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Are White House Officials in Legal Jeopardy?; Miller Testifies for Federal Shield Law for Reporters
Aired October 23, 2005 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice-over): Indictment fever. With Patrick Fitzgerald's CIA leak investigation nearing the finish line, are top White House officials really in legal jeopardy, or is that just overheated journalistic speculation?
Judith Miller testifies for a federal shield law for reporters.
JUDITH MILLER, NEW YORK TIMES: When the dust clears, I hope that journalists and newsrooms will be involved and not confused or angered by what I've done.
KURTZ: But some critics urged "The New York Times" to stop shielding Miller and fire her.
Harriet Miers and her 16-year-old call for an amendment banning abortion. Is the press giving her a fair trial?
Plus, double bogey. A "Sports Illustrated" writer gets Michelle Wie disqualified from her first pro tournament.
KURTZ: Welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES, where today we turn our critical lens on the Valerie Plame investigation. I'm Howard Kurtz.
You're joining us at our new time, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific, for what is now a full hour of media criticism and analysis.
Ahead, we'll talk to a panel of top Internet writers and bloggers about the MSM -- that's mainstream media -- what will become a regular feature on this program.
But first, a war of words erupted this weekend between "New York Times" editor Bill Keller and Judith Miller, the reporter he so strongly defended while she went off to jail for refusing to testify in the CIA leak investigation.
In a memo to the staff, Keller said he had made mistakes in handling the case, but also faulted Miller for not telling him earlier about her conversations with CIA operative Valerie Plame -- with Scooter Libby about Plame, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and for saying she had gotten no leaks on subject when asked two years ago by Philip Taubman, the paper's Washington bureau chief. Keller wrote: "Judy seems to have misled Phil Taubman about the extent of her involvement. If I had known the details of Judy's entanglement with Libby, I would have been more careful in how the paper articulated its defense, and perhaps more willing than I had been to support efforts aimed at exploring compromises."
Miller told "The Times" that Keller's criticism was, quote, "seriously inaccurate. I certainly never meant to mislead Phil, nor did I mislead him." As for Keller's reference to her entanglement with Libby, Miller said she had no personal, social or other relationship with him, except as a source.
Joining us now, David Gergen, former adviser to four presidents, and professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and editor at large at "U.S. News and World Report."
In New York, Geneva Overholser, former editor of "The Des Moines Register" and director of the University of Missouri Journalism Schools's Washington program.
And here in Washington, Ron Brownstein, chief political correspondent for "The Los Angeles Times."
David Gergen, Bill Keller accusing Judy Miller of misleading the paper after so strongly defending her for such a long period of time. Why is he doing this? And can Judy Miller continue to work at "The New York Times"?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Howie, it grows curiouser and curiouser as they said in "Alice in Wonderland." This whole episode now after "The New York Times" fiercely defended her, while she was in prison, now they are basically accusing her of doing not only a bad job reporting on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but also misleading the paper itself. And we've now had Maureen Dowd yesterday, as you know, a well-respected columnist at "The Times" saying that Miller should not come back to the paper. And today, the public editor of "The Times," on its editorial pages, Byron Calame, has said she should not come back. And most curiously of all, "New York Times" editorial page that had so been such a fierce defender of her while she was in prison, has been totally silent.
GERGEN: Has been totally silent.
KURTZ: Now, Ron Brownstein, David mentioned the Maureen Dowd column yesterday. A few choice excerpts. She says that Judy Miller is "sorely in need of a tight editorial leash," that she was credulous about, quote, "bogus" stories planted by a former Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi. That Judy Miller doesn't seem credible when she says she couldn't remember the other source who told her about "Valerie Flame" as she wrote it down in her notebook, and if Judy Miller returns to "The New York Times," says Maureen Dowd, the paper is in danger. Is this an open revolt by "The Times"?
RON BROWNSTEIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: The headline of that column should have been "Don't let the door hit you on your way out." I mean, it was extraordinary to see this level of internecine dispute play out in the pages of a newspaper, and yet not surprising in a sense also, Howie, because there has been so much tension inside "The New York Times" over the pre-war reporting of Judy Miller and others on the weapons of mass destruction. And certainly, that long reconstruction a week ago today raised many more questions than it answered. As you mentioned, one of the big ones, when she said that she could not remember who originally told her the name, she would not provide certain information or access to her notes to other reporters in the paper. This seemed almost an inevitable eruption after what we've seen leading up to it.
KURTZ: Right. Much of it until now had been off the record, but now it explodes in the pages.
Geneva Overholser, Miller's lawyer, Robert Bennett, told me that top editors had warned her that she couldn't keep her job at "The Times" unless she wrote the first person account of her dealings with Scooter Libby, which appeared in last Sunday's paper, Bennett making the argument that this would violate her off-the-record agreements with the vice president's aide.
Publish or perish, is that fair?
GENEVA OVERHOLSER, FORMER EDITOR, DES MOINES REGISTER: Well, I think it is, because, you know, Howie, the point here is that we keep in mind the public's right to know, which of course Judy Miller talked about a great deal when she went to jail. But unlike the Matt Cooper case of "Time" magazine, when he came out of jail, he told immediately what he had said. And I think "The Times" was right to require that of Judy Miller, who wouldn't even name Libby when she same out.
KURTZ: Right, exactly. David Gergen, Bob Bennett also told me about his client, that "The New York Times" fully encouraged her in her refusal to testify, which ended up her serving 85 days in jail before she did reach an agreement to testify.
And so I am wondering, what changed? You've worked in several White Houses. Are we in the damage control phase now, where editors who so strongly defended Miller, as you noted at the top of the program, are now pointing fingers at her?
GERGEN: I think a couple of things. One is, I think the editors of (AUDIO GAP) facts that they didn't have at the time. Bill Keller (AUDIO GAP).
KURTZ: We seem to have lost the audio. We hope to get David Gergen back. Let me ask you, Ron Brownstein. You just alluded to it earlier. Judy Miller didn't fully cooperate with "The New York Times." She didn't turn over her notes on the advice of her lawyer, she wouldn't answer questions about her dealings with editors. Does she still give the impression of having something to hide?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, certainly that story I thought last Sunday made it almost inevitable there would be further conflict at the paper. Because there were lots of questions that she simply would not answer. And it does give you that impression. You know, we don't know exactly -- I think there is a lot of confusion in the journalistic community about exactly what changed from the beginning to the end, what -- why she was in jail for that period to begin with? And how -- and what convinced her that it was now OK to talk about her contacts with Scooter Libby. I mean, the whole thing...
KURTZ: She says she got a personal assurance from Libby, whereas before she didn't feel she had a personal assurance, but a lot of people...
BROWNSTEIN: Have not really understood exactly reading through both what was said, whether there was a real difference there. So I mean, all of this tension inside "The New York Times." And as I said, the really extraordinary thing here is to watch this all play out in public with, as David mentioned, the Maureen Dowd column, the article today by the public editor, probably not the last -- and even yesterday, just this extraordinary appearance of a news article in which the reporter and the editor of the paper are publicly disagreeing with each other about her actions in the case and his description of it.
You know, you cover the media more directly than I do, but I'd never seen anything quite like this before.
KURTZ: I'd have to agree with that.
Geneva, this past week, Judy Miller went up to Capitol Hill to testify in favor of a federal shield law for reporters. So she's kind of casting herself as a First Amendment champion, but meanwhile the criticism continues to come out.
I got a hold of a memo from five years ago by a former "New York Times" investigative reporter, Craig Pyes, who wrote back in 2000, a memo to the editors of the paper, "I do not trust her work, her judgment or her conduct. She is an advocate. And her actions threaten the integrity of the enterprise and everyone who works with her. She's turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources," this being a -- what turned out to be a prize-winning story about al Qaeda.
How does a reporter shrug off all of these battles? And who is in charge of the paper if she can kind of do whatever she wants?
OVERHOLSER: Well, she has been certainly a controversial reporter for years, as you point out, Howie, and many would say an unscrupulous reporter. And we surely saw some examples of worrisomely unscrupulous reporting tactics in this, like a willingness to portray Lewis Libby as a former Hill staffer so as not to give credence to the notion that the White House was trying to smear someone, which appears to be what they were trying to do.
But you know, some people believe that her relationship with Arthur Sulzburger, Jr., who was a young reporter in Washington with Judy, has been key here. And to me, one of the most important statements we've seen, although it's not nearly as extreme in its wording, is Arthur's statement to Byron Calame in this morning's public editor's column, where he says that Judy and he have agreed that there will be limits to her future, or wording to that effect. I think that's quite extraordinary, because Arthur's role here is so key, obviously.
BROWNSTEIN: I wouldn't say sitting here as an outsider, you know, that I know enough about Judy Miller's reporting technique to say whether she's scrupulous or unscrupulous. But I think one thing is very clear, that what -- the size of this eruption at "The New York Times" is -- it means that it's being fed and fueled by more than this immediate event. This is obviously I think the culmination of years of controversy inside the paper.
KURTZ: And I want to come back to that point with you, but I want to go back to David Gergen. Before we were so rudely interrupted by audio problems, I was asking you whether or not "The Times" was now engaged in White House-style damage control by pointing fingers at a reporter who, as you noted earlier, the paper's executives had so vigorously defended as she marched off to jail in Alexandria, Virginia.
GERGEN: To a very large extent, they are, Howie. Two things. One is it's now clear that they didn't know all the facts at the time they defended her, and Bill Keller has said, had we known we might not have encouraged her to go to jail, that we would look for a compromise.
But secondly, very importantly, I think "The Times" is waking up to the fact that its own credibility is now tied to Judy Miller, and that its own credibility has been damaged yet again. And for such an important institution in our society, this is a big deal. I think "The Times" is not only separating itself out from Judy Miller, but they're scrambling to restore their own credibility. And you know, Alex Jones, who is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who is now at the Kennedy School, has said so clearly, they've got a long way to go in this. I do think that their editorial page now has to address this in a very fair way, and they've got to totally pursue this as if she does not work for them and no longer protect her, but really try to get to the bottom of it, and get the facts out for their own credibility.
KURTZ: On the other hand, Geneva, "The Washington Post" editorial page has addressed this and wrote a few days ago, "It's astonishing to see many in the journalism establishment and in the media trade press turn on Ms. Miller, and not just for questions surrounding the waiver from Scooter Libby" -- the confidentiality pledge -- "but also for refusing not to identify all of her sources, turn over all of her notes, and otherwise lay bare her reporting. Normally, these commentators are among the first to defend journalists who seek to protect a confidential source."
So has that whole principle just gotten overshadowed and swept away here?
OVERHOLSER: I think the word astonishing in that editorial is extremely well placed, Howie. Because the whole thing is astonishing. Think how recently almost all of the journalistic community was viewing her as a champion for going to jail.
One thing we really have to keep in mind is that in this era of 24-hour a day blogging and cable news of course, we get information so quickly and in such great rushes, that what used to be, as Malcolm Gladwell would say, a tipping point, now we just sort of tip and fall here and fall there, and we have no idea at any given moment what's happening, I think.
KURTZ: Ron Brownstein, is there so much passion about this because it is a way of refighting the debate over the war in Iraq when you go back to the bogus WMD stories?
BROWNSTEIN: I think absolutely. I mean, I think that, you know, part of what you've got in terms of the ambivalence in the journalistic community and certainly the criticism of her in the -- on the blogs and especially the liberal blogs, is the idea that she was not so much defending a journalistic principle here, but advancing an agenda by the administration, that the same people who fed the stories about WMD before the war were using her as a conduit to defend themselves after the war against Joseph Wilson. And I think that's why she is such an ambiguous figure to so many in the journalistic community and especially on the left.
KURTZ: And two years ago, David Gergen, I obtained an e-mail that Judy Miller sent to her Baghdad bureau chief, in which she said: "I've been covering Ahmed Chalabi for about 10 years. He has provided most of the front-page exclusives on WMD to our paper. We now know that those and other stories were wrong about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction." And Keller, Bill Keller says he wished he corrected some of this earlier.
Were Miller and "The Times" used by Iraqi exiles and by administration officials?
GERGEN: Clearly. Clearly they were used. And the administration was used as well, and it appears that intelligence agencies were used or misused by Chalabi and by -- and others did the same thing.
But I do -- what you're saying, though, Howie, does point to something else. There is now going to be a longer journalistic effort to uncover and to try to -- the -- the journalistic practices of Judy Miller and how "The Times" worked with her. Did they keep her under a tight rein or not -- and obviously they didn't.
KURTZ: All right, so what you're saying is this story is not going to go away.
GERGEN: I think this story is not going to go away, and I think it's not going to be helpful to journalism as a profession at a time, you know, when it's under fire already.
KURTZ: But we're going to go away for just a moment. And when we come back, the media jumps on the speculation bandwagon about possible White House indictments in the Valerie Plame case. We'll talk about Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and the media frenzy in a moment.
KURTZ: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. Journalists are so hopped up over the CIA leak investigation you can practically hear them panting. Even President Bush, who once vowed to fire anyone caught leaking in the Plame matter took note of the frenzy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of chatter. A lot of speculation and opining.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: "The Washington Post" story about how the probe's focus seemed to be on the vice president's office left the door ajar for more pontification and prediction. And a "U.S. News" item on unsubstantiated rumors that Dick Cheney might step down in favor of Condoleezza Rice kicked the door open.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Rumors quickly spread through town that Cheney himself will resign, and that the president will name Secretary of State Rice to succeed him, thus setting her up to run for president in 2008.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, HARDBALL: Did Cheney, through anger or loss of temper, create a climate for political hardball and worse?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: What would it mean for President Bush if the vice president is involved in the CIA leak?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Ron Brownstein, where does the press get off speculating that Cheney might be indicted, might resign, where we don't even know what anyone has testified before the grand jury?
BROWNSTEIN: Everybody has got to take a deep breath. I mean, look, the press does a lot of things well. I'm very proud of the way we covered Harriet Miers. There is a lot of other things we've done well, but this is not -- this is not the best moment.
When you get one of these investigations, and we are coming down to the wire, there is just enormous pressure on every news institution to have a new story every day. And inevitably, you're sort of, you know, you are sort of casting at shadows.
Some of these stories may turn out to be extremely prescient, and very revealing, and others may not. I mean, we're talking to lawyers on the periphery of the case, we're trying to sort of peer through the keyhole. And you just wish that everybody could sort of take that deep breath and say, all right, we're going to know pretty soon one way or the other. Let's let the report come out and analyze it. But that isn't the way it works.
KURTZ: David Gergen, I know that Paul Bedard writes a gossip column for "U.S. News" and you're not the editor, but running an item on rumors that Cheney might resign, isn't that irresponsible?
GERGEN: Depends on your sources. They were confident of their sources, and, yeah, if you got very low-level sources, that would be irresponsible. If you have got somebody up the chain, somebody high up in the Republican circles and you got a couple of people saying that, that's a very different proposition.
I do think we -- to echo Ron Brownstein, the -- we ought to be cautious about what's coming. Nobody knows. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, has said he doesn't know himself which way he's going to go, at least he's told people that.
But I don't think that the press has over-dramatized this story. This is a major important story in American political life. After all, the investigation we know is focusing on the two men who are closest to the president and the vice president of the United States. That's point one. And secondly, rapidly, if there are indictments, this story is also becoming an indictment over the way the Bush administration led us into war. Those are two important, dramatic stories.
KURTZ: Geneva Overholser, if you were still a newspaper editor, would you run a story that says, will Karl Rove be indicted and what will be the impact on the White House?
OVERHOLSER: Well, I would certainly allow people to speculate and invite people to talk about this. There have been some fairly substantial signs out of the Fitzgerald investigation that he probably is going to pursue questions of perjury or obstruction of justice. And the Bush administration right now is beset with problems. It would be unrealistic of us to think that they weren't going to be appearing on the tube and in newspapers. I think it's a pretty interesting time.
BROWNSTEIN: I think it is -- look. I think it's a very important story, and there's no problem with covering it, all of the potential implications of it.
The one thing that does get a little overheated toward the end of any of these investigations is the rampant speculation over what exactly he's going to do. I mean, you know, we have stories almost every day of it's going in this direction, it's going in that direction. It's very hard to know that.
And in some ways, you know, we all ought to just wait and see what he's going to do, and then really explain to people what it means then.
KURTZ: David Gergen, let me raise the issue of the possible hypocrisy in the coverage. During the Clinton impeachment, you had a lot of liberal journalists defending the president by ripping Ken Starr, while conservative pundits talked about the rule of law, it's not about the sex, it's about the lying. Now you have liberal journalists who don't seem to have any problem with the aggressive tactics of Patrick Fitzgerald, while some conservatives commentators are talking about an out-of-control special prosecutor. Your thoughts?
GERGEN: Well, people always go that way. But I think what's been remarkable about this case is how little criticism there has been of Fitzgerald in comparison to Ken Starr and some of the earlier special prosecutors. That's in part because he is seen as apolitical, in part because he just went after Mayor Daley's operation in Chicago and people around ,him nailed a couple of people. So this is a fellow who is perfectly capable of going both ways, which suggests he is apolitical and this has nothing to do with whether -- you know, I don't think we know his politics.
KURTZ: But is it also in part...
KURTZ: Is it also in part, David, because some in the so-called liberal media like what he's doing and would like to see senior White House aides indicted?
GERGEN: I think there is an element of that. I do think that the -- there is a comeuppance element here in the press and a revenge, because they think that the administration has been seriously misleading the country for a long time about the war in Iraq, for example, and they've never been able to -- the press has always been dismissed and been bullied aside. And now finally there is going to be a price to be exacted for those tactics.
But I don't think that's what's driving this story. I -- while that element is there, I think what's driving this story is the sense that two of the people at the very top of the White House -- and a White House that is -- you know, believes in press control very heavily and discipline, the two people closest to the president and vice president, and Karl Rove in particular, but even Scooter Libby is one of the leaders of the neocon movement. This is -- to have these two people in the center of this controversy is very threatening to -- it goes right to the heart of what this administration is about.
BROWNSTEIN: I want to slightly disagree with David on one point. The press tends to amplifies and accentuate conflict. It doesn't tend to create it. It doesn't tend to create and carry them. And one of the reasons why this has played out differently in terms of the criticism of Fitzgerald is that there were simply more partisan attacks on Starr than we've seen in this case. There was more of a conflict to cover. The press may have made it bigger, but the press tends not to sort of be the main combatant themselves.
KURTZ: Unfortunately, we're out of time. I'm sorry, Geneva.
Geneva Overholser, David Gergen, Ron Brownstein, thanks very much for joining us. The tyranny of television time.
When we come back, the future of ABC's "Nightline" and a TV world without Ted Koppel.
And later, the reporter who blew the whistle on teenage golfing sensation Michelle Wie.
Plus, another bloviating TV commentator? Well, at least this one's funny.
But first, this question to our viewers. Have journalists been rooting for Karl Rove and Scooter Libby to be indicted? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll read the answers next week.
KURTZ: Welcome back. Time now to go "Behind the Headlines" on the future of a late-night institution.
KURTZ (voice-over): When Ted Koppel launched the program that became "Nightline" back in 1979, Jimmy Carter was president, Iran was holding Americans hostages, and disco fever was sweeping the nation.
Koppel is ending a remarkable 26-year run next month, one on which he's covered war and politics, interviewed presidents and artists, and all kinds of famous folks, and won a slew of awards. Only to be hit by an ill-fated ABC plan to replace him with David Letterman.
Now, Koppel is stepping down, voluntarily, and the network this week unveiled a three-anchor lineup. White House correspondent Terry Moran, "20/20" anchor Cynthia McFadden, and Martin Bashir, the British journalist best known for making a documentary about Michael Jackson.
The late night show will be live -- Koppel often taped in advance -- and broadcast from New York as well as Washington.
But here is what will be lost. Most of the time, Koppel's "Nightline" focused on one subject, with taped reports followed by interviews, a sort of mini-documentary that provided a certain depth. Now, "Nightline's" new team will cover three topics a night, each for seven or eight minutes, which makes it, well -- which makes it like many other TV news shows.
Maybe in an age of MTV attention span, a faster pace is needed to hold what the industry calls eyeballs.
KURTZ: At least "Nightline" remains committed to news and won't be a weird hybrid set in a smoky nightclub, as was tried in one pilot for the new show.
We hope that Moran, McFadden and Bashir can live up to the "Nightline" tradition while doing things their own way, before ABC starts looking for another comedian. Ahead in our next half hour, the Harriet Miers nomination. The mainstream media and the blogosphere, who is really shaping the coverage of President Bush's Supreme Court pick?
Also, more on the Judy Miller firestorm.
Plus, Jon Stewart spawns another late night look at the media. "The Colbert Report" launches with a parody of the anchorman you know and love -- or hate.
All that ahead, plus an update on Hurricane Wilma from the CNN Center in Atlanta. Stay with us.
KURTZ: Welcome back to the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES. If you're just tuning in, this is our new time slot, 10:00 to 11:00 Eastern every Sunday morning for a full hour of media interviews and analysis.
Coverage of the Harriet Miers nomination has ranged from negative to incredibly negative, each day bringing another embarrassment to the president who wants her on the Supreme Court. The disclosure of a 1989 statement backing a constitutional ban on abortion, made when Miers was running for the Dallas City Council, has fueled the controversy surrounding her nomination, along with a series of missteps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If there was any doubt about it, today's documents make it perfectly plain. Harriet Miers opposes abortion.
CHIP REID, NBC NEWS: Now, the White House says today that President Bush was aware that Miers had expressed these views on abortion back in 1989, when he selected her to be a Supreme Court justice.
ELIZABETH VARGAS, ABC NEWS: People on both sides of the debate want to know whether the document reflects how she would vote on abortion if confirmed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about how Miers, and other issues, are playing in the blogosphere and online -- in Minneapolis, John Hinderaker, a lawyer and an online commentator who blogs at PowerLineBlog.com.
In New York, Jeff Jarvis, former editor of "Entertainment Weekly," who blogs at BuzzMachine.com and is a consultant to the New York Times Company.
And here in Washington, John Dickerson, chief political correspond for the online magazine Slate.com. John Dickerson, you wrote this week about Harriet Miers, "the nomination is no longer viable. All that remains is for Bush to accept this." Aren't you like an ump calling the game in the second inning?
JOHN DICKERSON, SLATE.COM: Well, perhaps. But what I was hearing was what people were telling me, friends of the White House, who were comparing it to the president's Social Security plan as it existed last spring, basically saying the president was the last one to know that Social Security was dead, and that's where we are in this instance with Miers.
KURTZ: So you're the messenger telling him what people are afraid to tell him?
DICKERSON: Well, that's right, yes. They're terrified, because this is a close friend of the president's, and people know the pain that can come to you if you buck the president on a friend.
KURTZ: John Hinderaker, you wrote at Powerline that we should wait and hear what Miers has to say in her Senate confirmation hearings. You said, quote, "People shouldn't be so quick to jump to the conclusion that Miers is an idiot." Is the press portraying her as a dumbbell?
JOHN HINDERAKER, POWERLINE.COM: I'm not sure about the press, Howard. I think that a lot of online critics of this nomination, especially on the right, have shot themselves in the foot and really done the Republican Party no service by being sometimes shrill and intemperate in their criticisms.
But I don't think this nomination is dead. I mean, I think that if Harriet Miers goes to the confirmation hearing and performs competently, as I think she will, I would be very surprised to see any Republican senators voting against her.
KURTZ: Jeff Jarvis, let's stipulate that the White House has made a lot of mistakes in rolling out this nomination. Even the questionnaire for the Senate was screwed up. But do we have a Dan Quayle syndrome here? By which I mean if John Roberts had been found not to have paid his D.C. Bar dues, people would have shrugged it off as a meaningless oversight, but when Harriet Miers does it, it's like, a-ha, here is more evidence that she is incompetent.
JEFF JARVIS, BUZZMACHINE.COM: Well, no, you know, if this weren't so profoundly important, Howard, it would be a great comedy. The problem here is that John criticized his own on the right, and yes, they have been shrill and they can't figure out how the heck to get out of this mess that their boss got them into. But I'll criticize my end of the spectrum on the left, and say that I think the left has been cynical about this and say, well, maybe we should just back her because who is going to come later is worse.
What everyone should have done is said, Bush, this is the best you can do? So rather than saying that, rather than saying that we should be asking for the best of our president and our government and our Supreme Court, we try to find little nit-picky stuff to get out of this embarrassing mess. It is an embarrassing mess, and Harriet Miers should just perform career suicide at this point and do her boss a favor and say, never mind.
KURTZ: John Dickerson, how much of this is about abortion? We saw the earlier clips about her statement in 1989. That always seems to be the number one issue for the media when it comes to Supreme Court nominations.
DICKERSON: For certain, because it is. For certain important constituencies, both on the left and the right. They care a lot about that issue.
But there are a lot of other complaints you can make about Harriet Miers. And a lot of the guff the president is getting from his conservatives, doesn't even -- you don't even have to get to abortion, because she doesn't -- she has a thin record. To the extent she's talked about things, she has the wrong view as far as some conservatives would believe, on affirmative action and some of these other issues.
So you don't have to be fixated on abortion to find her credentials thin.
KURTZ: John Hinderaker, as you acknowledged, a lot of people on the right, most unhappy, most passionately unhappy about this nomination. Just to rattle off a few -- David Frum, Bill Kristol, Peggy Noonan, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg. They're the ones who have bloodied Harriet Miers. I've never seen this before. Usually, you would expect the liberals to be opposing a Republican president's nominee.
HINDERAKER: You know, Howard, I think it's a big mistake. And one of the things that troubles me is that a lot of the criticism that's being made of Harriet Miers really could be made of anybody who is coming from the background of being a practicing lawyer. Does she have a long track record of writing about the Supreme Court? No. Has she spent decades trying to work out a philosophy of constitutional interpretation? Of course not. That is not what practicing lawyers do.
And I think it's really unfortunate to now be setting up a standard where, in effect, you have to be a judge or a law professor to have the kind of solid paper trail that these critics on the right are looking for. I think that's a bad thing for the Supreme Court.
KURTZ: Right. It's been about 35 years since a non-judge was named to the Supreme Court.
I want to turn now to the continuing controversy over Judy Miller and "The New York Times" and the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation. Jeff Jarvis, we have the editor of "The Times," Bill Keller saying that Judy Miller misled the paper earlier. We have "Times" columnist Maureen Dowd saying that she's deceptive and not credible. We have Byron Calame just this morning, "The Times'" public editor, saying it will be difficult for Judy Miller to return to the paper as a reporter.
Can Miller rehabilitate herself at this point?
JARVIS: Well, in the green room, before I came on, Howie, I actually just blogged about this, and I think that Judy Miller is the Dan Rather of "The New York Times." It wasn't Jayson Blair. That was just a guy who lied. This is someone who had the backing of her institution and her editors and her profession, and she messed up and she shouldn't have been backed.
And what it should cause is a major moment of re-examination and reinvention. So I don't care about Judy Miller. She should resign, just like Harriet Miers, and get out of the way. But "The Times" as an institution, and journalism as an institution must look at re- examining themselves, and I...
KURTZ: Hold on. You say she messed up. I would raise the question, what about the editors? Nothing gets in the newspaper without several layers of editors giving their approval. What about the way they've handled her whole case? And they're the ones who approve these stories. So why is -- it almost feels like piling on. Why is so much of the focus on her?
JARVIS: Well, for a whole bunch of reasons, and all you had to read was Maureen Dowd's cat fight to get an idea of why she is disliked. But she is disliked too because she did mess up and she did things that were wrong. She has not been transparent, not been open. Yes, the paper messed up, too. But this should be an opportunity to say what should journalism be going forward?
You know, I put the question to you, Howard. If "The Times" says we can't report on ourselves, why shouldn't they invite you in and maybe Jay Rosen and maybe Arianna Huffington and say, go ahead, go to every desk, ask everybody everything. How would you approach this story from the outside if you had full access to "The Times"?
KURTZ: Well, I'd be happy to accept that invitation. But I would also note that even "The Times" reporters didn't have full access to "The Times" and that Judy Miller didn't fully cooperate with them.
And, John Dickerson, how much of this is the editors' fault? I mean, they published these stories about WMD, which now Miller and everyone else says turn out not to be true. So did other publications, including mine. But it just seems to me that it's an institution that is bearing -- taking the hit here.
DICKERSON: Well, it should. I mean, there are a number of editors who didn't listen to their own Washington bureau. It wasn't hard to find people in the Washington bureau...
KURTZ: (INAUDIBLE) were saying?
DICKERSON: Were saying about both Judy Miller on this case in particular, and also about her WMD reporting -- the notion that she might be off on her own doing things that the editors might later regret was not a surprise to anybody in the Washington bureau at "The New York Times." And there are a lot of people now inside the paper who are saying, you know, if they'd just listened to us, these editors wouldn't put themselves in this position of backing Miller, both in the Plame case and in the public relations effort afterwards, but also in reporting on WMD.
KURTZ: She went to jail for three months to uphold what she saw as the principle of protecting a confidential source. She seems to get no sympathy for that.
DICKERSON: Oh, she still gets plenty of sympathy. I don't think she gets much sympathy inside "The New York Times" newsroom, though.
KURTZ: All right. John Hinderaker, conservative bloggers every day love to beat up on "The New York Times." It's their great white whale. But on this story, Judy Miller and WMD, and so forth, it seems to be the liberal commentators who seem most angry at that newspaper and at Judith Miller.
HINDERAKER: Well, you know, the whole Judy Miller thing, I think, and the Valerie Plame side of this may be the most overblown story in the history of journalism. There is really only one significant thing going on here, and that's the thing that your paper, Howard, and "The New York Times" and other mainstream media don't want to talk about, and that is that Joe Wilson lied in the pages of "The New York Times" about his own trip to Niger and what he learned there. He reported to the CIA that what he found out was that Saddam Hussein in fact had tried to buy uranium from Niger in the late 1990s. He then wrote an op-ed in which he lied about his own report.
KURTZ: Wilson's credibility problems -- Wilson's credibility problems...
HINDERAKER: That's the genesis of this whole thing.
KURTZ: ... have been reported in these newspapers. But they've also reported about whether or not people in the White House are going to get indicted and about a reporter who ended up going to jail.
Let me turn to Jeff Jarvis. You write, maybe half tongue-in- cheek, I'm not sure, that Judy Miller should now blog. And you even have a suggestion for the name, MissRunAmok.com. Ms. Run Amok being the...
JARVIS: It's available, yeah.
KURTZ: Being the nickname she gave herself. Are you serious?
JARVIS: Well, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But the problem is that everything the bloggers get accused of by my former colleagues in mainstream media, she did. And the truth is that we don't get away with it, but she did. Going off and being as opinionated as can be and having an agenda and not getting the facts right, hiding things, that is what she did.
So if blogs are so awful to journalists, well, they have one in their midst in Judy Miller, I think. That's the real point.
KURTZ: All right, well, Jeff Jarvis, who just blogged before he came on the show and will probably go blog now about the show, thanks for joining us. John Hinderaker, John Dickerson, thanks very much for joining us.
Ahead, did a "Sports Illustrated" writer violate the rules of the fourth estate when he got golfer Michelle Wie kicked out of her first pro tournament? That's next.
KURTZ: Welcome back. Michelle Wie, as you probably know, is a 16-year-old golfing phenomenon who just turned pro last weekend and had her debut ruined by a reporter named Michael Bamberger. The "Sports Illustrated" writer reported Wie for a violation, namely moving her ball about a foot closer to the hole after she hit an unplayable shot into the bush. Wie spoke to reporters about what Bamberger did after being disqualified from the tournament for an inaccurate score card.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE WIE, PRO GOLFER: (INAUDIBLE). Only that his thought was that he (INAUDIBLE) score card. But you know, he did what he had to do, and you know, it's a little suspicious, but you know, it's done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But was it out of bounds for a journalist to play the role of snitch?
Joining me now is "Washington Post" sports columnist Leonard Shapiro, a past president of the Golf Writers Association of America.
Michael Bamberger saw what he thought was a blatant violation of the rules, and he reported it to tournament officials. What's wrong with that?
LEONARD SHAPIRO, WASHINGTON POST: I think Michael put himself into the story. Last time I looked, the LPGA was not paying Michael's salary; " Sports Illustrated" was paying Michael's salary. I don't think that's our role out there. Our role is to be out there, to observe, to watch, to report. I would have no problem if he wanted to write about it if he thought she had broken the rules. But to go and become part of the story and to put himself right in the middle of a very important story in terms of the golf coverage, I think was just flat-out wrong.
KURTZ: You say he did a dishonorable thing. That's pretty strong language.
SHAPIRO: Well, yeah, I don't think that is the honorable thing. And Michael has been saying, well, this is the honorable thing that he should have done, he had a crisis of conscience. He couldn't sleep the night before. He felt it was his role to help protect the field.
That's not the role of a journalist, in my opinion. Now, if she'd fallen into a pond, and he had jumped in to rescue her and become part of the story that way, good for him.
KURTZ: You'll give him a break on that.
SHAPIRO: I'll give him a break.
KURTZ: Michael Bamberger has declined our invitation to appear on this program, as did editors from "Sports Illustrated." But he has said in interviews that: "Adherence to the rules is the underlying value of the game. I would have been sick to my stomach if I had not said anything."
Here is my question. Did he compound the problem by waiting until the next day after this sleepless night, which then guaranteed that Michelle Wie, who might have just suffered, say, a two-stroke penalty -- you know the rules better than I do -- would be disqualified for signing a false score card?
SHAPIRO: Yeah. If he had a problem, he should have done it that day before she signed her score card. Once she signed the score card with an incorrect score, as it turned out, because she didn't give herself a two-stroke penalty, she had to be disqualified. If he had told her on Saturday and she had gone back and talked to rules officials before she had signed her card, she would have gotten a two- shot penalty, and that would have been it. She might have finished seventh instead of fourth.
KURTZ: If it had been you, if you had been standing right there, if you saw what you thought was a blatant violation of the rules, you would have said nothing?
SHAPIRO: Absolutely. I don't think -- I would have....
KURTZ: That's not your role.
SHAPIRO: It's not my role. I would have asked her about it afterwards. I would have gone up to her, either in a press conference or on the side and say, look, it looked to me like you put your ball a foot ahead of where it should have been. What do you have to say about that? But I'm not going to go to the PGA or LPGA officials and say this woman did something wrong. Because I haven't seen the whole thing either. I mean, we're assuming she did something wrong, but we don't know what preceded it. So.
KURTZ: Now, Michelle Wie is on the cover of "Fortune." She's about to make millions of dollars in endorsements. Now, she lost $53,000 by being disqualified from the tournament, $53,000 in prize money. But how much has she been hurt by this incident?
SHAPIRO: Oh, I don't think she's been hurt by it at all. In fact, I think she's become sort of a sympathetic figure. I mean, how can you take a shot at a 16-year-old teenager who plays the way she does? She is a great player. This will be a fly on the elephant's rear end by the time it's all over. And I just don't think it's going to hurt her.
I think it hurt us more. I mean, I'm concerned about it as a reporter. Are players now going to be looking at us and saying, I better -- Shapiro is watching my match, I better -- of course they're going to be on the up and up. They are on the up and up; 99.9 percent of these guys are honorable people. They'll call themselves -- they will call violations on themselves. They'll disqualify themselves if they think about it. I've covered this now for 15 years. I've seen it happen a number of times, where players have turned themselves in.
I don't think they need us to be the guardians of their game.
KURTZ: You know Michael Bamberger?
SHAPIRO: I know him very well, yes.
KURTZ: Generally respect his work?
SHAPIRO: Very much so.
KURTZ: So was it hard for you to write a pretty tough column about somebody who is a colleague, who you know, that's not ordinarily what you would do? Was that a hard thing for you personally?
SHAPIRO: Oh, sure. I mean, I don't want to say he's a friend of mine. We're...
KURTZ: Professional acquaintance.
SHAPIRO: We see each other out on the tour, and I respect his work.
He also is a guy who is a former caddy. He caddied on the European tour, caddied on the American tour. And I think he has said, well, I was wearing my caddy's hat as opposed to my reporter's hat. Excuse me, if you're credentialed for the event, you're wearing your reporter's hat, and put the caddy hat back in the caddy shack.
KURTZ: One hat at a time, says Len Shapiro.
KURTZ: Thanks very much for joining us, Len.
Ahead, are real journalists jealous of fake journalists like Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert? We'll have the scoop next.
KURTZ: When I interviewed Stephen Colbert a couple of weeks ago -- by the way, he promised to come on this program and he better be funny -- he said real journalists were jealous of him as a fake journalist, because he could come out and make fun of politicians who were, what's the word, lying, while people like me had to pussyfoot around. This week, the "Daily Show" star launched his own Comedy Central show, the modestly named "Colbert Report." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "COLBERT REPORT": The truthiness is, anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you.
As a journalist, it's not my place to editorialize. I'm here to objectively divide the facts into categories of good and evil. Then you make up your own minds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Now, which pompous anchor does he remind you of? There are so many choices.
Your viewer e-mail just ahead.
KURTZ: Let's go to the e-mail. Last week, we asked whether viewers were satisfied with "The New York Times'" explanation of its role in the Valerie Plame scandal. Most of the responses were at least as critical as the one from Dorothy in Atlanta, Georgia. She wrote: "I do not believe that Judy Miller is being truthful with America. She spent 85 days in jail because she cannot remember her other source? What a joke! I have no faith in "The New York Times" either."
And C.O. Moore in Portland, Oregon, e-mailed us to say: "I am betting the Plame leakers couldn't be more thrilled at Miller's tantrum of ego disguised as journalistic principle -- and at how her grandstanding has furthered the divide between the average citizen and the field of journalism."
Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. Join us again next Sunday at our new time, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific, for a full hour of critiquing the media. "LATE EDITION" with Wolf Blitzer begins right now.
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