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Saturday, December 17, 2005

We Got Gamed

Would Dubya have offered up his "kiss my ass in Macy's window" taunt to the public about the authorization of the NSA's warrant-free wiretaps had it been revealed a year ago when the New York Times first knew it was happening? Which would have put it... take off my shoes, 10, 11, 12...around election time last year?

This isn't the first time we've heard of a major news media outlet rolling over for the White House as they sought to keep their dirty laundry out of the election headlines. As emptywheel reminds us, the New York Times was also at this very same time covering up the fact that Scooter Libby was quite possibly trying to obstruct Judy Miller's testimony.

And let's not forget the fact that Time Magazine did not even seek a waiver from Karl Rove on behalf of Matt Cooper until long after the election. From the LAT:
Time editors were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year....The result was that Cooper's testimony was delayed nearly a year, well after Bush's reelection.
Much of this probably comes from not wanting to suffer the fate of Dan Rather at the hands of White House thugs -- after all, the same news outlets who became so delicate about "influencing the election" had no trouble giving those Swift Boat nutjobs the copious amounts of time they needed for their deranged accusations to induce a national fugue state. But for whatever reason they decided they had priorities that superseded reporting important stories during an election year which could quite possibly have changed the outcome.

The GOP found a much more effective and subversive way to steal an election in 2004 that avoided all the flap and hubub of 2000. And the next person who pops off about the "liberal media" takes one in the eye.


Three Million? That's K Street Chump Change

From China Daily:
Lu Wanli, former head of the Communications Department of southwest China's Guizhou province, was executed Friday in Guiyang for taking huge amounts of bribes, according to the Supreme People's Court.

The supreme court, which re-examined and approved the execution, holds that Lu had taken more than 25.59 million yuan (US$3.16 million) worth of bribes from June 1998 through January 2002 when he served as the provincial communications chief and general manager of the provincial expressway development company.

In addition, he failed to account for another 26.51 million yuan (US$3.27 million) of property, said the supreme court.
Would Ahnold or Dubya be quite so sanguine about torture and execution if it wasn't, say, someone swarthy, female or retarded but rather a white male hot tub aficionado with a penchant for five finger discounts from the taxpayer trough?

They might want to rethink their orgasmic enthusiasm for lethal injection before this thing goes global and wipes out the entire Republican party.

(hat tip Granite State Destroyer)



Well well well. What do we have here?

George W. Bush has picked new nominees for the FEC. One is a Republican, Hans von Spakovsky, whom Ted Kennedy says "may be at the heart of the political interference that is undermining the [Justice] Department's enforcement of federal civil laws." And in an uncharacteristic moment of cheerful bipartisanship, Bush is also appointing a Democrat, Robert D. Lenhard, who was quite helpful to the 1600 Crew as part of the legal team that challenged the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

But there is perhaps another reason why Mr. Lenhard is being rewarded by BushCo. at just this moment. He's the husband of Viveca Novak, whose testimony now provides the foundation for Karl Rove's defense in the CIA leak case.

A small but rather key fact that both the Washington Post and the White House Press Release manages to leave out, wouldn't you say? They WaPo is having quite a stint in the GOP stenography department this week, it would seem.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Twenty-Three Skidoo and CJR Too

Although I'm quite flattered to have my blue line about penis-shaped ornaments on the Clinton Christmas tree quoted in a respectable publication like the Columbia Journalism Review (Hey, Mom, guess what?, no need to go read it...) I am a bit disconcerted to find such an august periodical dismissing the Froomkin flap and the GOP extortion of the Washington Post as a figment of the overheated liberal imagination:
[T]he brouhaha has some liberal bloggers revving their engines (froom, froom, frooooom ...) and chasing down what they imagine to be yet another right-wing conspiracy.
As Anonymous Liberal says quite well, this position wholly misstates both the nature of the problem at hand, and the quote-unquote "liberal critique:"
In other words, we don't think the media is actively pursuing conservative interests; we think that the media, through its rigid adherence to certain journalistic conventions, has unintentionally contributed to the cheapening of political discourse. Put another way, unscrupulous partisans have learned to game the system. They've realized that the painfully formulaic structure of today's mainstream political reporting allows even the most dishonest and misleading talking points to gain currency.


Conservatives already dismiss all the reporting they don't like as the work of liberal critics. They've been doing this for over two decades and to great effect. In fact, it is this very allegation that has led political reporters to adhere so religiously to a format in which accuracy is routinely sacrificed in the name of "balance," and neutrality is valued above even truth. What a sad irony it is that Harris thinks these journalistic conventions make life more difficult for the White House. The truth is that the White House's political strategy entirely depends on this style of reporting. The key to Karl Rove's political success was his realization that he could count on mainstream journalists--who now fear, above all, the dreaded 'liberal bias' charge--to present almost any talking point, no matter how ludicrous, in a dueling narrative format free from any independent editorial judgment. Fear of the bias charge has essentially tied reporters hands behind their backs, making them unwilling or unable to do more than present differing narratives. The beauty of this strategy for the White House is that it's self-reinforcing: the more conservatives yell "liberal bias," the more rigid the balanced format becomes. And it certainly doesn't help matters when people like Harris contribute to the problem by accusing colleagues of liberal bias. The reality is that the White House has absolutely no desire to do away with this system. Why should they? It has served conservative political interests remarkably well over the years. As it stands, conservatives can dismiss reporting they don't like as the work of liberal critics while at the same time using the self-imposed neutrality of the press to facilitate the spread of misinformation. And those two strategies actually reinforce one another.
That the analysis of the situation by "the country's premier media monitor" is that glib and shallow and seemingly lacking in any appreciation whatsoever of the political dynamics working to hobble modern journalism is quite sad. I don't want to get on a high bloggy horse about the whole thing but I haven't seen anything that didn't come out of the blogosphere worth a damn on the whole topic.

The CJR wants to dismiss this as a "liberal blogosphere" phantom? Fine. They can just go spoon in the rumble seat with their Wilkie buttons, we'll wake them when the war's over.


It's An Honor Just To Be Nominated. Really.

Well it looks like we've won our first blog award. Which is a little weird because I always thought the Weblog awards were a little wingy, but they seem to have been quite dominated by lefties this year. The lgf camp must have been otherwise occupied bidding for Jesus pretzels on ebay or something.

Congratulations to Bob Geiger, Crooks & Liars, Pam Spaulding, Sadly No, Roger Ailes, Daily Kos, AmericaBlog and of course the General, who has kindly translated our name as LacDogduFeu. I'm kinda liking it. Kinda classy.

And let me just say up front that if there was any justice in this world Digby would've kicked everyone's ass


Oh the Injustice

Keenly spotting a vacuum in the Tammy Faye Baker 1986 Contempo Casual fashion niche no one else was aware of, the rode-hard-and-put-up-wet wife of Mets Pitcher Kris Benson is now opining on the aesthetics of Michael Moore and displaying a a finely nuanced reading of Kant, I believe:
"...Forget about how un-American you are, how politically retarded you are, or how fat you look while slobbering your political garbage all over everyone, mainly, I despise you for the fact that you make money off of influencing the young minds of America to be Bush-haters."


"You are a selfish, pathetic excuse for an American, and you can take your big fat ass over to Iraq and get your pig head cut off and stuck on a pig pole. Then, you can have your equally as fat wife make a documentary about how loudly you squealed while terrorists were cutting through all the blubber and chins to..."
Could Anna Benson's strip mall perm be all in a tangle because the ungrateful Mets are trading her?
"We would never, ever have signed with New York if they had said they were going to trade us," said Anna Benson, 29. "I was Miss [Politically Correct] for the Mets the entire time I was there.
I don't really follow baseball so I wasn't aware the Mets had entered the pole dancing business, but be that as it may why would Fox News sign cranky, cadaverous old Robert Novak to a contract when such an obvious source of understated political wisdom goes begging?

(via Wolcott)


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fight the Power

It's too bad Mean Jean and her broom were in Washington yesterday when FDL regulars Karen Allen and froggermarch went to her office with a group of 25 people to present her with a "Bring Our Troops Home From Iraq" petition signed by 800 people. Says Karen:
Jean's office is at all times locked.  At first, the staff member who answered the door didn't want us to even enter the office; she just wanted to reach out and take the petition.  We changed that.
After convincing them that they had not been prodded by out-of-town agitators but were legitimate constituents, they met with Mean Jean's chief of staff.

Says froggermarch:
BTW, as we left Mean Jean's office yesterday, it was interesting to note that she had a Yellow Ribbon on the door by a picture for a local serviceman who is MIA in Iraq.

The irony was resplendent. We are there to demand that the troops be brought home as soon as practicable and she who calls such people cowards has a symbol which expresses the same sentiment.

Actions, Jean, speak louder than ribbons.
Unfortunately Karen's camera went on the fritz so there is no photographic record but we're really proud of them both and thrilled that they met up here in the comments section and decided commit this poignant piece of political activism together.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Patrick Fitzgerald is a Busy Boy

What a delightful stocking stuffer. In a case totally unrelated to the Plame affair (unless you want to count the cosmic neocon comeuppance factor), Patrick Fitzgerald has added a superseding indictment for racketeering and obstruction to the fraud charges already faced by big neocon chiseler Conrad Black.

Meanwhile, the SEC is tantalizing us all by serving up Wells notices to Hollinger board members Marie-Josee Kravis (wife of Henry Kravis), Richard Burt, former US ambassador to Germany, and former Republican Illinois Governor James Thompson. A Wells notice is "a formal warning that the agency's enforcement staff has determined that evidence of wrongdoing is sufficient to bring a civil lawsuit."

You'll recall that Richard Perle was recently on the receiving end of a one of these babies in the Hollinger case.

While Kravis, Burt and Thompson are in the crosshairs for having served on the board's audit committee and rubber stamping Black's efforts to loot the company, it's worth noting that a) the SEC doesn't seem to be done, and b) their fellow board member at the time was Henry Kissinger.

A girl can dream, can't she?


I Forgot

Interesting article up at Slate by former Time Magazine staffer John Dickerson, who wrote the original War on Wilson article with Matt Cooper back in July, 2003:
According to several witnesses who have been interviewed by Fitzgerald and who have talked to me about their testimony, he appears to be suspicious about that change in Rove's narrative. The special counsel seems to think Rove remembered his conversation with Cooper all along but only testified about it when it became clear that Cooper was going to be forced to give up Rove as his source. If Fitzgerald thinks Rove willfully held back on him, it could be the basis for a perjury or obstruction of justice charge.

Rove's lawyer says there's an innocent explanation. He says it was Viveca Novak's suggestion that Rove might have been her colleague Cooper's source that sent Rove and his lawyer to re-examine Rove's records. In their search, they found an e-mail Rove had sent, shortly after speaking with Cooper, to Stephen Hadley, then deputy national security adviser, telling Hadley about the conversation. After finding the e-mail, Rove revised his account to the grand jury.
This is the version of the story that most reputable journalists (David Shuster et. al.) seem to be following, that Luskin claims his Vivac conversation sent him hunting through the files. But Luskin seems to be telling different stories to different people.

Jim VandeHei:
I don‘t think that this conversation between Viveca Novak and Luskin is about this whole change testimony and the e-mail that happened about seven months later.

I think what‘s happening is Luskin is probably trying to convince Fitzgerald that it would be foolish for Rove to have testified that first time before the grand jury that he did not have a conversation with Matthew Cooper when he knew from Luskin, who had learned from Viveca Novak, that everybody at “Time” was buzzing about the fact that there had been that conversation. 
VandeHei seems to be the only one promoting this particular theory. Does he have an incredible scoop or will he wind up looking like a credulous chump for being the only one to buy a batch of ludicrous ex-post-facto spin when the whole thing outs? I guess we'll know in time.

Dickerson also does a good job charting the major events of the time period that call into serious question Rove's "I forgot" defense. And he says:
A source close to Rove confirmed to me the widely held speculation that Rove was one of Novak's sources.
Did Rove cop to this when he talked to the FBI, or during one of his many grand jury appearances, and if so which one?

Dickerson then goes on to mention the fated Hadley email. In January 2004 when Fitzgerald subpoenaed the White House for emails from specific journalists, Cooper included, Dickerson was also on the list due to having co-written the "War on Wilson" article:
White House staffers searched for e-mails containing my name, and I know of at least two who handed over what they had to Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald is not only going to have to buy Rover's "I forgot" line of defense, he's also going to have to buy that an electronic search of emails did not turn up the Hadley memo in response to the original subpoena. Were they counting on the fact that Fitzgerald would never seize their computers to know if a memo or two never made its way to him like he would if he were prosecuting, say, the Gambinos? The next time someone bitches about how long the investigation is taking and how much money it's cost, just remember the kid gloves with which he's had to treat all these people who have worked so diligently to obstruct him.

(thanks to Pollyusa for the always useful links)

Update: Add Joe Conason to the list of people being told by Luskin that the Vivac conversation sent him on document hunt:
By October 2004, when [Rove] revised his flawed testimony in the grand jury, his recollection had improved, evidently thanks to a suggestive conversation between his defense lawyer, Robert Luskin, and Cooper's Time colleague Viveca Novak. As Novak recently explained, she had indicated to Luskin, in a meeting over drinks sometime between January and May 2004, that Cooper was saying he had spoken with Rove about Plame. According to Luskin, this alarming news prompted Rove to search his e-mail, where he found a contemporaneous message he had sent to Stephen Hadley in July 2003, then the deputy national security advisor, about his chat with Cooper.
VandeHei still maintains his source is "anonymous," while all the others source Luskin. I've always assumed VandeHei's source was Luskin too, but it makes you wonder who he's talking to, huh?

Update: Joe Conason was kind enough to email and clarify that he had not in fact spoken with Luskin, but was relying on the accounts of both Dickerson and Viveca Novak. The Salon piece is being changed to reflect that.


Let's Play Dodgeball!!

Sweet. John Harris, in his WaPo online chat this morning, graced us with these pearls of wisdom about the Plame affair:
To be honest, I've always regarded the "can't comment, under investigation" as a transparent dodge. But every politician uses it. As journalists, we should (and pretty often do) keep pressing even when we know the answer is likely to be no comment.
But what about himself? Why was he not answering Brad DeLong and the voluminous numbers of questions he no doubt received about his critique of Dan Froomkin and subsequent toplofty rebuttal?
As a journalist, I hate not answering questions, even from (in this case) someone who clearly was coming from a point of view quite hostile to me. But I had jointly decided with colleagues that I had responded enough to the blogosphere, so I took a pass.
One yardstick for others, a much more convenient one for himself. You can't say he hasn't learned much from his GOP masters.

He also referred to his critics as "the crankosphere." Cranky? I guess we are. Sorry if we're a bit peeved with so-called "journalists" acting as the long arm of the Republican party to crush all dissent from the pages of a major media outlet. But you make it so easy, John, by being such an imperious, lazy, supercilious partisan dick.

He says he is anxious for this to all blow over. Unlikely. The WaPo is now locked in the crosshairs for its kowtowing to power, and Harris just put a target on his back as an enthusiastic part of the problem who can't help running his mouth at the absolute worst moment.

Everyone's going to be watching, John. Just be who you are naturally. The rest will take care of itself.

Oh and I didn't get my question answered during the chat:
You wrote: "It has long also seemed to me that Joe Wilson's own activities -- publishing op-eds etc. -- were not exactly calculated to maintaining secrecy about himself and his family."

Given that you have now stepped out of your reporter role and into an advocacy role for the GOP by promoting the viewpoints of Patrick Ruffini (part of the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign), does that mean that others are within their rights to go rooting around into your private life and make public the names and occupations of your family members? That is what you suggest when you comment that Joe Wilsons writing op-eds somehow makes his family fair game.

Just curious.
No need to respond, John. Your uncharacteristic silence tells us all we need to know.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dawn of the Dead

Somewhere a tomb lies empty and several virgins no doubt bloodless. Robert Novak walks again.

What is that crafty old fucker up to saying yesterday that his source and Woodward's might be the same (good on Redd for sorting that out this morning), and that the President no doubt knows so why not ask him?

Number one -- Novak does not lob a grenade like that casually, despite Kate O'Bierne's protestations tonight on Hardball to that effect. Anybody catch that, by the way? Matthews damn near cut her head off. (And if that should happen Chris make sure you stuff the mouth with garlic and bury it at least a thousand yards away from the body, we don't want a repeat on our hands.)

Number two -- Novak knows who he works for, Karl Rove. Why would Rove want that out there and Bush on the hot seat like that? Well the answer of course is that I have no idea. But the best guess came from Frank Probst today in the comments:
I think Rove is nervous, and he's prodding Bush (via Novak) into saying something like, "I don't know who the leaker was." Or "Karl Rove has my complete support." Bush knows damn well that Rove leaked this. This is Rove fishing for a public defense from Bush. He has to tie himself to Bush in order to save himself. Because he knows that if he doesn't, his career--and possibly his freedom--is about to end.
And -- voila! -- today, like a trained monkey:
In an interview with Fox News, Bush said his relationship with Cheney had "only gotten better," and he remained "very close" to Rove, who could face charges in the criminal investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

"We're still as close as we've ever been," Bush said of Rove, brushing aside reports he was angry at his deputy chief of staff, who initially denied any role in the Plame leak. "We've been through a lot. You know, when we look back at the presidency and my time in politics, no question that Karl had a lot to do with me getting here, and I value his friendship."
Swopa reminds us that Novak in an egregious, habitual, bold-faced liar and argues that it is unlikely he was chatting up the same source as Woody, but thinks Bob's source could quite likely be Armitage.

Digby says if Woody and Novak have the same source it sure ain't Armitage, and notes that somebody in the administration took the trouble to program the WoodyBot to run in "Fitzgerald is out of control" mode. Does he realize he's been played for a fool now? Unlikely.

And if there is one don't-miss post today it is emptywheel's argument against Woodward's source being Armitage. I know Armitage is the favorite Woody leaker amongst the DC journalist set, but I'm not buying it and I think emptywheel thinks these things through a lot better than any of them do anyway. If any of them are thinking of taking the rings out of their noses, this is an excellent place to start.


A Little Holiday Cheer

Get into the holiday spirit by decorating your very own interactive Fitzmas tree with a treasury of GOP corruption ornaments. Is there really anything you want this year more than Rove's name on a 15 count indictment? If you take "world peace" and compromising photos of Jeff Gannon and just about any senior administration official off the table not much, that's for sure.

It's brought to you by the same folks who did the Rove's War DVD, a really informative and well-researched 120 minute look at Traitorgate and everything they hoped to cover up in the "War on Wilson." Lots interesting bits -- ARAMCO has an oil tanker named "Condoleezza Rice," who knew? It's a very good primer for everyone who's still scratching their head and wondering how it all got so complicated.

Oh and don't forget to open the package under the Christmas tree. Merry Fitzmas.


Feel the Magic

GOP political operative John F. Harris -- or, as Atrios has dubbed him, "Whiny-Ass Titty-Baby" -- will be having an online chat at the WaPo tomorrow morning at 11am ET/8am PT.

Stop by and show this dedicated professional journalist some love.


Fair and Balanced

If Brad DeLong's conversation with John Harris is any indication, the sad bastard is sweating bullets right now. I mean, how did this happen, really? Just because he tried to pass off an obvious GOP operative, former Bush/Cheney '04 webmaster Patrick Ruffini, as a "citizen blogger" to Jay Rosen? It worked so well when the GOP ginned up that whole crock with the TANG documents and those rodeo clowns at Powerline. Did anyone care that their "proof" was bullshit and their quote-unquote "document expert" Buckhead was a big Republican operative who knows about as much about obsolete typefaces as I do about string theory? No. "Dan Rather" is now the all-purpose hand grenade thrown by witless wingnuts everywhere whenever facts start to vex them.

Do you think he's probably regretting that he didn't check Ruffini's website before he went out there and said what Rover told him to, did not take a look around to see what an obvious shill the guy was? Is he worried that those extra cocktail weenies he was promised will not be forthcoming? When I clicked the link yesterday it took all of oh, five seconds to look up Ruffini's bio and figure out this was hardly the off-hour chicken scratchings of some Idaho potato farmer.

Karl fucked him up. And now rumor has it Harris might not survive this obvious stint as the GOP's go-to guy inside the WaPo. I mean, it's one thing to jump when Rove snaps his fingers. It's quite another to blab it to the world.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sweet Dreams, Little Wingnut

Karl Rove, Robert Luskin and various vacuous overly hairsprayed TV mannequins have managed to deflect most of the media attention onto Rove's legal liability over the sudden discovery of the Hadley email, but as Digby points out in a post today his culpability probably goes much deeper than that.

Rove has said at various times that he first learned of Plame from reporters, but he can't remember which one (or ones), and also that he heard from Scooter Libby. But as we know from the Libby indictment, Fitzgerald says that Rove -- or "Official X" -- is the one who mentions it to Libby, and not vice versa. He either did or didn't confirm or tell Robert Novak, and his Matt Cooper story has so many incarnations (or "rolling disclosures") it's a veritable urban legend all on its own.

Many, many opportunities for Rove's flexible (and one might say pathological) relationship with the truth to rear its ugly head.

But Digby notes an interesting chain in the Cooper tale. Despite the absurd "Luskin spoke to Viveca Novak" in January theory that only Jim VandeHei seems to be pursuing, most people reasonably assume that Rove probably testified the first time before the grand jury and said, in effect, "Matt who." And then some time after that, Luskin talks to Viveca Novak, who probably doesn't shake any earth when she tells him his client is Matt Cooper's source. But she does let him know that the story is in circulation, and that any one of a number of people might wag their chins at Fitzgerald.

So by the time Rove goes before the grand jury in October 2004, he still thinks Cooper might keep the details secret, but he'd better acknowledge some kind of conversation with Cooper lest people he can't control get gabby behind closed doors. Hence the cover story about "welfare reform" that eventually drifted off and momentarily touched down on Plame.

What Rove wasn't counting on was the fact that Time Magazine would eventually cave and turn over Cooper's notes and dash the whole welfare reform nonsense. And that is what ultimately led to Rove's next grand jury appearance, which some argue happened in early July 2005. Whether there is another grand jury appearance in there that makes the October 2005 the fifth one is open to debate, but I think that rumor just may be the result of sloppy reporting.

If anyone would like to argue that Rove somehow dripped this in front of Patrick Fitzgerald in staggering bouts of recovered memory in a way that seems plausible, I'm all ears. Because all I see is an inveterate liar being busted time and time again in his lies by a dogged and thorough prosecutor, even with Rove's own highly paid spinners being the sole dispenser of public information as Fitzgerald remains unflinchingly silent.

And the next time you hear some empty head on TV talking about how Fitzgerald will think twice before indicting someone as powerful as Karl Rove, don't believe it. I've spoken with people he's worked with in both the FBI and the justice department who say that while some US attorneys are reluctant to prosecute the high and the mighty for fear that as political appointees they'll ruin their careers, Patrick Fitzgerald is not one of them.

The wingnuts can tell that one to their little wingnutty offspring as they tuck them into bed at night if they want. Because that's all it is, a wingnut fairy tale.

(thanks to Pollyusa for links & heavy lifting)


Pauvre Tinkerbell

If John Harris wants to balance out Dan Froomkin at the WaPo with some wingnut twit, maybe he should do a Dick Cheney and nominate himself. Swopa digs out this bit from an online chat with Harris in October:
Washington, D.C.: Bottom line -- who is the source of the leak, if you had to make an educated guess?

John F. Harris: . . . We certainly know a lot more about how this story got spread than we did before, and the essential role of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and probably others in playing damage control against Joseph Wilson's allegations....

Blacksburg, Va.: Could you comment on US News & World Report's article from the 18th that stated that due to the CIA Leak case "the vice president might step aside..." Have you heard this from your sources as well? Do you think Cheney might be culpable in this probe as well as Libby and Rove?

John F. Harris: I saw that US News item and have to confess I laughed. I think that is getting waaay ahead of the story.

[Note: Later in the chat, Harris admits that his newsroom has been discussing Cheney's possible indictment.]

Danbury, Conn.: . . . Was the position within the CIA, of their employee whose name was leaked, one which really was "secret", "covert" . . causing revealing the individual's name [to be] a crime under any statute? . . .Would revealing the name of even a janitor or receptionist be a crime?

John F. Harris: I think you are identifying important questions. What was the actual degree of intelligence damage by the disclosure of Plame-Wilson's name, and what was the specific crime?

It has long also seemed to me that Joe Wilson's own activities -- publishing op-eds etc. -- were not exactly calculated to maintaining secrecy about himself and his family.
In the 90s, the WaPo dedicated teams of crack reporters to charting the incremental movements of Clinton's jock. Now they whine about their need to play White House lapdog for the purpose of maintaining "access." That this seismic shift neatly dovetails with John Harris's own political bent is just a big, fat fucking coincidence, I guess.


Fire in the Cat House

Holy shit some people just don't know when to shut up. I mentioned yesterday that the Washington press corps has no idea of the smoldering public rage that threatens to engulf them, but I had no idea that it was about ready to immolate WaPo's National politics editor John Harris so quickly.

After his haughty laird-of-the-manor remarks about Dan Froomkin and what an embarrassment his column entitled "White House Briefing" was to the real reporters who cover the White House, readers struck back with some 675 comments supporting Froomkin.

Then Harris told Froomkin supporters to pipe down and dismantled their piffling complaints with his masterful strokes of lairdly logic, if he did say so himself. And then OH MY GOD IT GOT UGLY. My favorite:
Don't be so hard on poor Mr. John Harris. The only thing in his post that I take issue with, is that he forgot to start with: "Hey Rubes !" After that, his whole post makes more sense.
Now Jay Rosen interviews him. Does he care anything about the thousand plus readers who have written in almost unanimous support of Froomkin, whose column the paper acknowledges to be consistently amongst its most popular?

Not a damn. Says Harris:
Without agreeing with the views of this conservative blogger who took on Froomkin, I would say his argument does not seem far-fetched to me.
If you follow the link, you will find it leads to Patrick Ruffini, webmaster for the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign, who calls Froomkin a "second-rate hack," a "trite Democratic partisan" and accuses him of writing "fluff."


But here's the money quote. Rosen asks if White House officials are the ones complaining about Froomkin's column:
John Harris: They have never complained in a formal way to me, but I have heard from Republicans in informal ways making clear they think his work is tendentious and unfair. I do not have to agree with them in every instance that it is tendentious and unfair for me to be concerned about making clear who Dan is and who he is not regarding his relationship with the newsroom.
This flap is brought to you courtesy of the Republican Party, who will not stand to see itself criticized by a major media outlet without seeking to take down the one who is doing so. And John Harris bends over and spreads 'em. Of course, considering Harris's past as one of the people who hijacked the nation and started speaking in tongues over rumors of penis-shaped ornaments on the Clinton Christmas tree, this is hardly surprising.

I normally wouldn't suggest this. But any uppity peon who wants to speak back to Massa Harris can do so here.

Says Digby:
Fine. Fuck it. Change the name if it bothers the "real" white house reporters so much. Call it The Whorehouse Report. It amounts to the same thing.
And Brad DeLong:
I look at what Dan Froomkin has done today and I find John Harris's complaints incomprehensible. Liberal bias? There is a bias, but it is toward the snarky, not the liberal. The quality of the work? As a doorman directing customers to good daily news taxis, Dan Froomkin is superb: is extremely lucky to have him. Confusion with the print Washington Post's news operation? John Harris should be so lucky.
I'm there.

Update: Over at E&P, Len Downie removes any doubt about which master the WaPo serves in this matter: "We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion," Downie told E&P. "And that readers of the Web site understand that, too."


Monday, December 12, 2005

Bimbo-rama Part Deux

More from Norah O'Donnell and Jim VandeHei's Mensa moment on Hardball tonight:
O'Donnell: In that period of time, Luskin even says before the first grand jury appearance, he knew from Viveca Novak that everybody at Time said that Cooper said that Rove was his source.
Then the Pool Boy chimes in:
VandeHei: I think what's happening is Luskin is probably trying to convince Fitzgerald that it would be foolish for Rove to have testified that first time before the grand jury that he did not have a conversation with Matthew Cooper when he knew from Luskin who had learned from Viveca Novak that everybody at Time was buzzing about the fact that there had been that conversation.
But what did Viveca actually say?
I responded instinctively, thinking he was trying to spin me, and said something like, "Are you sure about that? That's not what I hear around TIME."
Now, the VandeHei and O'Donnell stories about Viveca saying "everyone at Time knows" sound entirely believable, but that is not at all what Viveca Novak maintains. And VandeHei to be sure has been drinking large doses of Luskin's Kool-Aid. Either O'Donnell and VandeHei have both gotten quite puffed up with their own bombast or Luskin is telling people that Viveca was much less circumspect than she claims.

Imagine that.


Split Screen Bimbos: This Is How We Get Our Information?

Tonight's episode of Hardball was truly staggering. Jim VandeHei pipes up and announces that Stephen Hadley told Karl Rove about Valerie Plame's identity early in the game, prior to his conversation with Robert Novak:
We do know from the indictment of Scooter Libby that there certainly was a conversation between Libby and Rove where it was mentioned that Bob Novak (no relation to Viveca) was making phone calls and asking about Valerie Plame and that they discussed it. We still don't know where Karl Rove originally learned about Valerie Plame. That's still one of the mysteries. We know one of them, he had heard it from was Hadley as sort of just chatter inside the office, but he had learned it earlier from some other place and we still don't know where that is.
I really had to pick myself up off the floor. Nobody batted an eyelash. Were Chris Matthews and Norah O'Donnell just so completely uninformed that they did not recognize what a bombshell this was? They just sat there nodding and blinking like this was no surprise that people inside the White House were casually gossiping about Valerie Plame's identity over the water cooler.

Did they not realize that up until now any knowledge of the mad gabbing and plotting had been limited to the Vice President's office? That other than the memo from Karl Rove following his conversation with Matt Cooper nobody had ever tied Hadley to the leak? I guess they did not want to appear stupid, but they wound up looking all the stupider for it.

I called Crooks & Liars headquarters, where through the magic of Tivo I heard it again 7 or 8 times. Yep, that's what he said. Then I immediately called Digby and emailed Jeralyn just to make sure I hadn't staggered into some Ionesco play by accident, had not lost my mind and dropped some critical bit of information along the way. Nope, this was news all around.

Up until now, the only story we had about Rove's original source was that at some point, Rove may have testified that it was Robert Novak. From the AP:
Presidential confidant Karl Rove testified to a grand jury that he learned the identity of a CIA operative originally from journalists, then informally discussed the information with a Time magazine reporter days before the story broke, according to a person briefed on the testimony.

The person, who works in the legal profession and spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, told The Associated Press that Rove testified last year that he remembers specifically being told by columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, the wife of a harsh Iraq war critic, worked for the CIA.
His testimony may have changed later on to say that he heard it from another journalist whose identity he could not remember, but nobody ever said Hadley. Although according to Murray Waas, the last time Rover appeared before the grand jury, the subject of Hadley was something Fitzgerald wanted to pursue:
Rove will be pressed about issues as to why his accounts to the FBI and grand jury have changed, or evolved, over time. He will also be questioned regarding contacts with other senior administration officials, such as then-deputy National Security advisor Stephen J. Hadley and I. Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney in the critical week before the publication of columnist Robert Novak's column on July 14, 2003, which outed Plame as a covert CIA operative.
Rove is also referred to in the Libby indictment as "Official A," who evidently told Libby on July 10 or July 11 that he'd spoken with Novak earlier in the week and that Novak would be writing a story. But it's Rove who told Libby, not the other way around.

The whole Hardball episode was surreal. Norah O'Donnell started jabbering about how Robert Luskin is saying that his conversation with Viveka Novak took place in January, 2004 -- although up until now this had only been attributed to anonymous sources. Again, not an eyelash batted by anyone on the set. Then she went on about how Viveca told Luskin that Karl Rove being Matt Cooper's source was the talk of everyone throughout Time Magazine. Was it? That's not what Viveca Novak claims. Is Norah O'Donnell letting us in on a scoop, or is she just incredibly stupid and prone to overheated, fact-free exaggeration?

The incredible ignorance of the people covering this matter only clouds the waters of an already confusing situation. And if I were Jim VandeHei's editors I'd have his head on a plate for breaking a story like that on national TV and not in the pages of the WaPo where they're paying his salary.

I guess I should allow for the possibility that VandeHei has no idea what he is talking about, just started blathering and slipped up. But he really needs to clear this one up post haste.

Update: Crooks & Liars has the video up now, you can decide for yourself.

Update: Jeralyn has her take on the boy bimbo's slip.

(post edited to include more of VandeHei's statement as it became available)


White House Pool Boys Get Crabby

I can't take it any more. Jay Rosen sent me an article by the Washington Post public editor that said the folks in the newsroom don't like Dan Froomkin because he's too liberal, and they're miffed that the Technorati tags on their articles lead to bloggers who criticize them.

Where do we start.

Number one, Dan Froomkin's column is often the only thing worth reading in the Washington Post, the one thing they're managed to do right as they crawl their way out of the 18th century amidst a series of spectacularly bad decisions that have blown their credibility and set them in lockstep with the wooly mammoth. So the reporters don't like the guff they're taking from bloggers? I fucking bet they don't. But that's what you get when you set the bar so low the only people who stick around are the ones who can limbo under it.

Take today's offering by Jim VandHei and Carol Leonnig. I got about half way through and I thought "you know, they're getting better, this isn't at all bad." Then they hit a speed bump:
Novak wrote that Luskin told her the tip set in motion a cycle of events that led Rove and his lawyers to search phone logs and other material.
No, she didn't. What she said was it "led him to do an intensive search for evidence that Rove and Matt had talked." But now that you mention it, what about the phone log? Did that disappear into the either too along with the Hadley email until Rove recovered from his nasty bout of the memory-sucking flu? The naturally incurious mind of the reporters triumphs with a galling lack of pursuit.

But then they really go into turbo-charged absurdity:
A lawyer close to the case said Luskin has contended the conversation happened before Rove's first appearance before the grand jury in February 2004, when he testified he did not recall discussing Plame with Cooper. Luskin refused to comment. A spokesman for Rove's defense said in a statement that Rove is cooperating and that private discussions with the prosecutor will not be discussed publicly.

One possible explanation of why the date is so important is that Luskin could contend it would have been foolish for Rove to try to cover up his role when he knew -- because of Novak's disclosure to Luskin -- that a number of people knew he had talked to Cooper and that it probably would soon become public.

Now for all I know this is exactly what happened in a defense that seems to have been cobbled together by contestants at some regional Dust-off huffing championship. But to throw it up without question is not journalism, it's not even stenography, it's cretinism. You have to have an extra chromosome floating around somewhere to sit there muttering "uh huh, uh huh, oh...good point" when someone is spinning you that kind of fish tale.

As Atrios commented about one of the WaPo's previous remedial offerings:
The WaPo article linked above is just gibberish. Basically Luskin or someone else runs to the press screaming "this is great for my client" no matter what the news is and the journalists feel obliged to try to make that spin fit the facts even when it makes no sense.
Isn't it about time to point out that Robert Luskin has spent the past few years lying to the Washington Post? Rather than pointing this out, they write a glowing, four page testimonial to his unwavering genius. And then they wonder why we mock them furiously.

There are only a few outlets that receive leaks from official government sources, and the public must look to them for what meager information we are dribbled. That we become enraged at the obtuseness and opacity of the reporting is completely predictable, and I'm sorry we're not here to quietly applaud bimbo journalism that cares more about its own perpetuation than it does any responsibility it has as a fourth estate. If you long ago stopped caring about serving the public interest, fine, don't be surprised when the public grows contentious and turns on you.

What the WaPo writers are viewing through their Technorati tags is only a tiny crumb of a rage that threatens to sweep them into irrelevance. If they care about the preservation of superstar journalists and the politics of access above all else they blind themselves to the sea change that is taking place in how information is exchanged.

Dan Froomkin is the future. They say they want to balance him out by adding a conservative voice? That's great, just what the Mighty Wurlitzer needs, another outlet. As I've said before, this isn't about right vs. left, it's about people on both sides who are sick of the machine. One step forward, six steps back. Outside the fucking box, that lot.

It won't be long before the WaPo honchos wish they'd sent Bob Woodward and his embarrassing apologies packing before he dragged them down into 8-track tape anachronism. I dare them to take a look at the bulk of the last year's offerings on the CIA leak and do anything other than groan. The reporting is execrable and the dot connection worse. They've handed the keys to the kingdom to the village idiots and they shouldn't be stunned when bloggers merely point that out.

Update: Froomkin responds: "The journalists who cover Washington and the White House should be holding the president accountable. When they do, I bear witness to their work. And the answer is for more of them to do so -- not for me to be dismissed as highly opinionated and liberal because I do."

Crooks & Liars also weighs in.

Digby: "The DC press corps has no idea how they look to the rest of the country after more than a decade of running with GOP trumped up scandals, pimping for impeachment, trivializing the effects of an unorthodox presidential election in 2000, and then saluting smartly and following Dick Cheney over the cliff on Iraq." Oh yeah.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Crooks & Liars Goes Bigtime

While David Corn, Viveca Novak and others spent the weekend demonstrating just how deep the MSM inadequacy bench is, the Los Angeles Times did a great piece on the indispensable John Amato of Crooks & Liars. Sorry they didn't print the picture online so I'll just have to post one from a screening of Good Night and Good Luck at the LA County Museum (John is the one on the right, btw.) The lighting was crap but my terrible photography skills were more than compensated for by the dapper subjects.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

CRS Disease

Somebody alert Big Pharma. Digby hips us to the dangers of the epidemic striking our nation's capital -- Can't Remember Shit Disease. Remember when Viv chided Fitzgerald in her Woodward article? "[A] tireless prosecutor with a reputation for thoroughness, had to wonder, after two years and millions of dollars and countless hours of hunting, what else is out there that he missed:"
Yes, Fitzgerald was being uncharacteristically sloppy. Clearly, he should have rendered the entire press corps to Gitmo and injected them with sodium pentathol. After all, nobody in Washington takes any notes or has any conscious memory of any conversations they ever have, so there really isn't any other way to get the facts.
I know he's supposed to be a bigger person than the rest of us, priest of the law, yadda yadda yadda. But don't you suppose at this point he's had a bellyfull of childish DC bullshit? It's not like he can go home and bitch to the old lady about it, either.

I say Rover gets the high hard one for Christmas. Just Because.


Attack of the Laptop Barbarians

In an earlier post today I made reference to the fact that I thought Viveca Novak's penitent tone in her Time article was disingenuous, and that her tack all along has been to see what she could get away with. It is a strategy that continued up until the last minute, and it looks like her unfortunate choices have taken down her friend and defender with her.

On December 2, after the New York Times published an article saying that Viveca would now provide the backbone of Rove's defense, it was clear that she felt the need yet again to "push back." On Saturday, December 3 she nudged her good friend of 20 years, David Corn out on a limb as he "reported" an "anonymously sourced" story saying that Luskin was merely her source and not a friend.

Today she sawed the limb off, saying that "there is the occasional source with whom one becomes friendly, and eventually Luskin was in that group."

It was sad, really, that Corn was used to float this unsuccessful trial balloon, which felt like an attempt to see what Vivac could get away with when she wrote her mea culpa. It was a spectacular failure, a falsehood quickly dashed on the front page of the Washington Post. It might have been worth it for Corn had Vivac also given him the big break she gave VandeHei and the WaPo that day, to the effect that she remembered her conversation with Luskin taking place over drinks in January, 2004. Sadly, he was merely consigned to the task of defending her character, which was soon to make Judy Miller look like a paragon of integrity.

I guess it wasn't much of a scoop anyway, as she soon blotted the wine off her datebook and placed the meeting in either March or May, but then she gave that scoop to VandeHei, too. Meanwhile Corn continued to both defend his information and his use of anonymous sourcing as he went to the mat for his friend. Both chivalrous and suicidal.

Had Viveca been a true friend, she would have waved him off this fool's errand once it became evident that nobody was buying the story and she would have to come clean. However, she had other fish to fry and Corn was quickly relegated to the same category to which she had assigned Matt Cooper, Norman Pearlstein, Jay Carney and a host of others -- Not My Problem.

That Corn chose to take on the task of ardent Defender of the C-List Clubhouse is one he no doubt regrets. And as for Viveca Novak -- she does not have the luxury of retreating into the warm embrace of some right-wing think tank or artlessly picking the wings off liberals for the Regnery book-of-the-month club. By setting Corn up to take a fall I just hope she hasn't ruined it for herself at Pajamas Media.

Wolcott is a bit more pointed about the whole subject.



Well I will give Viveca Novak one thing. Unlike the brazen and unapologetic explanations written by Bob Woodward and Judy Miller following their quality time with Patrick Fitzgerald, she does have the good sense to be contrite in tone for her account in today's Time Magazine. But then again, she doesn't have the superstar status to carry her, and as amazing as it may seem to people who thought the bottom of the integrity barrel had already been hit, her journalistic sins appear to be worse. Much worse.

But her contrition is deeply suspect and seems to fall into the category of "sorry I got caught." Her actions over the past two years clearly indicate that her loyalty was to herself first, her good friend Robert Luskin second, and any sense of obligation she felt toward Time Magazine, her colleague Matt Cooper, or journalistic principles was only incidental, if at all.

Her tale as related today is a pure embarrassment. She thinks she may have had the conversation in January, but then it might be May or March. Did April find her vacationing in the Urals? That this conversation was conducted in the pursuit of journalism and not gossip is certainly not backed up by the existence of any notes. Ms. Novak volunteers that Luskin was "more likely to speak freely if he didn't see me committing his words to paper." We presume he did not follow her home and rip the pen from her hand to prevent her from documenting the conversation forthwith.

And she clearly knew the import of what had transpired between them. She says that after her revelation, "I immediately felt uncomfortable. I hadn't intended to tip Luskin off to anything. I was supposed to be the information gatherer."

Exactly. She describes her comments as a "push back." What part of a journalist's job is "pushing back" using confidential information? "Pushing back" seems to be synonymous here with gossiping. It's certainly not reporting if you can't remember when it took place and you have no notes about something quite relevant to the story you are currently working on.

Further, it's not entirely clear that this is the whole story. As emptywheel notes, if the conversation did happen in March -- and it appears Fitzgerald thinks it did, although Viveca seems to habitually knock back several glasses of wine before keeping her calendar -- this was two months before Matt Cooper was specifically subpoenaed. As Vivac recounts it:
Toward the end of one of our meetings, I remember Luskin looking at me and saying something to the effect of "Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt." I responded instinctively, thinking he was trying to spin me, and said something like, "Are you sure about that? That's not what I hear around TIME."
Matt Cooper was merely one of many Time journalists about whom the White House had been subpoenaed in January, 2004. He would not be subpoenaed until May of 2004. Why would they specifically be discussing him amongst all others in March unless Viveca had blabbed a great deal more about her coworker's interactions with Karl Rove than her story lets on?

It just goes downhill from there. Even knowing that this interaction with Luskin was critical, she does not tell her editors that it occurred. When her coworker Matt Cooper is facing jail time, she doesn't come forward. Even after she is contacted by Luskin and told she has now become part of the story, she hires an attorney but seeks to hide her involvement from her employers. Oh if I were Norman Pearlstein and I had not only spent millions of dollars in a legal battle to protect the integrity of my publication but had also struggled mightily with my own conscience to do the right thing, I would be fucking pissed to have it all scuttled in some wine-soaked gab fest.

Because the worst sin against journalism on the part of Vivac is yet to come. Knowing that she is now part of the story, she continues to report on it. Following the indictment of Scooter Libby, she was still covering the story when a November 7, 2005 Michael Duffy article entitled Fall of a Vulcan noted that Rove had curiously escaped Fitzgerald's noose for reasons unknown. Except Vivac knew full well why Rove's fate was still undecided, and failed to tell both her readers or her employers.

Ms. Novak's journalistic integrity has been trumpeted loudly by her defenders in the days succeeding Time's announcement that she now was playing a critical part in Karl Rove's defense. To say that we breathlessly await any attempt to excuse this exercise in "clubhouse journalism" would be an understatement.

Swopa and Tom Maguire have more.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)