Out of Left Field
TELLING THE WHOLE STORY
...says jailed reporter Miller no martyr
Do we need more info about Miller and Roberts?
By STAN ISAACS
Theres some juicy stuff floating around the political scene these days that is not getting its due in the public press. Check out items involving:
# Judy Miller, the jailed New York Times reporter,
# John Roberts, the new Supreme Court nominee
Arianna Huffington, the conservative-turned-liberal gadfly who has one of the most dynamic blogs in cyberspace, has taken aim at Miller as something other than the martyr she is regarded as by most right-thinking defenders of freedom of the press.
The story in a nutshell: Miller was suckered by the suspect Iraqui conman Ahmad Chalabi into writing stories that persuaded many people that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. This was justification even among some liberals to support President Bushs drive for war against Iraq.
It turned out, of course, that there were no weapons of mass destruction, that Bush and his people twisted evidence to support their war aims. Former ambassador Joseph Wilson helped knock some of that spurious evidence down in a now celebrated op-ed piece in the Times on July 6, 2003.
Huffingtson says that Miller, who has been pushing this manipulated, twisted and exaggerated intelligence in the Times for months," went ballistic [because] someone used the pages of her own paper to call into question the justification for the war-and indirectly much of her reporting. So she called her friends in the intelligence community and asked, Who is this guy? She found out he was married to a CIA agent. She then passed on this information about Mrs. Wilson to [Vice President Cheneys chief of staff] Scooter Libby. Maybe Miller told Karl Rove, too--or Libby did. The White House hatchet men turned around and told [newsmen] Robert Novak and Matt Cooper.
So, it turns out, if Huffington is correct, that Miller doesnt want to reveal her source at the White House, not for high-minded freedom-of-the-press reasons but because she is the source. By this reasoning, she wasnt an innocent writer caught up in the whirl of history, She had a starring role in it, Huffington says. This also explains why Miller never wrote a story about [Millers wife] Valerie Plame. Her goal wasnt to write a story, but to get out the story that cast doubts on Wilsons motives. Which Novak did.
As the guys on my block used to say, How do you like them apples?
Doubters can claim that Huffington has no corroboration for all this. True, but the story is so explosive it deserves further treatment from any and all who are dealing with the Miller story. I do know from friends that there are mixed feelings about Miller at the Times.
The case of Mr. Roberts and the Supreme Court took at least a slight detour last week after it looked at first that he had a smooth road to approval for a Supreme Court seat.
First, recall the almost unanimous bouquets thrown Roberts way when he was first named by Bush. He had tremendous credentials as a lawyer and judge; he was smart, personable. The Times full page early biography on him painted him as a Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy, a conservative even the respected Harvard liberal, Lawrence Tribe, could say nice things about.
This led to talk that he was almost a sure bet to be approved by the Senate. The Democratic Joes who would never be confused with Howard Dean--Biden of Delaware and Lieberman of Connecticut--rushed to indicate they would be voting for Roberts.
The early raves suggested it would be counter-productive for liberal groups to try to derail Roberts. The thinking was: hes a conservative for sure, but he wouldnt be as bad as some of the reactionaries Bush might have named. So there seemed to be a building consensus by many not to support those who would challenge Roberts on his views about abortion and civil rights.
The Times among others then started taking more detailed looks at Roberts statements and decisions. It began to appear that for liberals he wasnt the Mr. Clean Conservative he was originally pictured as in Bushs slick campaign to put him over. There was, beneath the surface persona, some hard right attitudes by Roberts that put him right in there with all those who had been pictured as ogres.
And then came the informal session with Illinois Democratic Senator Richard Durbin. In an article in the Los Angeles Times respected George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley cited two people who reported that Durbin asked Roberts whether he had thought about potential conflicts between the imperatives of their shared Catholic faith and of the civil law.
Turley cited the sources saying that Roberts had told Durbin he would recuse himself from cases involving abortion, the death penalty or other subjects where Catholic teaching and civil law can clash.
It was, Turley wrote, the first unscripted answer in the most carefully scripted nomination in history. It was also the wrong answer. In taking office, a justice takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. A judges personal religious views should have no role in the interpretation of the laws.
Interestingly, the Chicago Tribune, Durbins home paper, carried no follow-up to this development. The Times report on the story made a point of emphasizing that the sources were unnamed. And it quoted a spokesman for Durbin and Senator Joe Cornym who said he spoke to Roberts, and that Turleys account of a recusal statement was inaccurate. This is a suspect sentence because it is doubtful the liberal Durbin would have the same spokesman as the right-wing Cornym.
It would seem at the least that the recusal story should have legs. That would help the timid Democrats pursue it in the face of the right-wing attacks accusing Democrats of religious bigotry whenever they question religious beliefs having an influence on judicial decisions.
The essence of Judith Miller and John Roberts: as Willie Lohmans wife, Linda, says in Death of a Salesman, Attention must be paid.
©2005 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The photo of Arianna Huffington is courtesy of www.ariannaonline.com. This column first posted Aug. 1, 2005.
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