COHEN (10/18/05): A clarification: A number of readers, some of them formerly of the CIA, got the impression from my last column that I don't consider the outing of a covert employee a serious matter. I do.But if Cohen does think such an outing is serious, his previous column makes no sense at all. Just click here for the gory details. Sic semper mainstream columnists.
Meanwhile, the Times John Tierney tells us today that the outing of Plame wasnt especially serious. Reason? There was little chance it would get her harmed or killed, he says. But is it possible that the outing of Plame compromised U.S. security interests? Tierney saves his argument by failing to address this concern.
But so it has gone, in our mainstream press corps, over the course of the past fifteen years. For ourselves, wed be inclined to consider the no harm, no foul rule in a matter like this. But was harm done when Rove arranged to out Plame? Weve seen no journalistic effort to examine that obvious question. As always with our mainstream press, the most obvious questions of all never quite come into range.
In the wake of Sundays reports in the New York Times about the Judith Miller matter, many observers have clucked about the papers, dysfunctional conduct. But the Times has been a dysfunctional mess for years—at least back to its still-unexplained Whitewater stories, which began in 1992. In fact, the perfumed stars of our mainstream press have been weirdly dysfunctional for years. Wed guess that thats the inevitable result of too much fame and too much money—but the clownishness has been standard for years. For some reason, most career liberals kept their mouths shut when this clowning was aimed at Clinton and Gore. Now, liberals sometimes protest a bit too much—and profess an amazing amazement at the press corps dysfunctional habits.
SPEAKING OF STANDARD DYSFUNCTION: Speaking of those who protest too much, here was excitable Chris Matthews, opening last evenings Hardball:
MATTHEWS (10/17/05): Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews. Two summers ago, Vice President Dick Cheney was under attack. A former diplomat had published an article in the New York Times that he—the number two man in the government—had let the president to take us to war on bad intel, that there was no deal to buy uranium from Africa and the vice president knew about it, yet let the president tell the country there was. Did the vice president take steps to discredit the charge being made against him, or did he sit there and take it? Did he tell his staff to get on the case of knocking down the diplomat`s story and the diplomat with it, or did Cheney`s staff do that on its own?To his credit, Matthews did good work in the run-up to Iraq. After a fumbling start, he opposed the war, and he produced some of the only skeptical work on cable in the months before war began. But now, hes in Standard Excitement Mode; last night, our analysts rolled their eyes at the statement we highlight above. No, President Bush didnt tell the country that Iraq had made a deal to buy uranium from Africa. But as weve explained again and again: If you want to preserve the sense that Joe Wilson debunked Bushs troubling State of the Union, you have to shave the facts somewhere. Here, Matthews pretends that Bush told the country that a uranium deal had been made. Bush, of course, said no such thing. But heres how Chris would have had to proceed if hed offered real accuracy:
MATTHEWS REVISED: Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews. Two summers ago, Vice President Dick Cheney was under attack. A former diplomat had published an article in the New York Times suggesting that he—the number two man in the government—had let the president take us to war on bad intel, that there was no deal to buy uranium from Africa and the vice president knew about it, yet let the president tell the country that Niger had sought uranium from Africa. No, the diplomats report didnt actually contradict what Bush said, but the press corps acted as if it did anyway. Did the vice president take steps to discredit the charge being made against him...As you can see, Matthews opening loses some bite if he reports what actually happened. But so it has gone for more than two years, all through this high-profile episode. Mainstream scribes have had to shave facts to create contradiction between Bush and Wilson. So thats exactly what they have done, over and over again, from the start. Tomorrow, well try to show you how it is that the press corps bought into this false contradiction. But its easy to see what happened last night. Matthews misstated what Bush really said to create some high-octane excitement.
Meanwhile, does anyone shave the facts like Arianna? Sadly, heres the way she concluded her session with Keith Olbermann on Countdown last night:
HUFFINGTON (10/17/05): We reported in The Huffington Post last week, before the story was out in the New York Times, that Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal were working on stories tying the vice president to Plamegate. So no, the way that the vice president is being investigated by Fitzgerald precedes the report in the New York Times.It gets thicker and thicker, Keith said. Was he referring to his guests growing bullsh*t? How could Miller have known what Cheney knew? Arianna drew the net around Miller with these purring closing remarks. But its obvious what Miller meant in the part of her article under review here. As is obvious from reading Millers piece, Miller said no, Scooter Libby didnt tell me what Cheney knew about these matters. Yesterday, Harry Shearer explained this point on Ariannas own site, although the matter would have been clear to people familiar with English.
Obviously as Judy Miller herself wrote in her account, she was asked by Fitzgerald during her questioning whether she thought that the vice president was knowledgeable about what her conversations with Scooter Libby were about. And she actually replied, No. I have no idea how she knew what the vice president knew and didn`t know. But she said, No.
OLBERMANN: It gets thicker and thicker. Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post, who also has an article on the state of the Democratic Party coming out in "Radar" magazine next week, thanks for your time tonight, Arianna.
Yep! Whichever way the pendulum swings, theres one great constant in our sad discourse. The hacks and the flunkees will torture the facts, improving the drama and scorching their foes. Sic semper Chris and Arianna—and your bizarre, broken press corps.
THE WAY SHE WAS: But then, heres Arianna in the year 2000, helping send George Bush to the White House. At the time, she was supporting Bill Bradley—and she was willing to do and say anything about Gore. In real time, we cadged her comments from the Washington Times—a paper which was only too happy to publish her account of Gores chronic deception (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/17/00). She rattled off the Official Approved Tales, helping put Bush in the White House:
HUFFINGTON (2/6/00): He invented the Internet, discovered Love Canal, and was the inspiration for "Love Story." He lives on a farm, and was always "pro-choice"...Embarrassing, isnt it? All the Standard Idiot Stories, delivered straight from the great liberals mouth! (By the way, Gore always was pro-choice, as was Mario Cuomo.) But then, why not read the whole freakin thing? Every bit of it is fake, base, malformed. But so what? Gore had displayed a gift for spinning, double talk and out-and-out lying of which [Bill Clinton] would be proud, Arianna wrote. Go ahead—read the whole thing, as she recites the dim-witted tales which eventually put Bush in the White House.
But then, just a few months earlier, Arianna had even pretended that Gore was campaigning in troubling four-button suits! It's just not the way Americans dress, she complained, playing the consummate fool for Geraldo (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/12/00). Idiot then, idiot now—its simply the way of your fake, phony press corps. Today, the idiocy is put to the service of liberals—but as we examine Ariannas past, we see that her tendency to fake and mislead helps explain how Bush got in office. Ariannas clowning helped elect Bush. Now she clowns about the things which have happened since hes been there.
THE GALSTON OF IT ALL: Of course, if youre Kamarck and Galston, youll pretend it happened a different way. In 2000, the Bush campaign very successfully painted Al Gore as someone prone to exaggeration, youll say (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/13/05). No, that isnt what actually happened—but good career liberals all know to pretend. They know to cover for Arianna—and for Kit, and for Chris, and dear Ceci.
TOMORROW: Why did the press corps miss the problem with Wilsons contradiction of Bush? (Note: None of this means that the outing of Plame may not have been a real crime.)