23 October 2005

Signs of the Times

My how the times have changed.

It was only last July that the New York Times editorial
page made favorable comparisons between Judy Miller
and Rosa Parks, proudly declaring:

Ms. Miller has taken a path that will be lonely and
painful for her and her family and friends. We wish
she did not have to choose it, but we are certain she
did the right thing.

She is surrendering her liberty in defense of a greater
liberty, granted to a free press by the founding fathers
so journalists can work on behalf of the public without
fear of regulation or retaliation from any branch of

I can almost hear Keller and Sulzberger humming the
Star Spangled Banner as those words were being
printed -- just as Otter’s Delta brothers did when he
offered an equally bogus, patriotic defense of incorrigible

But the Times isn’t Animal House, and Judy Miller isn’t
John Belushi. The party is finally over and it is time to
clean up the mess.

The Times needs to review Ms. Miller's journalistic
practices as soon as possible, especially because she
disputes some accounts of her conduct that have come
to light since the leak investigation began.

. . .

Neither Mr. Keller nor the publisher had done much
digging into Ms. Miller's contacts with any of her
confidential sources about Ms. Plame before the
subpoena arrived on Aug. 12, 2004. Neither had
reviewed her notes, for instance. Mr. Keller also didn't
look into whether Ms. Miller had proposed a story
about the Plame leak to an editor.

"I wish that when I learned Judy Miller had been
subpoenaed as a witness in the leak investigation, I
had sat her down for a thorough debriefing, and
followed up with some reporting of my own," he
wrote to me, adding later, "If I had known the details
of Judy's engagement with Libby, I'd have been more
careful in how the paper articulated its defense."

What does the future hold for Ms. Miller? She told me
Thursday that she hopes to return to the paper after
taking some time off. Mr. Sulzberger offered this
measured response: "She and I have acknowledged
that there are new limits on what she can do next." It
seems to me that whatever the limits put on her, the
problems facing her inside and outside the newsroom
will make it difficult for her to return to the paper as a

And those problems do seem to be piling up, don’t they?

But they’re nothing compared to the problems facing the
Bush Administration

Nearly a year after his re-election, President George W.
Bush is in a slump caused by the Iraq war, two
hurricanes and a criminal investigation centering on
two top White House aides. Republicans are nervously
hoping for a rebound.

Bush's agenda is in tatters. His ambitious plan to
change the Social Security retirement system, already
faltering, has been submerged by the need to rebuild
New Orleans and other areas devastated by
hurricanes Katrina and Rita and his fellow Republicans
are getting heartburn over the cost.

His bid to divert criticism over the slow federal
response to Katrina and improve the daily onslaught
of negative headlines by nominating White House
counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court failed.

Her nomination triggered anger from conservatives
who doubt Miers's credentials and skepticism from
Democrats who worry that she is anti-abortion.

The American death toll from the Iraq war, launched
over weapons of mass destruction that were never
, nears 2,000 amid a raging insurgency and no
firm timetable for withdrawal.

The 800-pound gorilla in the room at meetings of
Bush's inner-circle is a special prosecutor's
investigation into who leaked the name to the media
of a covert CIA agent in 2003 to try and undermine a
former diplomat who became a prominent critic of the

If that’s a slump, I’d hate to see what the press considers
a full-fledged political crisis.

(It would probably require oral sex in the Oval Office.)

But remember, one man’s slump is another man’s holiday.

My how the times have changed.