It’s rather breathtaking to watch Judy’s Miller’s flame-out (no pun intended). That the New York Times’ self-described "run-amok" reporter is self-immolating, I believe, is now an inevitability beyond any doubt.
It’s only a matter of time – a few weeks or a few months at most—before some sort of graceful, cosmetic exit is found. The wily and enterprising Ms. Miller no doubt will try to cash in with some over-hyped tell-nothing book (probably to be published by Judith Regan!) and then she’s off into the sunset: spending the rest of her years either giving talks to the Ahmed Chalabi Memorial Society, picking up tenure in some fourth-rate J School or playing dominoes with Dan Rather.
Never in my life have I seen an entire industry so completely and voraciously turn on one of its own. And with such good reasons!
In the veritable thicket of stories, commentaries, and blog-postings on the Miller-Libby-Rove-Plame scandal, one item above all sticks in my mind. Says The Washington Post:
Craig Pyes, a former contract writer for the Times who teamed up with Miller for a series on al-Qaeda, complained about her in a December 2000 memo to Times editors and asked that his byline not appear on one piece.
"I'm not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller," wrote Pyes, who now writes for the Los Angeles Times. He added: "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 of everyone who works with her . . . She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies," and "tried to stampede it into the paper."
That was five years ago. But Miller continued to run amok. Even after the Times’ new editor Bill Keller came to power in 2003 and ordered that she be yanked off the WMD hobby horse she was so recklessly riding, Judy stayed firmly in the saddle. Indeed, dating back to the 1980’s and the Reagan’s Administration’s now-forgotten “war on international terrorism,” Miller has consistently played this same role as cheer-leader for the most unrestrained and untethered hawks and she wasn't about to give it up just because the lowly editor-in-chief of the Times told her to.
I make no pretension of adding to the debate over this still unfolding matter. Many others are doing a great job of tracking and unpacking the ragged zig-zags and byzantine layers of this story. But I want to comment on two points that have surfaced; two points that I think have forever doomed what was left of Miller’s rep and credibility with other reporters.
Her assertion that she can’t remember the source of her notebook notation “Valerie Flame” [sic] is simply preposterous. This is Clinton-class bullshit. Within days of that notation, the Plame story broke open and you’re not going to convince a soul that a frontline reporter for the New York Times didn't have her memory jogged – even if you were willing to believe she had temporarily lapsed.
Second, her stated intention to identify Dick Cheney’s chief-of-staff Scooter Libby, per his oily request, as merely a “former Hill staffer” is nothing short of a deliberate and calculated attempt to mislead the readers. Not because she fudged the attribution; anonymous sourcing is by definition all about fudging. But rather because she covered up a partisan charge in a partisan dispute i.e. she was willing to pass off an interested party as a disinterested neutral observer. This is a major journalistic felony. Give it a try in my USC graduate reporting class and you’re toast, pal. Do it at the New York Times and you deserve the never-ending scorn of your peers as you meekly turn in your badge and your gun.
P.S. Long over-due marccooper.com blog facelift and redesign coming very soon.