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JUST AS WE HAVE LONG SAID! Why was Miller given free rein? Alterman goes to Sag Harbor: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2005

MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL: Who’s the funniest Washington celeb of them all? It’s not too late to blow cash on this. And your money will go to an excellent cause—the cost of the Mayflower Ballroom!

JUST AS WE HAVE LONG SAID: We strongly recommend Eric Alterman’s profile of the Times’ Judy Miller. Alterman takes on “the big question:” “How did it happen that Arthur Sulzberger and Bill Keller let so dishonest and slippery a character as Judy Miller hijack the institution of the New York Times for her own nefarious purposes and humiliate its entire echelon of top leadership?” In one way, this situation really shouldn’t be puzzling; as we’ve long noted, the Times has been deeply dysfunctional for years. Bad judgment is a norm at the Times, not a puzzling anomaly. But you should read Alterman’s explanation in full. “There’s no simple answer” to his question, he says. But then, he provides a fairly simple answer—Miller was allowed to clown because she’s rich and socially prominent in high insider New York circles. Because we think this is so significant, we’ll quote The Big A at some length:

ALTERMAN (10/18/05): Again, the answer is ultimately unknowable, but I’ve always felt it was a matter of social power. Judy is married to Jason Epstein, who is one of the most widely admired and well-liked people in all of New York. Jason is a legend of an editor, and was widely referred to for decades, almost every time you heard his name as “the smartest man in New York.” He practically invented the trade paperback book, and played key roles in the founding of The New York Review of Books and the Library of America. He is also the editor to some of our greatest fiction and non-fiction writers. What’s more, he is a charming raconteur and a famous amateur chef. Maybe he’s got some bad qualities, but I’ve never heard any mentioned. Anyway, Jason and Judy are famous hosts, at their apartment in the Police Building downtown and their Sag Harbor House, and they sit at the nexus of an extremely important social network that nobody wants to be thrown out of. (I saw Jason, whom I like and admire, at a party the night before Miller’s last testimony and did not know what to say to him, given what I’ve written about his wife. I’m sure a lot of people don’t want that problem.) The fact that Judy was also close to Arthur Sulzberger made her nearly untouchable, no matter what she did inside the paper. As Keller admits in the long take-out, he could not control her. She had more power to get her reporting in the paper than he felt he did to keep her out.
Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t think all that much of The New York Review of Books, or the Library of America, or of “our greatest fiction and non-fiction writers,” for that matter (depending on who they might be, of course). We used to subscribe to the New York Review because it’s the only place you can read bad “philosophy.” But setting all that turmoil to the side, Alterman’s hunch reflects the view we ourselves came to some time ago—the hapless performance of our media elite is a function of excessive wealth and power. Inevitably, foppishness follows such wealth and such fame—and the foppish culture of our high press elite has been on display in the Miller saga. Why did no one rein her in? Because she has a nice home at Sag Harbor, and people like to go there for parties! Alterman deserves your full respect for talking about a culture he’s close to. We strongly recommend that you read and think about his full post.

By the way, while we’re at it, let’s go where we generally prefer not to: Keller’s no social slouch himself. In fact, back in his San Mateo days, his dad was the CEO of Chevron! The press corps rarely discusses such matters. But here is the New York Times notice of his marriage to Emma Gilbey:

NEW YORK TIMES (4/11/99): Emma Gilbey, an author and journalist, was married yesterday to Bill Keller, the managing editor of The New York Times. The Rev. Robert J. Kennedy performed the ceremony at the Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan.

Ms. Gilbey, 38, is keeping her name. She is the author of "The Lady: The Life and Times of Winnie Mandela" (Jonathan Cape, 1993). The bride graduated from King's College of London University.

She is the daughter of Anthony J. Gilbey of Wangford, England, and the late Lenore Gilbey. The bride's father is the chairman of Gilbey Collections, a London company that commissions limited edition commemorative items. Her mother was a journalist.

Mr. Keller, 50, graduated from Pomona College. He is the son of Adelaide and George M. Keller of San Mateo, Calif. The bridegroom's father retired as the chairman and chief executive of the Chevron Corporation in San Francisco.

“Emma is a distant relative of the gin Gilbeys,” the Washington Post’s Reliable Source noted, “and a cousin of James Gilbey, notorious for calling Princess Diana ‘Squidgy.’”

Not that there’s anything wrong with it! And let’s be sure to note one point: When Keller’s dad was head of Chevron, CEOs didn’t typically loot the till to hand themselves today’s massive paychecks. But foppish culture has spread like the plague in the years since the senior Keller retired. Alterman gives us a valuable look at the foppish morés of today’s press elite—the kind of insight a well-placed scribe will generally choose not to proffer.

HEAT DEFEATS LIGHT: Some readers have railed when we’ve said it—when we’ve said that the liberal web has sometimes become more unbalanced than the mainstream press corps itself. But courtesy of the Huffington Post, here we see another example—Jane Hamsher’s tract against “exceptional media contortionist Andrea Mitchell.” In her post, Hamsher recycles a claim we’ve seen all around the liberal web:

HAMSHER: [V]ia the Chicago Tribune, March 5, 2004 we learn that Fitzgerald has subpoenaed not only the guest list, but at least one of the guests from this particular dinner.
As you can see from Hamsher’s post, it’s Mitchell who was supposedly subpoenaed. Hamsher continues: “Rather than spend my time ranting about Andrea Mitchell and her shameless insistence on covering this story like she wasn't up to her eyeballs in it, I'll bow to a superior pen and let Digby rant about Mitchell shooting the breeze on Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Hamsher then links to this Digby post; in it, the Digster insists that both Mitchell and Matthews were subpoenaed by Fitzgerald, and he criticizes them, in the rantiest terms, because “neither of these fine reporters have actually, you know, reported what that was about.”

Except, of course, for one small fact: As far we know, Mitchell and Matthews have not been subpoenaed. As is clear in that 3/5/04 Tribune report, the subpoenas in question “were issued to the White House,” not to Mitchell or Matthews or anyone else; in these subpoenas, the White House was required to provide telephone records of phone calls to a long string of journalists. Mitchell and Matthews were on the (long) list, but they themselves have not been subpoenaed, although some other journalists have. By the way: What would it mean if they had been subpoenaed? The Post’s Walter Pincus was subpoenaed, and he’s regarded as a liberal hero. Hamser speaks ironically in calling her post a “rant,” but she comes pretty close to the truth. (See long excerpts of the Tribune piece here, at TalkLeft.)

For the record, Matthews has been openly cheerleading for indictments over the course of the past few weeks. He’s been on Libby’s case for years (ditto Cheney’s). But at several stops on the liberal web, he’s been tarred and feathered in the past two weeks—for adopting the White House line on this matter! Meanwhile, he and Mitchell have been trashed for not explaining the troubling subpoenas they got—the subpoenas in the Chicago Trib, the ones which actually went to George Bush. Long speculations have appeared on the web—speculations based on a false fact.

Via Josh Marshall, the Hotline has now posted a list “of everyone who's been interviewed, interviewed under oath, appeared before the grand jury or whatever in the Plame case.” Russert and Novak are on the list; Matthews and Mitchell aren’t. Did M and M get subpoenas? Clearly, the Tribune report says something different, although we’re willing to learn that they have. We’ve Nexised and Nexised until we’ve turned blue, and we’ve found no such report.

Is Mitchell “up to her eyeballs” in this? It can feel real good to say such things, but does it help liberal causes?