we'll surely try). But we ought to be able to prevent future attacks by the White House's resident incendiarist, Karl Rove. There's no shortage of articulate opinion and reporting on the near-assassination-by-innuendo of Valerie Plame, and the surreal dilemma faced by reporters Judith Miller and Matt Cooper. Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's redoubtable media watchdog, published an excellent roundup of blogger commentary on the affair yesterday. You should read it all. Here are the pieces he quoted that I like best:

Pundit Craig Crawford wrote:

"If Karl Rove planned this -- which I doubt -- he really is a genius:

"1.) He leaks to Time's Matt Cooper in such a way that he avoids the law's intent requirement for criminal liability (Newsweek notes that Cooper's email shows nothing indicating Rove knew or revealed that Valerie Plame was an undercover agent, only that she worked at the CIA).

"2.) The ensuing grand jury investigation dramatically weakens the news media and future leakers, as reporters must decide whether to testify or go to jail, and even turns Rove's foes in the public against the reporters involved because they are seen as protecting him.

"In other words, by making himself a protected source who loses that protection, Rove makes it easier for the government to use federal courts to target all leakers. This would give Machiavelli a migraine."
Last week, Michael Kinsley, now the LA Times editorial page editor, wrote a column called "Reporters Are Not Above The Law." Journalism critic Jim Romenesko reported this email exchange between LAT op-ed page editor Nick Goldberg, looking for reaction to Kinsley's column, and NY Times Editor Bill Keller:
GOLDBERG: "This is a bit of a long shot, but I thought that perhaps Judy Miller would like to write some kind of rejoinder (especially now that Kinsley's columns and editorials, as I understand it, are being used by the prosecutor to help make his case). Is such a thing possible? Is there a way to contact her and ask if she's interested?"

KELLER: "How clever of the Los Angeles Times to propose that Judy Miller debate Mike Kinsley on the subject of press freedom. Sadly, Judy is not on a fellowship at some writers' colony. She is in JAIL. She is sleeping on a foam mattress on the floor, and her communications are, shall we say, constrained.

"I have to tell you that Mike's contrarian intellectualizing on the subject of reporters and the law was more amusing when it was all hypothetical. Back then it was just punditry. But that was before [Time Magazine Publisher] Norm Pearlstine embraced acquiescence as corporate policy, and before Judy Miller braved the real-world discomforts of the moral high ground. Of course this is an important issue, and clever minds should wrestle with it. But at the moment Kinsley and Pearlstine seem perversely remote from the world where actual reporters work."
Whether or not he can be prosecuted for his part in this mess, at the very least, Mr. Rove should return to Texas, and his Blackberry should be confiscated.

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