The NYT retreats, incoherently, on Miller.

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 24 2005 1:58 PM

The NYT Retreats, Incoherently

An "entanglement" exception to the First Amendment?

(Continued from Page 3)

[T]he Times believes that its First Amendment right to speak includes a right (for journalists only) not to speak when subpoenaed in a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, it cannot see how a right to speak includes the right to spend money on speech.

[Column not available in the L.A. Times] ... 12:07 A.M.

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Miers in the Senate: Perhaps, as the Senate finds ways other than a vote or a filibuster to signal that it really doesn't want to confirm someone--e.g., leaking negative reviews, sending back questionnaires, asking for more documents, etc.--the old Hollywood rule applies:

Absence of Yes + Time = No

5:20 P.M.

Note to Dems: Choose BS! Isn't the advice that ABC's The Note gives Democrats about the Plame scandal (in the form of a fictional memo from Democratic media strategists Fabiani, McCurry and Lockhart) almost completely, and revealingly, wrong. ** The Dems have a nice little (or not-so-little) scandal going in the Plame investigation. High Bush officials may be indicted. The gist of the crime is that a CIA agent's cover was blown, and potential intelligence assets endangered. The best propaganda the Dems could produce would be the many patriotic CIA officials angry that an agent was compromised. So what does the ventriloquizing Note argue?

This cannot be a case about a leak (since the press doesn't like to cover leak stories as most of them are recipients of leaks and it sounds small bore); this cannot be a matter about White House aides (most people think Scooter Libby is something you ride on, and Karl Rove isn't as famous as you think he is); this cannot be about an isolated incident that smells, feels, and tastes like business as usual in Washington, DC (since that won't break through).

It's got to be about big things that impact the real lives of real Americans — and about how Bush pushed our country into a war.

Here are the specific steps to take:

(1) Message: Make this much bigger so that there is a political narrative that draws the connection between the manipulation of intelligence and the war in Iraq.

The Bush Administration manufactured and manipulated information in order to fool elected officials and the public into supporting a war where nearly 2,000 American soldiers have been killed. ...

But this is a case about a leak! It's not about whether the Iraq war was justified or whether there were weapons of mass destruction or even whether Saddam tried to buy yellowcake in Niger. (Sorry, Arianna!) Cheney, Libby, Rove et al could have quite easily manipulated intelligence about Iraq and pushed the country into war without violating the U.S. Criminal Code. The point of a prosecution would be that they didn't.

In essence, the Note tells Dems, in classic, media-consultant fashion, that instead of basing their pitch on the reality of the case (the leak) they should base it on BS (that somehow the prosecution is refighting the Iraq war). Shouldn't it be a general premise of Democratic politics that it's reality-based and not spin-based? And while Dems might get a majority of Americans to agree that the Iraq War was a bad move, they'd get about 95% to agree that compromising covert American agents is a bad move. Why not make the latter the issue?

Democrats can refight Iraq anytime, and they should. Their arguments (should they decide to make them by, say, nominating a candidate who didn't actually vote for the war) can stand or fall  on their own. They can certainly include evidence of pre-war deception that has only come to light thanks to the Fitzgerald investigation. But the indictments won't be indictments for waging an imprudent war, or slanting intelligence. They'll be indictments for improper leaks. Democrats should be able to pocket the winnings that come from these leak-related criminal charges, and then separately make the case about Iraq based on what's happened in Iraq. If the latter isn't enough to make the anti-Bush argument, pumping Fitzgerald's case up into something it is not isn't going to make up the difference.

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