Bloggers discuss the New York Times account of reporter Judith Miller’s involvement in Plamegate. They also celebrate Saturday’s mostly peaceful constitutional referendum in Iraq.
A Miller apologia: The New York Times has published its much-anticipated internal account of reporter Judith Miller’s involvement with the federal investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame (as well as Miller’s first-person report).
“I give credit to the Times … for giving readers a look inside at decision-making normally hidden, for airing uncomfortable facts—including internal tensions—and for explaining what happened as well as the editors felt they could,” writes professor of journalism and Plamegate point man Jay Rosen, at Press Think. However, he characterizes Miller as cocky and dogmatic and knocks publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. for letting Miller direct both the legal strategy and public position of the paper.
Most observers point out that Miller’s account leaves the biggest question unanswered. “Who told Judy about Valerie Plame (or ‘Flame’ as the name appears in Judy’s notes)?” asks blog magnate Arianna Huffington. “According to these two pieces, the name was immaculately conceived.” At the Mighty Middle, writer Michael Reynolds is flabbergasted by Miller’s partial-amnesia defense.“I believe that’s a lie,” he writes. “I believe it is a deliberate, calculated lie.” At News Blog, aggregator Steve Gilliard heartily agrees. Both bloggers call for her to be fired.
Others are equally unsatisfied. “The story leaves open questions about why Miller would not contact her source, Scooter Libby, to get his blessing for her testimony … and then, after dragging the paper into jail with her, she did,” remarks critic Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine. “She blames her sources for getting WMDs wrong, Libby for going to jail, and her editors — who stood by her at cost to them — for her unheroic welcome. In a phrase: what a case she is.”
“Miller doesn’t coming out of this looking like a journalistic Joan of Arc,” agrees journalist Joe Gandelman at the Moderate Voice. At Talking Points Memo,leading liberal Joshua Micah Marshall also impugns Miller’s journalistic ethics, particularly her willingness to knowingly mislead readers by sourcing information obtained from Libby to “a former Hill staffer.”
“So what will happen next?” asks conservative Tom Maguire, who’s been following the story closely at JustOneMinute. “Quickly - Rove is in trouble… I am handicapping the probability of a Rove indictment as about 50%… Libby has moved up in my rankings, and is now the most likely official to be indicted of whom we are aware.” Attorney John Hinderaker, by contrast, thinks the Times report exonerates Libby. At conservative syndicate Power Line, he calls Miller’s peculiar account “a low-comedy conclusion to a low-comedy investigation.”
For some, the journalistic implications are clearer than the political ones. “It’s now clear confinement wasn’t pointless,” writesSlate’s Mickey Kaus, in an exegetic Kausfiles post. “It worked for the prosecutor exactly as intended. … The message sent to every prosecutor in the country is ‘Don’t believe journalists who say they will never testify. A bit of hard time and they just might find a reason to change their minds. Judy Miller did.’ This is the victory for the press the Times has achieved. More journalists will now go to jail, quite possibly, than if Miller had just cut a deal right away, before taking her stand on ‘principle.’”
Iraq referendum: Early reports suggest that the proposed Iraqi Constitution, put to a national referendum Saturday, should pass. “Officials said as many as 63 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Saturday’s election, above the 58 percent seen in January,” notes CNN.
“We expect a big YES for the constitution possibly around 80%. This YES is a big bullet in the head of the terrorism,” reports Iraq blogger Hammorabi, who posts early tallies here. “Over all how nice it is to be free and votes then calculate like the other civilized nations and not 99.999% yes for one person or one family under the barbaric dictatorship regimes,” he writes. The civil rights advocate behind Or Does It Explode, a blog on the liberalization of the Middle East, agrees that the contrast to Saddam-era elections is stunning, suggesting a new “civil society in action on a national scale.” Mystery novelist-cum-blog entrepreneur Roger L. Simon provides historical perspective that strikes a little closer to home.
“Across the entire [Area of Operations] the tempo was mild although not without fighting,” writesOne Marine’s View in Iraq, who doubts the quiet success story will get much attention in the United States. “The typical in your face IEDs and RPGs were ever present but your armed services prevailed and insured a safe voting atmosphere for the Iraqi people.” At OxBlog, international relations graduate student David Adesnik points out the relatively small number of poll attacks (six on Saturday, versus more than 350 last January). “It seems safe to infer that the insurgents no longer feel as confident as they once did about opposing elections,” he writes.
“There are several reasons for this progress,” notes military news co-operative StrategyPage. “First, the government is getting better. There are more police, and more of them are trained and reliable. The government has used its experience well, and the country was basically shut down for yesterday’s election, making it difficult for terrorists to move around.”
“Major players are coming more and more to realize that dialog, alliances, common interests and just plain politics is the way to win– not violence, intimidation and terror,” writes an e-mail by an Iraqi posted by Austin Bay. “So this [lesson] is apparently slowly ‘sinking in’ in our confused and frightened Iraqi mentality. The consensus [in Mosul and Fallujah] seems to be… OK enough misery we need a stable government that can provide its first order of business [Security] lets say yes and since it is not a divine thing we can always change it.”
Washington MonthlyPolitical Animal Kevin Drum is cautiously optimistic. “It’s not clear to me that passage of the constitution is going to affect the basic security problem in Iraq all that strongly, but this is still good news,” he says. “Going back to the drawing board would be unlikely to benefit anyone, least of all the Sunni minority.”
Read more about the Iraqi referendum.
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