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Monday, December 05, 2005

A Few Questions for Viveca Novak

Well Viveca, your good friend Robert Luskin seems to have catapulted you into the middle of political bedlam. How exactly does one get through this present situation with one's journalistic integrity intact? Judy Miller and Bob Woodward have subsequently rendered their credibility insufficient to hawk the Popeil Drain Buster and offer no guidance. Matt Cooper, having had the foresight to understand that the leak was a "War on Wilson" and having written the first (and best) account of his grand jury testimony, offers a road map.

Your friend David Corn admirably leapt to your defense, referring to you as "my old friend Viveca Novak, a kick-ass reporter for Time magazine." He claims that Luskin was a longtime source of yours and "not a close friend (as has been wrongly reported)," without mentioning that the day before he was the one who wrongly reported it. Never mind the fact that Corn, approaching 50, uses the phrase "kick-ass" without irony as if he were still lighting a match at a Foghat concert.

We applaud his chivalry and are willing to overlook the fact that his blog now appears to be written by Harriet Miers. But it does raise the awkward question -- what exactly was your relationship with Robert Luskin? We will do you the courtesy of presuming you were not buttering each other's toast at the St. Regis like Scooter and Judy, but where does it fall along the contiuum, say, from narc/snitch to "let's load up on Manhattans and hit the handbag sale at Barney's?"

So in the spirit of being helpful we offer up a few suggestions for questions it would be nice to have answered in your upcoming piece for Time, which we read will be forthcoming after you tell-all to Patrick Fitzgerald:

1. When and where did the fated "over drinks" conversation with Luskin take place, and what did you say that purportedly "tipped him off?" How many drinks had you had and did it affect your judgment? Did you in any way indicate you knew who Cooper's source was? It's been reported that when Luskin said Karl was out of danger your response was "that's not what I hear." What were you trying to garner from him? Isn't that a tip-off pure and simple? Didn't he get more out of you than you got out of him?

2. Did you go back to your editors immediately afterward and say "hey, funny thing, you'll never believe what Rove's lawyer says..." Or did the significance of the encounter not occur to you at the time? If it DID occur to you and you DIDN'T speak up, why the delay?

3. How exactly did you know Matt Cooper's source? When did you know it? How widely was it known around Time?

4. Did you wait until it became apparent that your colleague would very likely go to jail for a man who never intended to give him a waiver before you went to your editors and said "hey, I don't know exactly how this fits in, but before they ship Matt off to some Romanian gulag for waterboarding I thought I should mention...?" Or did you wait until after July 2005 to mention this all to your editors?

5. Why aren't you fighting talking to Fitzgerald? Why isn't Time, Inc.? Why comply without even so much as a brief? Is it because Luskin was not a confidential source? If he wasn't, what was he?

6. Will you turn over notes as well? If so, what is contained in those notes? Will you publish at least part of them?

7. When will you testify? Where? Will you tell us if you refused to answer any questions?

8. Who is your lawyer? How long has he/she represented you and is Time, Inc. paying for them?

9. Have you had any previous formal or informal communication with Fitzgerald or his staff prior to this point?

10. When did Luskin inform you that he was going to Fitzgerald about your conversation? Did it put a crimp in your relationship? Did you ask him not to?

11. Please describe your friendship with Luskin. Have you ever had, say, a social dinner or Cosmos with him or been to his home or had him to yours for a social visit?

12. How do you feel about claims that you will now provide the backbone of Karl Rove's defense? I mean, Karl Rove. The man who was perfectly happy to cause a First Amendment crisis over a conversation he'd already testified about? The man who spends his days trying to shred the Bill of Rights into a tidy heap of cat box litter? The man who would have happily seen your colleague rot in prison to save his sorry ass? David Corn says you're not a resident of wingnuttia, and this we believe. It's got to rankle.

13. Did you apologize to Time, Inc, your editors, and to Matt Cooper? Do you think you owe it to them? If not, why not? If tipping off Luskin was in the service of reporting, what did you as a reporter and Time Magazine get out of it?

14. Will you sit for interviews with serious reporters (and by that we don't mean Larry King) or will you hide out like Bob Woodward?

15. Who will pay your legal bills? Assuming there is a clause in your contract that requires employees to act in good faith before the employer assumes their legal bills, do you think that Time, Inc. should have to pay yours?

16. Did you ever mention to anyone else besides Luskin either personally or professionally that you knew who Cooper's source was?

I think you have a really wonderful opportunity here Viveca to go to school on Woodward and Miller who denied their own culpability and ratholed the juicy bits for fat book deals that may never materialize and blamed it all on Patrick Fitzgerald, with predictably disastrous results. Bob Woodward is looking at life in the remainder bin while Judy Miller will probably languish in the Regnery ghetto or battle Kay Grogan in some steel-cage death match for column inches over at Renew America. But even if those options were available, it is unimaginable that you -- or anyone -- would want them.

Your upcoming reconciliation of all these disparate threads is anxiously awaited.

By the way, did any of this come up in your interview with Bob Woodward?