Man Without Qualities

Sunday, October 02, 2005

So What's New With Judith?

There has been lots of chattering about Judith Miller's recent release from jail and her testimony in the Plame non-case among those who care to chatter about such things. And God bless their little chattering hearts and fingers, each and every one.

As the mainstream media and various bloggers describe in excruciating detail (and, as Maguire capably points out, often excruciatingly incorrect detail), none of the explanations proffered by the Times (or, really, anyone else) as to why Ms. Miller ever when to jail in the first place make much sense - still less any explanation as to why she agreed to testify.

The partial exception is the obvious one: Whatever her reasons for going to jail in the first place may have been, 85 days of confinement made her realize those reasons were just as stupid as everyone had been suggesting they were. Such effects on recalcitrant witnesses of time in the pokey is, after all, why courts put witnesses who refuse to testify in jail in the first place: Long incarceration tends to make them agree to testify. If several hundred years of practical experience did not evidence the effectiveness of the technique, courts probably couldn't be bothered using it now. The whole procedure, after all, is pretty expensive, messy and time consuming.

But I would like to note another central element that changed between day 1 and day 85: Everybody, including the Times, pretty much stopped talking much about the Plame non-matter and how the Plame non-matter might affect the president during that period, especially in the weeks towards the end. So perhaps the correct explanation runs something like this:

The entire Plame non-matter has always been a trivial non-issue that has been kept not-quite-alive by dogged efforts of the president's critics in the mainstream media solely as a talking points gimmick. The New York Times has very much been part of that effort - even a leader of it. As part of that effort, the Times purported to adopt and/or endorse the preposterous and hyper-sensitive policies on pseudo-coerced waivers that led to Ms. Miller's incarceration.

But then something odd happened: With its reporter rotting in the special prosecutor's tank, the New York Times and everyone else eventually got completely distracted, lost all interest in the Plame non-matter and began to treat it as the non-matter it always has been. The Times actually mentioned "Plame" on September 3 (an Op-Ed piece by Bob Dole, of all people, pleading for Ms. Miller's release) - and then went to sleep without a single story on this urgent non-matter until September 30, when the paper of record startled itself awake to "report" that what's-her-name would be released from jail and testify. (The Washington Post absent mindedly included a few references to Plame of the "Oh, yeah, also ..." variety in the same period.)

Perhaps, just before the last flickering of institutional memory went out, somebody at the Times - maybe Mr. Bill Keller - woke up to a thought along the lines of:
"Gee, since nobody gives a rat's ass anymore about that Plum affair... (or is it Plume? ... Flame? ... Flambe? ... well, whatever - I'll look it up on Google when I get to the office), maybe there's no point in leaving old what's-her-name, our 1st Amendment heroine (note to self: Google) locked in Fitzgerald's iron mask? Must ask Pinch."
And he did ask Pinch! And Pinch replied - right after being reminded who what's her-name actually was and why the Times had thought it was a good idea to order her (I mean, support her decision) to go to jail rather than testify:
Keller, you're right! I knew there had to be reason why I made you editor! Get that girl out of the klink as soon as you can! Tell them everything's changed! Tell them anything! Tell them that Libby .. or Liddy … or whoever got all non-coerced or something, just like you just said! Better yet, tell them that what's-her-name had to wait for Liddy or whoever to come to her cell and give his release in person - so she could make sure he wasn't crossing his fingers behind his back when he gave it! God, I'm good! Make it happen, Keller - and have my assistant send me in another $50 cigar!
Yes, as New York Times superstar columnist Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman says: That's the way it was. It's all true. It's all backed up by one of those technical journals Herr Doktorprofessor sometimes tells us he subscribes to. They did a computer model or something.

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