Sunday, October 30, 2005

NYT: David E. Rosenbaum, Elisabeth Bumiller, Eric Schmitt, Scott Shane, Douglas Jehl and Adam Liptak on leaks and White House scandals

David E. Rosenbaum has a curious kind of article in this morning's New York Times. It's entitled "The Latest in Second-Term Scandals" and it's a curious piece indeed.

Rosenbaum notes that Reagan's popularity took a hit as news of Iran-Contra broke. He then notes that it went back up by the summer. What Rosenbaum leaves out is that the breaking news in February was covered. After which, the press wasn't interested in covering it. You watched the hearings and read the paper summaries, you were getting a report that didn't match what you'd seen. (Robert Parry has written of this in depth, those new to the subject can start here.) So the power of the press (to run with a story or to conceal one) is left out.

What else is left out?

So much. But I'll assume Rosnebaum's old enough to know better re: Iran-Contra.

But did no one at the paper think of the role of the press in scandals? Did, for instance, no one suggest that considering the paper's current Judith Miller problems, maybe Ike should be left out of the rundown?

Eisenhower, Rosenbaum tells you, hit a low point in 1958, mid-point of his second term. Would Ike have hit a lower point in 1952 if it were known that Mohammed Mossadegh was ousted in a CIA coup? And what of the Times?

Would it take a hit if it were widely known that Judith Miller is one in a long of Millers? The Miller back then was Kennett Love. He knew the CIA was involved. He knew that Mossadegh wasn't high on communism (had, in fact, outlawed it). He knew there was truth and there was what made it into the paper. He knew the CIA was funding upheaval. He didn't write about it then. His excuse, when he was confronted with, of all things, a college term paper (Princeton) that he wrote afterward, was one of "patriotism."

No doubt Judith Miller could offer the same excuse if she wanted.

There is an attitude from some (such as the latter day Dylan of the net) that the Times was putting truths into print up until they went after Bill Clinton (Jeff Gerth being the leader there).
That's simply not true. The Times has always had an interesting take on the truth. And reporters like Miller have been given wide berth provided they went with official sources.

Miller is one person of many currently at the Times. Dexter Filkins' rah-rah reporting of the slaughter in Falluja will come back to haunt the paper. Maybe it will take forty years and maybe some latter day Beck will be focused on how President Jenna Bush is getting a pass from reporter X and screaming that "The Times has started lying! And they just started this four years ago when a Democrat was in the White House!" It won't be true then, it's not true now.

Love isn't the only one from his time period. Miller's not the only one from her's. The Times has always been very good at taking dictation. The latter day Dylan is myopic when it comes to "vision." He's focused solely on Bill Clinton and Al Gore and solely on the domestic shores. He can have whatever narrow (and disappointing) focus he wants. But for him to scold others constantly for getting something wrong or "wrong" ("wrong" when it's a dispute over opinion but he tries to act as though it's over facts), he needs to get his act together and stop claiming that when Bill Clinton ran for president everything changed at the Times. Or else, and this may very well be the case, he often writes like a neoliberal, he needs to say, "I know they screwed up coverage over and over and in some cases 'lie' is the only word for it, but I don't care. I don't care about the rest of the world and I don't care about anything but Al Gore and Bill Clinton."

But for the supposed fact based, latter day Dylan to put out the misinformation that the Times was committed to factual reporting until Bill Clinton came along is appalling.

We'll note Scott Shane's "Cover-Up, Nothing but the Cover-Up" because Marcia grasps what latter day Dylan doesn't. From Shane's article:

From Watergate to Iran-contra, from the Monica Lewinsky case to the current one, the pattern has been the same. The offense that launched the investigation rarely ends up in the bill of particulars when indictments come down. Instead, the charges are often related to the cover-up, which, Mr. Colson recalled, President Richard M. Nixon could be heard on the White House tapes presciently declaring as potentially more dangerous than the original crime.

Marcia: Note the links. A link to Iran, no link to Iran-Contra even though as a subscriber to the paper, I can go through the archives and get a 100 articles a month for free. I'll take that as an admission on the part of the Times that they have nothing worth reading on the Iran-Contra period.

Good call, Marica. It's also true that the Times doesn't know what to do with their website, but a larger message (and the sense of apathy) may be behind that.

Elisabeth Bumiller, teamed up with Eric Schmitt, has a strong opening in "In Indictment's Wake, a Focus on Cheney's Powerful Role:"

Vice President Dick Cheney makes only three brief appearances in the 22-page federal indictment that charges his chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., with lying to investigators and misleading a grand jury in the C.I.A. leak case. But in its clear, cold language, it lifts a veil on how aggressively Mr. Cheney's office drove the rationale against Saddam Hussein and then fought to discredit the Iraq war's critics.
The document now raises a central question: how much collateral damage has Mr. Cheney sustained?
Many Republicans say that Mr. Cheney, already politically weakened because of his role in preparing the case for war, could be further damaged if he is forced to testify about the infighting over intelligence that turned out to be false. At the least, they say, his office will be temporarily off balance with the resignation of Mr. Libby, who controlled both foreign and domestic affairs in a vice presidential office that has served as a major policy arm for the West Wing.

The generous take on the above is that Bumiller's been awakened by the scandal. The not so generous take is that someone's floating a trail balloon and once again using the Times to test it.

Douglas Jehl. We can't not note Jehl since we've already noted Shane. Noting Shane means the angry e-mails of "you play favorites" will pour in any way so let's note Jehl and give the petty & the jealous (soon to be a daytime drama based upon the Times) something to really whine about. From Jehl's "Indictment Gives Glimpse Into a Secretive Operation:"

The antipathy felt by Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby toward Mr. Wilson, in the aftermath of the invasion, has also long been known. But the events spelled out in the 22-page indictment suggest a far more active, earlier effort by the vice president's office to gather information about him and his wife.
The indictment tracks a period in the spring of 2003, at a time when the American failure to find illicit weapons in Iraq meant that the administration's rationale for war was beginning to unravel, and when early reports about Mr. Wilson's 2002 trip, which had not yet identified him by name, raised questions about whether the White House should have known just how weak its case had been, particularly involving Iraq and nuclear weapons.
By any measure, the indictment suggests that Mr. Libby and others went to unusual lengths to gather information about Mr. Wilson and his trip. An initial request on May 29, 2003, from Mr. Libby to Marc Grossman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, led Mr. Grossman to request a classified memorandum from Carl Ford, the director of the State Department's intelligence bureau, and later Mr. Grossman orally briefed Mr. Libby on its contents.

Adam Liptak goes over the odds (of conviction) in " The Legal Issues: It May Be Wrong, but Is It Perjury? For Prosecutors, That Is Often the Challenge" so those interested should check out his article.

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