Man Without Qualities

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Hillary, Dillery, Dill ...

... it isn't like running with Bill.

That's what the Man Without Qualities is increasingly convinced Hillary Clinton and many of her denialist supporters are going to have to find out the hard way. For example, the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization described in some guileless quarters as consisting of "influential [Democratic] party moderates," has named Sen. Clinton "to direct a new initiative to define a party agenda for the 2006 and 2008 elections." That appointment most clearly reflects the now well-documented dwindling to near nothingness of the "centrist" wing of a party whose official leaders are the anything-but-centrist Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Howard Dean. But to Hillary's supporters like Ron Brownstein, the appointment shows that Hillary, too, has become "moderate:"

[T]he appointment solidified the identification of Clinton, once considered a champion of the party's left, with the centrist movement that helped propel her husband to the White House in 1992, to present herself as a moderate on issues such as national security, immigration and abortion.
Mr. Brownstein is not alone in puffing hot air into the balloons said to have transported Sen. Clinton's closer to the winning center. Jacob Weisberg, for example, proves that he should write Hallmark Valentine cards with But Why Can't Hillary Win? - an amazingly misdirected Hail Mary airily dismissing all obstacles to Sen. Clinton's path to the White House. For Mr. Weisberg no excuse is too insubstantial to counterbalance a possible Hillary Clinton negative. For example, suppose one argues that she seems now to oppose more free trade, citing her "no" vote against CAFTA - where 11 of her fellow Democrats (including Sen. Jeffords) had the guts to vote "yes"? Some observers see CAFTA's Congressional close shave as a sign that protectionists have captured the Democratic mainstream and the Congressional Democratic naysayers. (UPDATE: John Fund reports on that Democratic leaders are especially mad at two Black Caucus Members from the same New York that Sen Clinton purportedly represents, Edolphus Towns and Gregory Meeks, for voting aye on CAFTA in the House.) But for Mr. Weiss it's no problem: Despite her pandering vote against CAFTA, [Sen. Clinton is] a confirmed free-trader. Well, now that you've explained it that way, Mr. Weisberg .... (Mr. Weisberg does admit that the Senator is not "likeable" - apparently her one real obstacle in his judgment.)

One could go on through a longish list of obstacles that Mr. Weiss (and others with similar agendas) either misstate (thereby avoiding the obstacle-making issue) or dismiss with silly counter arguments. But what about the big enchilada, Sen Clinton's putative abortion rights reach-out? A few months ago, marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Sen. Clinton gave a speech that the ever-obliging New York Times covered under the headline "Clinton Seeking Shared Ground Over Abortions." Since then, many of her fans (and some who are not her fans at all) have proclaimed her supposedly brilliant move, including William Saletan in a particularly risible Slate article, Safe, Legal, and Never:
Clinton isn't trying to end the abortion war. She's repositioning her party to win it. .... Clinton recalled. "In China, local government officials used to monitor women's menstrual cycles and their use of contraceptives." In both cases, "the government was dictating the most private and important decisions," said Clinton. "With all of this talk about freedom as the defining goal of America, let's not forget the importance of the freedom of women to make the choices that are consistent with their faith and their sense of responsibility to their family and themselves."

Note the concluding words: faith, responsibility, family. ... "There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances." ... Not safe, legal, and rare. Safe, legal, and never. Once you embrace that truth — that the ideal number of abortions is zero —voters open their ears.
Of course she didn't say "never," she said "not ever have ... or only in very rare circumstances" - which is just a bloated and less memorable restatement of Bill's old "safe, legal and rare." Mr. Saletan's willfull misquote seems a particularly egregious example of the Senator's fans hearing only what they want to hear. But for the moment set aside Mr. Saletan's curious aphasia and his equally curious adoption of the new Democrat faith that magic words will set them free (and put them in office), and consider instead a major detail of the big picture: President Hillary Clinton and the Supreme Court. The bottom-line question: Is Hillary Clinton suggesting that as president she would not impose a pro-Roe v Wade litmus test on her Supreme Court picks? Is she saying that she would adopt standards for such picks that would be substantially different than those of her husband, Al Gore or John Kerry? Candidate Bill Clinton declared: "I hate to have any litmus tests, but ... I would want to know that Roe v. Wade would be secure." He later noted, "I'm pro-choice and I would expect to make appointments accordingly." He clarified even that with: "I wouldn't appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who didn't believe that there was in this Bill of Rights ... a constitutional right to privacy" (which of course includes the right to abortion). We now know that this formulation led Mr. Clinton to appoint two Justices of adamantine faith in Roe v Wade. An "outreaching" Hillary Clinton would have to take a different approach.

As a Senate candidate she was anything but "outreaching":
My position is clear: as a member of the United States Senate, I will not vote for a nominee to the Supreme Court who would oppose Roe. I believe a woman's right to choose as stated in Roe vs. Wade is a fundamental, constitutional right, and therefore, it will be fundamental to how I view nominees ... The most important vote to protect the right to choose that will be cast by the United States Senate will be the vote to confirm justices to the Supreme Court. I will vote to support Roe when it counts, in choosing nominees to the Supreme Court.
Rumors now abound that Sen. Clinton is considering voting to confirm John Roberts, who almost certainly would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. But Sen. Clinton is the high priestess of political trial balloons, and these rumors probably represent nothing more than her advisors inflating and releasing a predictable bunch. Her own statements regarding Mr. Roberts are mostly noncommital, but full of liberal codespeak for hostility to the nomination:
I look forward to the Committee's findings so that I can make an informed decision about whether Judge Roberts is truly a guardian of the rule of law who puts fairness and justice before ideology.
No deference to the President expressed there! Will Sen. Clinton's supporters allow her to vote to approve Mr. Roberts even if she is so inclined? That's highly unclear - and a vote for Mr. Roberts in the Senate would still be far from a repudiation of a Roe litmus test by a President Hillary Clinton. But a Senate "yes" vote would be consistent with her "outreach" effort, where a Senate vote by Sen. Clinton against Mr. Roberts would be strong evidence that her "outreach" effort won't even get off the ground politically.

What to do? What to do? I haven't seen anything on the Clinton/Roberts question coming from the Senator's media supporters, such as Messrs. Brownstein, Weisberg and Saletan. It's not hard to imagine reasons why. They're probably waiting to see if those trial balloons get shot down.

UPDATE: Michael Pollard at Scrutineer does a great job of getting into the numbers documenting Sen. Clinton's very liberal voting record, as recognized by just about every outfit that monitors Senate voting, regardless of the outfit's own political cast. Her overall Senate voting record is another important obstacle that must be ignored or misstated by her supporters even as they quietly rely on it to hold the Senator's uber-liberal political base together while she's out on her "moderate" peregrinations. Of course, most of the mainstream media and other Democratic apologists had no trouble construing the records of Kerry-Edwards as "centrist" despite voting numbers very much to the contrary. A substantial portion of the same group had no trouble at all passionately arguing that Republican attempts to disabuse the public of the "centrist" impression Kerry-Edwards was desperately trying to present were just lies, lies and more Republican lies! (Hey, boy, don't look at that Senate voting chart too long, it will hurt your young eyes!)

Of course, there is lots of evidence that the influence of the mainstream media has continued to shrink since the last election. So the "liberal-vanishing-trick" will likely be somewhat harder to pull off in 2008 than in 2004, when the trick didn't work, and vastly harder than it was to pull it off in 1992, when it did work. Heck, in 1992 the mainstream media helped the Clintons put Gennifer Flowers back in the hat, and she was telling the truth and had the tapes to prove it. Try that kind of thing today and the blogosphere would erupt like Krypton in the last days of Jor-El. But Hillary and her supporters seem determined to give it a try.

One Man's Attempt At A Frank Assessment Of Democrat Lassitude:

On the home front, Bush is again blessed with weak adversaries. The top Democrats - Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean - have not proven particularly effective in rallying the "loyal opposition."

Reid is canny enough as an inside pol to block many of Bush's programs, but he is not a strong national spokesman. As for Pelosi, she is simply a stereotypical liberal; the American people do not want to be led by a San Francisco Democrat.

As for Dean, he has been a disappointment as party leader. He is too strident for the party establishment - fund-raising is down - yet not strident enough for the activists.

There's not much room for a "centrist" in the current national Democratic Party described by Mr. Pinkerton. So how much room is there for an "outreaching" Hillary Clinton, at least if the "outreach" goes beyond harping on the magic words that ultimately mostly just embarrass the Democrats who fall for this phony non-solution? There appears to be exactly one Democratic Senator who is at least arguably an actual centist - and the trick of making Joe Lieberman the vice presidental candidate has already been tried and didn't work. But even Sen. Lieberman had to cave in and humiliate himself by abandoning many of his core positions, including those pertaining to education, to satisfy those party activists.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Valerie And Judith And Arianna

Mickey Kaus notes Arianna Huffington's fleshing out of the Judy's-the-source theory, which proceeds in part:
It's July 6, 2003, and Joe Wilson's now famous op-ed piece appears in the Times ... Miller ... goes ballistic. ... So she calls her friends in the intelligence community and asks, Who is this guy? She finds out he's married to a CIA agent. She then passes on the info about Mrs. Wilson to Scooter Libby (Newsday has identified a meeting Miller had on July 8 in Washington with an "unnamed government official"). Maybe Miller tells Rove too -- or Libby does. The White House hatchet men turn around and tell Novak and Cooper. The story gets out. This is why Miller doesn't want to reveal her "source" at the White House -- because she was the source.
Whoa! Stop right there Ms. Huffington, right with that breathless hypothesis that Judith Miller found out Joe Wilson is married to a CIA agent from one of Ms. Miller's friends in the intelligence community.Really? How likely is that if Ms. Plame was a covert agent? Are people in the "intelligence community" prone to handing out each other's names to reporters - even when those names are attached to clandestine operatives? Of course not! Even aggressive, uber-political White House operatives know it's not right to reveal a CIA agent's name to a reporter unless the operative knows that the "revealed" name and agency affiliation are already public ... when the operative has heard them from another reporter, for example. Are we now supposed to believe that Ms. Miller's friends in the intelligence community thought it was just fine to "out" Valerie's position to Ms. Miller even if Valerie's name and/or CIA position were secret? Such a casual "revelation" is consistent with the conclusion that Valerie Plame was simply not a covert agent - a conclusion that seems more and more likely on many counts.

Mickey suggests that maybe Judith "had no 'source' as such, but directly observed Plame's CIA activities in the course of her previous reporting on WMD. For example, if she interviewed Plame." But one doesn't "directly observe" an agent's "CIA activities" by interviewing the agent. One directly observes an agent only where one trails the agent and bugs her living and work spaces. Judith didn't do that to Valerie. If Judith obtained her information by interviewing Valerie then Valerie must have told Judith about Valerie's activities - a very likely thing that was suggested by the Man Without Qualities all the way back on July 16.

But, more broadly, isn't it more than a little absurd to deny that Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame probably worked in concert? Like husband and wife. Judith's "source" could just as easily have been Joe Wilson himself. But, as I have noted before, it is unlikley that Mr. Wilson would be so revealing of his wife's position without her specific, prior approval.

And here's one additional item worth thinking about: If Mr./Mrs. Wilson really are Judith's source, and the Wilsons really do think that the White House actually "disclosed" Mrs. Wilson's clandestine position to the public (that seems to be Mr. Wilson's public position), then doesn't that imply that Mr./Mrs. Wilson don't think that mere disclosure to Judith constituted disclosure to the public. Yet, the concensus seems to be that Messrs. Rove and/or Libby were entitled to deem "public knowledge" any information obtained from any reporter - including Ms. Miller. These appraoches are obviously not consistent.

Suppose Mr./Mrs. Wilson is Judith's source and that Judith is the Rove/Libby source. But suppose further that Ms. Miller actually told Rove/Libby that the information she was disclosing had been obtained from confidential sources in violation of federal law. Would Rove/Libby still be off the hook just because they obtained the information they disclosed to the public from "another reporter" - that is, Judith? Just asking!

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Happy, Happy, Happy

From the Washington Times:
A new poll has found that Americans are the happiest people on the planet. "With a few exceptions, Americans are generally happier with their lives and more optimistic about their future than most Europeans," a Harris poll states. The group plumbed the feelings of 1,000 persons from July 17 to July 21 to reveal that things are pretty good on these shores, despite bleak press reports about the direction of the country and persistent partisan criticism of the Bush administration. The poll found that 58 percent [of Americans] are "very satisfied with their lives," compared with a 15-country European average of 31 percent. ... An additional 56 percent of Americans think their lives have improved since 2000, compared with a 45 percent average among the Europeans. ... The survey found that 65 percent of Americans expect their personal situation to improve in the next five years, compared with 44 percent of Europeans.... The only country that tops the United States in terms of overall satisfaction is Denmark, where 64 percent said they were "very satisfied" with their lives -- six points higher than their American counterparts.
Time to visit - or even move to - Denmark? Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame had a Minnesota childhood he describes as "very happy," but moved to Denmark in 1987 with his second wife. He eventually returned to the U.S., where, after another divorce, he married wife number three, a violinist. Ironic?

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Wayback Machine

For those who don't already know about it, the Wayback Machine web site automatically archives many web sites. Just enter the web site URL and regardless of whether the site has been deleted or crashed, many archives generally appear. Warning: The Wayback Machine is far from flawless, but it's a lot better than nothing.

Here's a Wall Street Journal article on how the Wayback Machine is being used in litigation.

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Ann Does Not Like John

That is, Ann Coulter does not like John Roberts as a nominee for Supreme Court justice. I understand Ms. Coulter's sentiments: Mr. Roberts has little in the official record to recommend him as a reliable conservative. And David Hackett Souter smarts - a lot - and that disaster has had significant consequences quite apart from his votes. His appointment to the Court is a big reason why the brilliant Lee Liberman Otis - who vetted his candidacy in the White House under G.H.W. Bush - is not involved with picking judges for this president, for example. (Ms. Liberman - a founder of the Federalist Society with impeccable conservative and legal credentials - also vetted and approved John Robert's first nomination to the D.C. Circuit, by the way).

But what, exactly, is Ms. Coulter expecting to accomplish with her opposition to Mr. Roberts? Surely, Mr. Bush will not withdraw his nomination because Ann Coulter or anyone like her (if there is anyone like her) does not approve of the choice. Nor is it likely that a single Republican Senator will refuse to vote for Mr. Robert's confirmation on the grounds advanced by Ms. Coulter - or that a single substantial Republican constituency will rise up against the choice.

So what is Ms. Coulter trying to accomplish? Perhaps she wants to go on the record. That is, perhaps her reservations are directed at the next

But, with respect to the actual nomination of John Roberts, it is hard to conclude anything except that Ms. Coulter's spirited opposition increases the likelihood that Justice Roberts will shortly sit on the Court. The main threat to his confirmation comes from the left, and opposition by Ms. Coulter and her ilk (an ilk, by the way, of which I am fond) mostly allows the administration to more easily argue that he is a "centrist." Which, of course, makes his confirmation more certain. And her argument that "no information = not committed conservative" is exactly what the White House would like the non-partisan public to believe, because that's an argument that puts Mr. Roberts on the Court.

Ms. Coulter is a very clever person. She knows all that. She also professes ignorance on her own behalf and on behalf of us all as to the sum and substance of John Roberts:
So all we know about him for sure is that he can't dance and he probably doesn't know who Jay-Z is. Other than that, he is a blank slate. Tabula rasa. Big zippo. Nada. Oh, yeah ... We also know he's argued cases before the Supreme Court. Big deal; so has Larry Flynt's attorney. But unfortunately, other than that, we don't know much about John Roberts. Stealth nominees have never turned out to be a pleasant surprise for conservatives. Never. Not ever."
Ms. Coulter also knows that the current Chief Justice was a stealth candidate by her articulated standards - which makes her "Never. Not ever." a curious flourish indeed. And just as Ms. Coulter is clever, she is also well connected in the conservative movement - including to lots of people who know plenty about what Mr. Roberts really thinks. Ms. Liberman, for example, would likely take the call. So would Indianian, former congressman and fellow Federalist Society founder David McIntosh. How about a chat with Mr. Robert's former boss, Ken Starr, in his new Malibu office? And there are plenty of others.

So Ms. Coulter is telling a great deal less than she knows, or could know. And she is helping put John Roberts on the Court. Ann does not like John. Or does she?

Strange that all is, passing strange. But, then, very clever people often have nonlinear agendas and strategies.

UPDATES: (1) Ms. Coulter notes on her web site that Mr. Roberts is not a member of the Federalist Society and Mr. Roberts reportedly has said that he has "no memory" of joining that organization. But he appears in the Federalist Society directory for 1997-1998, which lists Mr. Roberts, then a partner at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, as a member of the steering committee of the organization's Washington chapter and includes his firm's address and telephone number.

(2) This Washington Post article assigns meaning to the fact that Mr. Roberts did not spout conservative politics to his then-mentor, staunch liberal attorney E. Barrett Prettyman Jr. That demonstrates that Mr. Roberts is not an idiot - which we already knew. Does the Post think that one's career is well served by pointlessly drawing attention to one's politics in front of people who vigorously disagree? Why would the Post ask someone like Prettyman such questions, anyway? Why not ask Ken Starr, or Lee Liberman Otis, or .... but the reader gets the picture.

MORE: Good thoughts from Ben Shapiro.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

On The Sharm el-Sheik/Paris Express

The blasts ripping through Sharm el-Sheik dramatically indicate how misguided Continental European appeasement efforts really are. Over 80 people had been confirmed dead and many more injured. The victims include Britons, Germans, Italians, Czechs, Dutch, Kuwaitis, Saudis, Qataris, Spaniards, Austrians and Israelis.

Abdullah Azzam Brigades, al-Qaida, in Syria and Egypt, claimed responsibility for the Sharm el-Sheik attacks. The group was one of two extremist groups that also claimed responsibility for October bombings at the Egyptian resorts of Taba and Ras Shitan that killed 34 and for a Cairo bombing in late April. The authenticity of the claim has not been verified. Earlier this month, Dr. Ihab al-Sherif, Egypt's top envoy to Iraq was murdered and an Islamic web site claimed responsibility for al Qaeda in Iraq. Diplomats from other Muslim countries were attacked at the same time. The Bahrain charge d'affaires was wounded, and the Pakistani ambassador was assaulted, but escaped injury. The Pakistani foreign ministry consul in Iraq was kidnapped a few weeks ago.

None of Egypt, Bahrain or Pakistan has troops in Iraq. Egypt opposed the American-British invasion of that country. Pakistani did not permit the US to use its territories to invade Iraq. The cooperation of all of these Islamic countries with the US's efforts in Iraq following the invasion has been real, but quite modest. Iraq and Egypt have been "cooperating in the security field, with Egypt offering Iraq technical aid and training." Bahrain has publicly opposed any American move to establish democracy in the Middle East.

So it comes to this: A nation's merely opposing the US verbally and providing even the most modest cooperation gives no immunity to al-Qaida insanities. Being an officially Islamic nation doesn't help. It appears that nothing short of a defacto cold war against America satisfies these terrorists - and perhaps not even that. Any nation not joining arms against the US and its democratic efforts will have its territories bombed and its citizens and diplomats kidnapped and murdered in quantities by al Qaida thugs. And the resorts favored by such nations are targets: Very few Americans visit Sharm el-Sheik, that resort is popular with wealthy Arabs and Europeans - as the casualties list indicates.

Yet, most "old" Continental Europeans persist in believing that appeasement will eliminate the risks of al-Qaida bombs in Madrid, Paris and Berlin. It's bizarre, but that's what many Europeans continue to think. And the blasts in Sharm el-Sheik will probably just make them bury their heads more deeply in the sand.

UPDATE: Pete Dupont has some interesting, related thoughts.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Speak, Memory ... But Only When It's Convenient

During the 2004 election the Man Without Qualities often found himself in awe of the degree the liberal media seemed to be helping George W. Bush's reelection. Now James Taranto scribes an interesting article on the same topic but from a rather different perspective. One memory of the 2004 proceedings that he revives is the hilarious estimate of the remaining potency of the media establishment in the making of a president. As Mr. Taranto recalls:
"The media, I think, wants Kerry to win," Evan Thomas of Newsweek said last July. "I think they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards--I'm talking about the establishment media, not Fox--but they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and all. There's going to be this glow about them . . . that's going to be worth maybe 15 points." Mr. Thomas later revised his estimate downward, to five points. If Mr. Thomas was right, then, Mr. Bush would have won re-election with a popular-vote margin of between 7.5% and 17.5% of the total vote--rather than the 2.5% he actually got--but for the liberal media.

Yet, Mr. Thomas is not the only mainstream media nabob who seem to be having a very hard time (and taking a very long time) understanding that the glory days are over. Here's a passage from a 2004 pre-election "analysis" provided by Editor & Publisher:
FLORIDA: Bush is in big trouble here, at least if newspapers have any sway. Every single large paper has gone for Kerry, with the Orlando and Bradenton papers abandoning Bush and The Tampa Tribune (formerly for Dubya) sitting it out. This is how bad it is for the president: As far we know, his two biggest Sunshine State catches so far are the Ocala Star-Banner and The Ledger in Lakeland. So let's give this state to Kerry. In fact, if Bush pulls this one out, E&P promises never to give any weight to editorial endorsements in the future.
Bush did a lot more than "pull this one out" in Florida - so is E&P going to remember to be as good as its analytic word?

Don't count on it!

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sources IV

Perfectly valid waivers of fundamental constitutional rights - such as guilty pleas and confessions to serious crimes - are routinely extracted from suspects under much more "coercion" than a media source such as Messrs. Rove or Libby face in deciding whether to sign waivers of confidentiality. ("Cut a deal with us, buster," says Good Cop, "and I'll see that you get only half the sentence of your accomplice and that your underaged son goes free even though he was involved in your drug ring!") Reviewing courts routinely uphold the validity of such guilty pleas and confessions, and such suspects thereby become convicts and are routinely sent to prison or execution. Are confidential source waivers signed by high officials supposed to be held to a higher standard of coercion than a confession to murder? Of course not.

The concerns of the media - including Cooper and the New York Times - about confidential source waivers have nothing to do with whether such waivers are somehow invalid. What the media cares about is whether honoring such waivers might restrict the flow of future leaks to the media (hence the attention being paid to reports that some potential sources already won't talk to TIME because of TIME's capitulation to the special prosecutor and the court in the Plame matter). That doesn't make the media wicked. But claims from those such as Miller, Sulzberger and Cooper that they are focused on some kind of coercive invalidity of such waivers is flatulence passed off as high principle. At least the Times and Ms. Miller have the relative honesty not to suggest that there is a difference between blanket and specific waivers in such considerations - a phony distinction to which Mr. Cooper (as discussed here) pretends to his great personal disadvantage.

Mr. Cooper's version of events is also undermined by another consideration: Suppose, as his attorney claims, Mr. Cooper could not contact Mr. Rove to obtain a specific waiver out of concern that Mr. Cooper might be accused of obstruction of justice (an absurdity, but take it as a hypothesis). Then Mr. Cooper had only to explain his concern to the special prosecutor and have the special prosecutor tell every person who had executed a blanket waiver of Mr. Cooper's concern and assure each such person that it was fine with the special prosecutor for anyone who had spoken with Mr. Cooper to execute an addendum to the blanket waiver stating that the waiver specifically applied to Matt Cooper and his interviews. A form of an acceptable addendum could have been helpfully provided to the special prosecutor by Mr. Cooper's attorney. That would have disgorged the "desired" specific waiver from Mr. Rove immediately - in the unlikely event that Mr. Cooper and his attorney ever cared about such things in the first place.
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Bogus Bush Scandals Recap

From Astute Blogger. Things worth remembering.
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Sources III

Matt Cooper scribes an article in TIME, "What I Told The Grand Jury." The article contains nothing new implicating Rove or anyone else. But it raises serious question about Mr. Cooper's own honesty, ethics and personal agenda. The article purports to describe Mr. Cooper's grand jury testimony, and includes this description of his testimony regarding I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby:
[T]he next day the Vice President's chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, told me Cheney had not been responsible for Wilson's mission. .... This was actually my second testimony for the special prosecutor. In August 2004, I gave limited testimony about my conversations with Scooter Libby. Libby had also given me a specific waiver, and I gave a deposition in the office of my attorney. I have never discussed that conversation until now. In that testimony, I recounted an on-the-record conversation with Libby that moved to background. On the record, he denied that Cheney knew about or played any role in the Wilson trip to Niger. On background, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, "Yeah, I've heard that too," or words to that effect. Like Rove, Libby never used Valerie Plame's name or indicated that her status was covert, and he never told me that he had heard about Plame from other reporters, as some press accounts have indicated.

Consider Mr. Cooper's assertion that he had never previously "discussed" his August 2004 "conversation." (Why does he refer to his testimony as a "conversation?") Somebody conveyed much of the substance of that "conversation" to Susan Schmidt, who on November 26, 2004 wrote in the Washington Post:

Time reporter Matthew Cooper has told prosecutors that he talked to Libby on July 12 and mentioned that he had heard that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, a source knowledgeable about his testimony said. Cooper testified that Libby said he had heard the same thing from the media.

It would be a serious crime for anyone in the special prosecutor's office to have disclosed Mr. Cooper's testimony. But Mr. Cooper and his attorney (presumably, Richard Stauber) were free to do so. Is Mr. Cooper claiming in his new TIME article that he did not "discuss" his earlier testimony while knowing that his attorney or some other agent of his did discuss that testimony, or that he or one of his agents conveyed information to Ms. Schmidt through means other than a narrowly defined "discussion" (e-mail of a summary transcript, for example)? He is choosing his words with exquisite care. I think it is highly likely that Mr. Cooper knows exactly why Ms. Schmidt wrote what she did - but he's not telling us.

Then there is his revelation that "Libby had also given me a specific waiver." How could such a "specific waiver" have been obtained from Mr. Libby if what Mr. Cooper's attorney, Richard Stauber, said in his dramatic detailing of how a "specific waiver" was obtained from Mr. Rove is true:

[O]n Wednesday morning ... I picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal. And in there, right at the end of the article about this matter is the following statement: "Mr. Rove hasn't asked any reporter to treat him as a confidential source in the matter," Mr. Luskin said, who I understand is Mr. Rove's lawyer. "So if Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source, it's not Karl he's protecting." I immediately called Matt from the plane and said, "You ought to take a look at this comment. I think it is interesting and I think we should give a shot of calling Mr. Luskin and seeing if we could get a specific waiver," which Matt authorized me to do. I arrived in Washington early Wednesday morning. I put in a call to Mr. Luskin and asked him for a specific waiver.

How was it proper for Mr. Cooper to obtain a "specific waiver" from Mr. Libby but not Mr. Rove? Mr. Stauber says he had not previously asked Mr. Rove for a "specific waiver" because contact with Mr. Rove might constitute obstruction of justice, as reported by Howard Kurtz:

Matthew Cooper ... never asked White House political adviser Karl Rove to release him from a pledge of confidentiality because Cooper's attorney believed that any conversation between the two men could be construed as obstruction of justice. "I forbid Matt to call him," Richard Sauber said yesterday. "I cringed at the idea. These two witnesses would have to explain their discussion before the grand jury." .... Cooper insisted he would "never be able to work" in journalism if he accepted the general waiver that Rove and other White House officials had given journalists. "I just thought those blanket waivers handed out essentially by one's boss are hard to consider uncoerced," Cooper said in an interview yesterday.
But Mr. Cooper and his lawyer now want us to believe that all it took was a squib in the Journal to get Mr. Stauber over his "cringe." And we are also expected to believe that Mr. Cooper was concerned that Mr. Rove's blanket waiver was "coerced" but that a specific waiver somehow would not be "coerced"- even though the coercive pressure on Mr. Rove had only been growing and the "specific waiver" merely stated that the earlier blanket waiver applied to Mr. Cooper. And on top of that we are supposed to believe, without explanation, that Messrs. Stauber and Cooper did not consider contact with Mr. Libby for the same purpose to pose the same concerns. And let's not forget that Mr. Stauber wants us to believe that he was prepared to have his client spend time in jail for contempt, but "cringed" at the idea of his client having to explain contact with Mr. Rove. This is all grossly implausible on its face. Whatever, Messrs. Cooper and Stauber are and have been up to, they almost certainly haven't disclose it yet.

In a prior post I wrote that Mr. Cooper had lied about the number of his sources for his original TIME story on the basis of the post-testimony comments of Mr. Cooper and his attorney, which I construed as indicating that Mr. Rove was his sole source. That was my error. This morning Mr. Cooper said on "Meet the Press" that Messrs. Libby and Rove were among the "government officials" referred to in Mr. Cooper's original TIME story and also said there may have been other sources for that information - and he declined to elaborate. He said that he has given all information to the grand jury. Isn't Mr. Cooper cute?

This is what was in Mr. Cooper's original TIME article:
[S]ome government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore, sometimes referred to as yellow cake, which is used to build nuclear devices.

Mr. Cooper's new TIME article does not say that Mr. Libby "noted" any such thing. Instead, Mr. Cooper described his interview with Mr. Libby this way:

I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, "Yeah, I've heard that too," or words to that effect.

The sentence "I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger" obviously does not even contain a reference to the CIA or to weapons of mass destruction. And Libby replying, "Yeah, I've heard that too," or words to that effect, does not constitute a "note" on Mr. Libby's part. If Mr. Cooper is counting Mr. Libby as one of the "government officials [who] have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" on the basis of what he describes in his new TIME article, then Mr. Cooper grossly misrepresented or misconstrued what Mr. Libby actually said - and grossly overstated the support he had obtained for his original article.

But then he still has those mysterious "other officials" to fall back on, doesn't he?

Valerie Plame is a government official, isn't she? Judith? Valerie? Are you listening?

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

It Appears That Paul Begala, Advisor To President Bill Clinton, Is Literally Insane

But Democrats still honor him when he says this kind of thing about Republicans:

"They want to kill me and my children if they can. But if they just kill me and not my children, they want my children to be comforted -- that while they didn't protect me because they cut my taxes, my children won't have to pay any money on the money they inherit," Begala said. "That is bulls*** national defense, and we should say that."
By "literally," I mean literally.

Link from DRUDGE
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Mickey Kaus and Tom Maguire interestingly ask if Judith Miller may have been a source for the White House information regarding Valerie Plame.

Is it possible that Judith ran into Valerie in connection with some weapons of mass destruction item (the two women's common interest), as Messrs. Kaus and Maguire suggest, that Judith thereby gained Valerie's confidence - and Valerie is Judith's "source" about her husband's trip? Of course, Valerie presumably had no interest in discrediting her husband's story, but she may not have been aware that her husband's investigation was as flawed, shoddy and likely fraudulent as it turned out to be. The Wilson report was reportedly construed by a majority of CIA analysts as evidence of the opposite of what Wilson was arguing it supported. Could Valerie have disagreed - and brought her minority view to her by then trusted buddy, Judith? That is: Could Valerie have been attempting to advance the substance of her husband's investigation, disclosing her own role in the process? As things turned out, Wilson's report was unsalvagable, as Judith may have determined - perhaps a conversation with one of the "majority" analysts was enough to disabuse her. Such a determination by Judith would perhaps ironically leave Valerie's role in her husband's original selection as the only really newsworthy item in Judith's possession (at least after giving effect to the Times' political agenda, as noted below).

Valerie being Judith's source might explain why Judith isn't cooperating with the special prosecutor now, even though all the White House people have signed waivers - and it is clear that they will sign more specific waivers, if asked. But has Valerie signed any waiver? Has anyone asked her to? I doubt it - and I have seen no report suggesting she has signed one. The Times argument that waivers aren't sufficiently "voluntary" even when signed by big, well-represented players is absurd: The Times says waivers given by government officials under "pressure" are not enough, but then calls for those same officials to be held "accountable" for their action taken in the constantly-pressured course of their officials duties. Could any reasonable person state the Times' argument without laughing at it? Obviously, high officials sign up for "pressure" and are expected on all counts to deal with it and accept its consequences - as TIME and Matt Cooper, for example, eventually acknowledged.

Valerie being Judith's source might also help explain why Judith never published anything, if one posits the Times' was uninterested in discrediting Joe Wilson. Matt Cooper published - but he transformed his story mostly into a slam on his White House "sources" (as Byron York points out). That option would not have been open to Judith if Valerie was her source.

Just a thought. Just speculation.

If these thoughts and speculations are near the mark, wouldn't it follow that the New York Times has probably known from or near the beginning that Ms. Plame was not a covert agent under the federal non-disclosure law and/or that Ms. Miller was ultimately the person responsible for public disclosure of her "covert" role? And if that's correct, wouldn't it also follow that the Times has long known that disclosure of her identity was therefore not a crime committed by anyone in the White House, and that the Times knew all that even as the Times was running many editorials pretending the opposite?

Of course, once Ms. Miller faced actual jail time, even the Times belatedly "discovered" the unlikelihood that any crime had been committed in the disclosure of Ms. Plame's identity (possible obstruction of the investigation is another matter). That obviously disingenuous change of heart and legal analysis already indicates that the Times has almost certainly been misrepresenting its thinking and knowledge in this matter for a very long time.

Isn't it time for the special prosecutor to call Times management before the grand jury to ask about such things? Isn't it time that the Times itself - as a public corporation - was asked a few direct questions and told to deliver a few of its own documents and e-mails, as TIME was?

And, if in fact the Times knew that its many editorials on the Plame matter were reeking of the disingenuousness suggested above, wouldn't the Times quite appropriately suffer far more than CBS News did as a result of Rathergate? - and take much of the mainstream media with it into whatever oblivion the Times would then descend?

Just a thought. Just speculation.

UPDATE: There are those who argue that Bob Novak did not "out" Ms. Plame after all, with the real culprits being David Corn and her husband. But would Mr. Wilson do such a thing without Mrs. Wilson's consent? And if he or she has admitted any such thing to the grand jury, why would the special prosecutor still be so interested in Matt Cooper and Judith Miller?

If Joe Wilson is the culprit (with or without his wife's involvement), it would make sense that he is now saying that "My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity." [UPDATE: During the early afternoon of July 15, 2005, the Associated Press issued a corrected version of the article noting Wilson's clarification that "his wife lost her ability to be a covert agent because of the leak, not that she had stopped working for the CIA beforehand." In light of Mr. Wilson's clarification, it appears that if he did "out" his own wife, and she was a covert agent (which now appears to be unlikely), he is guilty of a federal felony.] Otherwise, he would be guilty of a federal felony. If he or she has been asked whether either of them was the source of the "leak," and misled the prosecutor or grand jury, that would be enough to support a "Martha Stewart" obstruction or perjury case.

Of course, in the same interview in which he admitted his wife was not a "clandestine officer" on the day of Novak's column, Mr. Wilson also refused to comment on her prior status - which, of course, is highly material to the question of whether someone in or outside of the Bush administration violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. But Mr. Wilson had already written extensively about her pre-Novak era in his book in terms not consistent with her having been a covert agent for many years. Whatever else he's doing, Mr. Wilson is clearly playing a highly disingenuous and misleading game.

FURTHER UPDATE: The Times is even being ridiculed by its own columnist, John Tierney, who weighs in with a terrific column:

So far Karl Rove appears guilty of telling reporters something he had heard, that Valerie Wilson, the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, worked for the C.I.A. But because of several exceptions in the 1982 law forbidding disclosure of a covert operative's identity, virtually no one thinks anymore that he violated it. The law doesn't seem to apply to Ms. Wilson because she apparently hadn't been posted abroad during the five previous years. .... Karl Rove's version of events now looks less like a smear and more like the truth: Mr. Wilson's investigation, far from being requested and then suppressed by a White House afraid of its contents, was a low-level report of not much interest to anyone outside the Wilson household. .... For now, though, it looks as if this scandal is about a spy who was not endangered, a whistle-blower who did not blow the whistle and was not smeared, and a White House official who has not been fired for a felony that he did not commit. And so far the only victim is a reporter who did not write a story about it. ....


Yes, "Nadagate" says it all. As noted above, there is reason to suspect that Ms. Miller and the Times knew all of what Mr. Tierney describes long before anyone else did. Yet the Times - apparently with the direct involvement of Mr. Sulzberger - has been hammering on this story in editorials and tendentious reporting as if that paper had no notion whatsoever of what the facts were.

What did the Timespeople know and when did they know it? That is the increasingly obvious central question in this matter. And this question is also worth considering: What, if anything, has the Times (especially Mr. Sulzberger) done to obstruct the special prosecutor's conduct of an investigation the Times demanded - quite possibly while knowing through Judith Miller from the beginning that no crime had been committed? As Mr. Tierney correctly notes: Well, there's always the chance that the prosecutor will turn up evidence of perjury or obstruction of justice during the investigation, which would just prove once again that the easiest way to uncover corruption in Washington is to create it yourself by investigating nonexistent crimes.

Yes, indeed. And it's his own employer who may have invented those nonexistent crimes, repeatedly demanded an investigation in bad faith ... and then obstructed that investigation by pressuring Ms. Miller not to comply with her subpoena.

Many things remain uncertain in this matter, but one aspect seems to emerge with more and more clarity from the mists:

The mainstream media and the New York Times are very likley to take a very nasty hit when all of the facts come to light. The whole mess could be as bad for the Times as Rathergate was for CBS News.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

American Political Suicide Bombers II

Another day, another new, overcharged story regarding Mr. Rove's non-involvement with the Plame/Wilson affair:
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
[Note: this description of the source sounds like Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, who would not have been with Mr. Rove in the grand jury room, but would certainly have been "briefed" (or "officially briefed" as the New York Times describes the source)] 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.

Rove testified that Novak originally called him the Tuesday before Plame's identity was revealed in July 2003 to discuss another story. The conversation eventually turned to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was strongly criticizing the Bush administration's Iraq war policy and the intelligence it used to justify the war, the source said.

The person said Rove testified that Novak told him he had learned and planned to report in a weekend column that Wilson's wife, Plame, had worked for the CIA, and the circumstances on how her husband traveled to Africa to check bogus claims of alleged nuclear material sales to Iraq. .... Rove told the grand jury that by the time Novak had called him, he believes he had similar information about Wilson's wife from another reporter but had no recollection of which reporter had told him about it first, the source said.

When Novak inquired about Wilson's wife working for the CIA, Rove indicated he had heard something like that, according to the source's recounting of the grand jury testimony.
Whatever else Mr. Rove's grand jury testimony may mean (assuming this account is accurate), his testimony is certainly not equivalent to Mr. Novak's description in the original Novak column, if Mr. Rove is taken to be one of the referenced "senior administration officials":

Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report.
It is simply not the case that someone who tells one that he has "heard the same thing" about a story one has just recounted has "told" that recounted story. Mr. Novak's old column, "Evans and Novak," was widely known as "Errors and No Facts." Could Mr. Novak be carrying on the wrong tradition?

Didn't CBS News make this same mistake in "corroborating" the Rathergate story by calling a military official, telling him the story and then noting that he didn't contradict the whole thing? Houston, we have inside corroboration!

How widespread is this particular journalistic practice of pseudo-confirmation?

Of course, Mr. Rove is not the only person who has testified before that grand jury. Matt Cooper also had his day, and afterwards he had this to say about his own testimony:
Now, today I testified -- and agreed to testify -- solely because of a waiver I received from a source last Wednesday. I'd like to explain a little bit about that waiver. We're going to hand out copies of the waiver agreement in a little bit. .... And even when Time Incorporated, over my objections, handed my notes, my e-mails to the grand jury, when some of those materials began to leak into the public domain revealing my source, many people, including my good friend and lawyer here, Richard Sauber, urged me to testify.

I think it is pretty clear from this excerpt that Mr. Cooper testified that he had one source for his story, the same source who signed that particular, specific waiver Mr. Cooper now says he needed. Moreover, later in the linked transcript, Mr. Cooper's attorney, Mr. Stauber, goes on about how he could neither rely on the blanket waiver signed long ago by Mr. Rove nor even contact Mr. Rove or Mr. Rove's attorney to ask for a specific waiver - until, for some reason, reading about it in the Wall Street Journal changed all that. Such considerations would of course apply to every one of Mr. Cooper's sources, if there were more than one. But Mr. Cooper is very clear: Now, today I testified -- and agreed to testify -- solely because of a waiver I received from a source last Wednesday.

If Mr. Cooper had more than one source for his article he's cutting the baloney pretty thin in this transcript. of course, it wouldn't be the first time for him.

Maguire, as always, has great stuff on this topic - especially his discussion of why Lewis Libby, in particular, was probably not a source.
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American Political Suicide Bombers

This link is to a GOP site (link from DRUDGE). But its demolition of Joe Wilson (and, correspondingly, the vindication of Karl Rove) seems remarkably thorough.

Focus on the claimed impropriety of Mr. Rove's "leak" by the media (especially the New York Times) and by some Democrats in the Senate seems to be an attempt to avoid the increasingly obvious conclusion that the facts underlying the "leak" overwhelmingly favor the White House because Mr. Wilson and his now-discredited story are dangerous, politically toxic frauds. The media and Democrats therefore seek to focus not on the underlying facts, but on the "leak's" disclosure of Ms. Plame's doubtful covert status. But the strategy behind that narrow focus is probably a lead pipe political loser, as suggested by an earlier genuine scandal: Republican focus on Bill Clinton's perjury instead of the underlying facts of his involvement with Monica Lewinski. Democrats successfully maintained that those underlying facts were "all about sex" (which, they argued, was essentially nothing).

The larger facts and total circumstances underlying claimed perjury or improper "leaking" obviously do matter, especially politically. Pretending otherwise, as Republicans did in the Lewinski case and Democrats and much of the media are doing now in the Plame case, is very dangerous. In the short run, Republicans came out the worse in the Lewinski mess, and almost lost the Congress (although perhaps Al Gore and the Democrats suffered in the longer run, on "values" issues).

One might have thought that the Democrats would have learned from their earlier short-term success (and short term is what Washington mostly cares about in strategy and skirmishes). But the Democrats and their media water carriers seem to remember nothing about the Lewinski dynamics, and still less do they understand that the differences between the prior and current claimed "scandals" seem to all be against the Democrats: Mr. Rove's comments to TIME reporter Cooper appear to have been no more a crime than Mr. Clinton's salacious behavior with his intern. [UPDATE: It now seems that the Wilson's were both in the US for too long to even be covered by the federal statute prohibiting the disclosure of covert agents - at least according to Wilson's book. Link from Taranto ] Even the Times is reduced to running big, silly front-pagers on Rove that bury this jewel:
Based on the e-mail message, Mr. Rove's disclosures are not criminal, said Bruce S. Sanford, a Washington lawyer who helped write the law and submitted a brief on behalf of several news organizations concerning it to the appeals court hearing the case of Mr. Cooper and Judith Miller, an investigative reporter for The New York Times. "It is clear that Karl Rove's conversation with Matt Cooper does not fall into that category" of criminal conduct, Mr. Sanford said. "That's not 'knowing.' It doesn't even come close." There has been some dispute, moreover, about just how secret a secret agent Ms. Wilson was. "She had a desk job in Langley," said Ms. Toensing, who also signed the supporting brief in the appeals court, referring to the C.I.A.'s headquarters. "When you want someone in deep cover, they don't go back and forth to Langley."
On the other hand, President Clinton's perjury was itself a crime. But there's another big difference: A superior's sexual act with a subordinate can be a serious and politically disastrous civil wrong. Ms. Lewinski remained loyal to Bill Clinton, but he had exposed himself (apologies for the pun) to the possibility that if she had ever turned on him and asserted that he pressured her, she could have devastatingly sued him for sexual abuse. The specter of the president reduced to claiming some kind of legal privilege from liability for using the power and prestige of his office to pressure his intern to allow her body to be penetrated with his cigar, and much more, silently hovered over every minute of those impeachment proceedings. And, still, the Republicans lost in the short term.

In addition, Mr. Clinton's behavior with Ms. Lewinski was thought disgusting and disgraceful to many people - including many in Mr. Clinton's feminist base, who were forced by political expediency to humiliate themselves with silence. Mr. Clinton's antics were also far from known common Washington office practice. In contrast, Washington lives on leaks, which are considered normal. In fact, leaks are generally celebrated by the media as an essential aid to democracy. Briefs filed by the New York Times, TIME and other media companies (as well as by some civil rights groups) with the Supreme Court and other federal courts, attempted unsuccessfully to elevate this supposed benefit to democracy to the pantheon of First Amendment privilege for media representatives. The other major concentration of presidential critics, the Democratic caucus of the United States Senate, preaches the dangers and impropriety of "leaks" to the media at the risk of the audience breaking into gales of laughter over the obvious hypocrisy.

If Mr. Rove had breached federal law prohibiting disclosure of covert agents, or had even inadvertently been the source of disclosure of a true covert agent, the facts of the Plame case might to some extent be distinguishable from common Washington leaking (which, by the way, I do not wish to suggest I endorse). But none of that seems to be the case. Nobody has produced evidence that Mr. Rove knowingly outed Ms. Plame, and there is considerable evidence to suggest that the only information Mr. Rove had on Plame was obtained from other journalists - as pointed out repeatedly by the Wall Street Journal, for example:

Media chants aside, there's no evidence that Mr. Rove broke any laws in telling reporters that Ms. Plame may have played a role in her husband's selection for a 2002 mission to investigate reports that Iraq was seeking uranium ore in Niger. To be prosecuted under the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Mr. Rove would had to have deliberately and maliciously exposed Ms. Plame knowing that she was an undercover agent and using information he'd obtained in an official capacity. But it appears Mr. Rove didn't even know Ms. Plame's name and had only heard about her work at Langley from other journalists.
And, of course, the more the argument is made that the leak was serious and possibly improper, the more important the special prosecutor's need to know all the facts is supported. Poor Ms. Miller, a sacrificial offering. But surely Mr. Sulzberger has promised that he will make things nice for her when she gets out? Is that obstruction of justice on Mr. Sulzberger's part? Yes, it probably is, technically. Indeed, given Ms. Miller's continued silence and the special prosecutor's zeal, perhaps he should consider summoning Mr. Sulzberger and Times' management to the grand jury to ask what, if anything, those worthies have offered, done or said to Ms. Miller - including anything affecting the prospect of her advancement at the newspaper - to induce her to defy the court. [UPDATE: Victoria Toensing, another of the attorneys who helped draft the 1982 act [that protects covert agents' identities] ... said, "reading between the lines, I'd say he's got a 'Martha Stewart case' " involving perjury or obstruction of justice.] The Times has certainly not backed down yet (although that is coming), but even the Times' coverage has shriveled to this kind of thing:

President Bush said Wednesday that he would withhold judgment on whether Karl Rove, his senior adviser and political strategist, had identified an undercover C.I.A. operative in a conversation with a reporter for Time magazine. .... Mr. Bush's comment came nearly two years after he suggested that he would fire anyone in his administration who had knowingly leaked the identity of the operative, Valerie Wilson.
So even the Times now remembers the "knowingly" bit. In light of the evidence and developments so far, the president's comment amounts to a subtle "screw you" directed at the media, the Democrats and especially the Times.

The media and Democrats seem poised to take the Plame fallout in a big, bad way. The consequences will maybe not be quite as localized and intense as the fallout from the Rathergate disaster, although that will depend to a large extent on what the Times and Ms. Miller actually knew and when they knew it - and whether the public ever finds such things out. But even on present facts the damage looks likely to be broader and ultimately, worse, for the media than even Rathergate because the entire hostile but contentless (and obviously partisan) media and Democratic second-guessing of the Administration comes hard on the heels of the London bombings. Could there be a worse time for the Administration's critics to be doing what they are doing: second guessing the Administration's anti-terror efforts and drawing attention to the critics' own arguments that the Administration has been "making too much" of the war on terror?

Yet such critics keep charging over the cliff, apparently following the lead of the New York Times: First one sheep jumped to its death. Then ... nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff ... The Democratic abandon has reach the point of Joe Wilson doing press conferences with Democratic Senator Charles Schumer. The London bombers couldn't have known that they were helping the Democrats, the New York Times and much of the American liberal media to blow themselves up - American political "suicide bombers."

POSTSCRIPT: Mickey Kaus and Tom Maguire praise a 2003 Web article by Howard Fineman that purports to provide some backstory for the Plame affair that supposedly explains - in a way yesterday's WSJ editorial quoted above supposedly (according to Mickey) misses - why the White House might have considered it particularly significant that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, and semi-endorsing the following claim by Fineman:
I am told by what I regard as a very reliable source inside the White House that aides there did, in fact, try to peddle the identity of Joe Wilson's wife to several reporters. But the motive wasn't revenge or intimidation so much as a desire to explain why, in their view, Wilson wasn't a neutral investigator, but, a member of the CIA's leave-Saddam-in-place team.
Why should anyone care about Mr. Fineman's airy, unsupported constructs? First, who the heck are the "aides"(note the plural) claimed by Mr. Fineman's source other than Mr. Rove supposed to be? If Mr. Fineman knew anything of substance, he would presumably have disgorged it to the special prosecutors (and there's no word that he has done any such thing) or he would now be sharing a cell with Judith Miller (and he isn't). So Mr. Fineman almost certainly knows nothing - yet he writes at length. Mr. Fineman isn't the only reporter likely making claims way beyond his sources in this manner. Mr. Cooper (under oath) and his notes describe only one source (Mr. Rove) and describe an approximately two minute "interview" with him entirely unlike such "shopping." Yet Mr. Cooper's original TIME article suggests that the Administration was "shopping" the anti-Plame story and outright states (not just suggests) that Mr. Cooper's story is supported by leaks from more than one Administration official:
And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore, sometimes referred to as yellow cake, which is used to build nuclear devices.
In other words, Mr. Cooper outright lied about the number and circumstances of his White House contacts - either in his TIME article or under oath. And the claims made by Mr. Fineman are highly suspect in themselves and in light of his completely non-existent role in the special prosecutor's investigation.

No thanks. I'll stick with the Journal's take unless a lot more comes to light.

FURTHER UPDATE: The sheep keep leaping:

Democrats stirred the pot Thursday in the case of powerful presidential aide Karl Rove and the news leak that unmasked a CIA agent. They triggered a partisan clash in the Senate, sought a House investigation and brought the husband of the undercover operative to the Capitol, where he accused the White House of a "smear campaign."
Of course, there already has been a Congressional (Senate)investigation. The resulting written bipartisan Senate committee report almost completely discredited the very same Mr. Wilson the Democrats have now invited to Capitol Hill, without dissent from a single Senator. But even more peculiar is AP's self-immolation of its own credibility in its casual description of the Plame case as involving "the news leak that unmasked a CIA agent" - where it has by no means been determined that Valery Plame was "unmasked" in any serious sense by any news leak, still less the "leak" by Mr. Rove, who appears to have obtained his information about Ms. Plame from journalists. Indeed, Ms. Plame most likely wasn't even a covert operative, as noted above.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

But At Least They Are Expensive And Inconvenient

From a New York Times item by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt:
[The] Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) ... compiles police reports on all fatal crashes in the U.S. since 1975. These data include every imaginable variable in a crash, including whether the occupants were restrained and how.

Even a quick look at the FARS data reveals a striking result: among children 2 and older, the death rate is no lower for those traveling in any kind of car seat than for those wearing seat belts. There are many reasons, of course, that this raw data might be misleading. Perhaps kids in car seats are, on average, in worse wrecks. Or maybe their parents drive smaller cars, which might provide less protection.

But no matter what you control for in the FARS data, the results don't change. In recent crashes and old ones, in big vehicles and small, in one-car crashes and multiple-vehicle crashes, there is no evidence that car seats do a better job than seat belts in saving the lives of children older than 2. (In certain kinds of crashes -- rear-enders, for instance -- car seats actually perform worse.)
Professor Levitt is a winner of the John Bates Clark Medal who actually has interesting, popular, stimulating things to write in the New York Times - and doesn't have to resort to parrotting partisan talking points or slicing and dicing statistics. In fact, he has been writing more and more in the Times recently.

Could it be that the Times is discovering that it might be better to have a genuinely talented, interesting, non-paranoid, non-repetitive, open minded, fun, serious, John Bates Clark Medal-winning academic economist (one who the Clark committee is not embarrassed to have given that medal to in the first place) like Professor Levitt writing columns for the paper instead of Paul Krugman? Where could the Times have got such an idea like that? - assuming, of course, that they've caught on yet.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

O, Mickey, I Love It When You Get All Nasty And Snarly Like That!

Mickey Kaus is on a chew! Or, rather, Mickey's out to chew Nic Harcourt a new one:

Nic Harcourt? To Rob Walker's 760 words in January [the New York Times] now added Jaime Wolf's 4,271--this for a man with barely enough on-air personality to sustain a prepositional phrase. Like the L.A. Times, Harcourt's KCRW empire of the "semipopular" is a Southern California institution that seems terrific to gullible East Coasters who don't have to live with it every day. Harcourt's scared to rock. His interviews are painful and formulaic. He doesn't provide "a subtle connective tissue, contextualizing the listening experience byond just a handful of songs." He puts you to sleep. He's a menace to highway safety. ... I was going to call Harcourt's dreary parade of breathy, self-absorbed, suffocating pop "yuppie shopping music," except that if stores actually played Harcourt's synapse-numbing choices the economy would grind to a halt! ... Three consistent motifs of L.A. stand-up comedy are plastic surgery, traffic, and how lame KCRW's music is. ... Yes, Harcourt "was the first in America to play Norah Jones." I like Norah Jones. But do you want to listen to the kind of DJ who'd be the first to play Norah Jones? I don't think so.
That's just great, Mickey! I've never even listened to Nic Harcourt. But now I'm so stoked I want to jump up, run out to my car, and tune into Nic Harcourt ... just so I can say I was so bored I immediately turned him off!

KCRW? Wait a minute! KCRW is an NPR affiliate, right? Doesn't that mean it's median listener age is probably something like 48 (the NPR median)? But do you want to listen to the kind of DJ who's got a median listener age of 48? I don't think so - at least if it's not classical music!

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Monday, July 04, 2005

What Does The Nature Of The Most Popular Political Web Site In A Country Tell You About That Country?

Here is an English translation of the most popular political site in Russia.

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Could The Senate Filibuster Deal Really Be THAT Big A Democratic Loss?

The Washington Post reports on the upcoming Supreme Court appointment confirmation battle:

[E]ven if they can show that the nominee has sharply held views on matters that divide many Americans, some of the 14 senators who crafted the May 23 compromise appear poised to prevent that strategy from blocking confirmation to the high court, according to numerous interviews.

The pact, signed by seven Democrats and seven Republicans, says a judicial nominee will be filibustered only under "extraordinary circumstances." Key members of the group said yesterday that a nominee's philosophical views cannot amount to "extraordinary circumstances" and that therefore a filibuster can be justified only on questions of personal ethics or character.
If that claim is correct, it represents an extraordinary miscall by a wide range of analysts. Only hours after the Senate filibuster "deal" was announced, scads of analysts across the political spectrum rushed to explain why the terms of the deal favored the Democrats: Stone to Kaus to Sowell to the New York Times (on both sides of its nearly abolished line dividing "news" from "editorial opinion") and beyond were depicting the filibuster deal cut by the "gang of 14" as a substantial disappointment for conservatives and Republicans.

Yet, the Post now tells us that deal prohibits recourse to all of the most important ideological and jurisprudential criteria the Democrats need to satisfy their now-frantic constituencies, such as NOW:
NOW president Kim Gandy told about 800 NOW members Friday that women need to send a message that they won't tolerate "extremist" judges who set back women's rights. "This is our time. This is our challenge," Gandy said as the crowd replied by clapping and chanting, "Hell no, we won't go" and "We won't go back." .... Gandy said the group fears "a nominee along the lines of some of the extremist judges that have been put on the appellate court by George Bush."
If what the Post reports is correct and holds up in the Senate, Mr. Bush can do exactly what Ms. Gandy fears most, so long as he chooses a candidate of impeccable personal ethics and character.

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Friday, July 01, 2005

How can The Washington Post Be This Clueless?

The Washington Post reports:
One possibility is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the former White House counsel and a longtime Bush aide dating back to when Bush was governor of Texas. Bush may want to make history by selecting the first Hispanic American for the Supreme Court.
Whatever else may come of this appointment, President Bush apparently CANNOT make history by selecting the first Hispanic American for the Supreme Court. That honor goes to Herbert Hoover, with his 1932 appointment of Benjamin Cardozo. Although there are those who question Cardozo's Hispanic bona fides, a major biography of Justice Cardozo says:
Cardozo family tradition holds that their ancestors were Portuguese Marranos--Jews who practiced Judaism secretly after forced conversion to Christianity--who fled the Inquisition in the seventeenth century. They took refuge first in Holland and then in London. Later members of the family emigrated to the New World. Aaron Cardozo, was the first Cardozo to settle in the American colonies, arriving in New York from London in 1752. He lived in Wilton, Connecticut, during the Revolution and later resided in Richmond, Virginia. He married Sarah Nunez, his double first cousin. In the small Sephardic community, marriage of close relations was common.
Justice Cardozo's family had not only been in North America for a very long time, but they were present at important events. For example, his great-great-uncle Rabbi Gershom Mendes Seixas attended George Washington's presidential inauguration.

If the Washington Post wants to accept the "not-proved-Hispanic" argument, the paper should at least say so. But one gets the impression that this article was written by someone who didn't even know about the issue. This article reminds me of something a very Italian-American friend who moved to Texas used to say: "I had to move to Austin from Brooklyn just to find some place where I could be an 'Anglo.'"

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