Redacted All Absurdum
Maybe Valerie Plame's 'outing' didn't do much damage.
Brilliant visual Wonkette shot at Bush's "evolving" Iraq presentations. I'll be surprised if it doesn't get copied elsewhere (e.g. NBC Nightly News ... oh right, there's no Katrina angle. Sorry. Hardball then.) . . . 2:18 P.M.
My videoblogging colleague Bob Wright finds the tender underbelly of Charles Krauthammer's big torture article, namely that one of Krauthammer's big examples of permissible torture doesn't fit comfortably into either of his two seemingly narrow exceptions to a general torture ban. ... That said, I found Krauthammer's article heartening because it suggests there is less distance between his position and McCain's than I'd feared--especially if you are talking about McCain's real position ("You do what you have to do") as opposed to what most people think McCain's formal legal position is. 1:08 A.M.
[W]hen people wonder why Bob doesn't tell his editor Len Downie what he knows, I'm genuinely mystified. I mean, have you ever met Len Downie? But never mind that; think about this: Woodward spends most of his life reporting. He knows everything. What's more, he has no idea what it adds up to. How could he possibly keep anyone, much less his editor, in the loop? It would take hours and hours of debriefing every week, hours that would undoubtedly be better spent reporting on the after-the-fact thoughts of people in power who are trying to justify the mistakes they've made.
I still don't see the big Woodward scandal in the Plame affair. The best anti-Woodward argument I've heard is that he could have derailed the whole prosecution by revealing that he was first told about Valerie Plame's CIA status as if it were mere "gossip." Instead, he let a reporter go to jail!** In other words, to get a Woodward scandal you have to assume there isn't a Plame scandal. But it's not clear that there isn't a Plame scandal. True, her "outing" might merely have been a tangential part of a sincere-if-risky attempt by Bush hawks to discredit the allegations of Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, by pointing out to reporters how he got his assignment to investigate uranium purchases. But just because Administration Official #1 tells Bob Woodward about Plame's CIA role as mild offhand gossip (which Woodward keeps to himself) doesn't mean that an Official #2 didn't maybe tell another reporter the same facts as part of a malicious plan to punish Wilson and his wife. . ..
** Woodward's second big sin, after not informing Downie, is said to have been his temerity in publicly criticizing Fitzgerald's investigation without revealing his private knowledge (though he hinted at it). But obviously Woodward's comments sincerely reflected what he thought his private knowledge told him: that the Plame information was just gossip. If Woodward can't give an opinion in public that's informed by secrets he knows then Woodward can never give an opinion in public about anything we'd want to hear Woodward's opinion on. ... Maybe Woodward criticized Fitzgerald with extra force because he felt guilty that Miller was going to jail when he wasn't disclosing the little bit of information he knew that might have helped her (by supporting the idea that the whole business was a non-scandal). But that information wouldn't have proved it was a non-scandal, and it wouldn't have sprung Miller. In the event, the anti-Fitzgerald comments Woodward did make added to our knowledge. (If they'd been disinformation that would be a different story.) ...
Update: Emailer J.S. concedes it's normally OK for Woodward to comment on public issues even when his views are informed by secrets he knows--but J.S. argues Woodward shouldn't have commented in this case because he was "tangentially involved" in Fitzgerald's investigation in a possibly self-interested way viewers were unaware of. Specifically, I suppose, Woodward might have worried that he'd be subpoenaed (which early on meant possibly going to jail) and therefore have been trying to stop Fitzgerald before he got that far. That's not a gross, testicle-crushing conflict like Howie Kurtz's with CNN, but it was undisclosed. ... Yet a) Woodward knew he wasn't going to stop Fitzgerald. As a potential witness, he also had an incentive to suck up to him; b) If it wasn't obvious to the public that Woodward was trying to avoid subpoena in this case, it was obvious that Woodward in general could be subpoenaed in lots of cases like this one if prosecutors started pursuing them. That much of his self-interest was out in the open; c) Lots of reporters know things about Plamegate that Fitzgerald might want to know, yet they're still writing and opining about it; d) Reporters have hidden conflicts all the time, not all of which are visible to the public. Woodward might not want a story to become big if he didn't have secret information, and therefore couldn't get a book out of it! It's often difficult to figure out when a hidden conflict (you hate someone, you're worried that someone else will take your job, etc) should be disclosed. The one obvious half-solution is for reporters, when commenting in public, to stop pretending they are free of conflicts and put themselves more in the same category as politicians--namely witnesses who are assumed to be riven with potential conflicts. When Dick Cheney is interviewed on TV, viewers know he might be pursuing fifteen different hidden agendas. They don't know what all those agendas are. But they know they don't know; e) Woodward's in a tough spot, because if he doesn't comment (or issues some milquetoast remark) it will cause people to wonder why he's being so quiet, is he involved, etc. f) Woodward could certainly have gotten away with turning down "Larry King Live" a few times, but it would come at the non-trivial cost of suppressing his sincere views (and leaving his guilt about not coming forward, which seems to me a bigger probable factor in shaping Woodward's take on Fitzgerald than subpoena-fear, unassuaged). ... Still, J.S. has a point! 8:56 P.M. link
"Fat Surfacing": Is this Chris Bangle's latest visionary aesthetic breakthrough? The night is young! ... [via Autoblog ] 6:59 P.M.
That's how I feel about sex! The LAT's Patrick Goldstein attacks Oscar prediction blogging, then produces the Buried Weasel Graf of the Week:
Full disclosure: I write an Oscar prediction column too, but I do it once a year, not 47 times a week.
Photograph of Judith Miller on the Slate home page by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.