Judy, Scooter, Karl, Harriet, Saddam & Co.

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 20, 2005; 11:12 AM

Some brief observations from the road:

-- Aren't you tired of one court nominee after another dancing around the question of abortion? Harriet Miers has never thought about it, never discussed it with Bush, blah blah blah.

So now we learn that she favored a constitutional ban on abortion back in 1989. So you think she would have disclosed that had there not been a piece of paper from her campaign for the Dallas City Council? I know, I know: Judges put their personal feelings aside, consider each case individually, put great weight on precedent and so on.

But let's be real: Republican conservatives are happy about this and liberal Democrats are upset. If enough Repubs overcome their concerns about Miers's thin constitutional resume, this has the potential to flip the debate back along the usual partisan lines -- though Democrats will still have to ponder whether defeating her would bring them a more aggressive and equally anti-abortion nominee.

-- The start of the Saddam Hussein trial -- even if it did last only one day -- will provide a subtle boost to the Bush administration by reminding people that for all that's gone wrong in Iraq, we did get rid of a monster.

-- Didn't we go awfully quickly from this WashPost story saying Fitzgerald has "zeroed in on the role of Vice President Cheney's office" -- which added that the prosecutor has "focused more on the role of Cheney's top aides" -- to loudmouths on TV speculating about a Cheney indictment?

-- The debate about the New York Times seems to have moved a bit from Judy Miller to the roles played by Arthur Sulzberger and Bill Keller. Why didn't they rein her in earlier, how could Keller have taken her off the WMD beat only to watch her drift back to national security, and so on. Fair enough. And many Times staffers believe they erred by curtailing the coverage as Miller became a central player in the investigation (how do you get beat on your own reporter getting sprung from jail?). And maybe they should have insisted that Miller make a reasonable deal with Fitzgerald, as Russert, Cooper, Kessler and Pincus did. But as she went off to jail, sacrificing for what she believed to be an important principle, did they have any choice but to back her strongly? Isn't that what any journalist would expect the bosses to do? Maybe, in retrospect, Jon Landman or some other top Times editor who wasn't involved in the Judy legal strategy should have been put in charge of the coverage.

-- Finally, Jon Corzine, who's in more of a dogfight in the New Jersey guv race than anyone expected, has been running one ad here over and over again. It features Bill Clinton, praising him to the skies. That's an interesting bellwether, considering that in 2000, Clinton was considered a possible liability and the Gore folks would send him only to a few carefully chosen states. In Democratic eyes, he now must be fully rehabilitated, or at least in New Jersey. (As for the New York mayor's race, I've seen about a thousand ads for Billionaire Bloomberg and not a single one for Freddy Ferrer. Does he have some kind of secret radio strategy?).

News on the Plame front, first broken by the AP: Rove testified that Libby told him about Valerie and they discussed their conversations with reporters on the subject, according to an unnamed source who bears a striking resemblance to Rove's lawyer (here's the WashPost account). {dagger}And CNN sees a conflict with Russert's testimony:

"Libby's testimony stated that Rove had told him about his contact with Novak and that Libby had told Rove about information he had gotten about Wilson's wife from NBC's Tim Russert, according to a person familiar with the information shown to Rove.

"Prosecutors, however, have a different account from Russert. The network has said Russert told authorities he did not know about Wilson's wife's identity until it was published and therefore could not have told Libby about it."

{dagger}Judith Miller could be called to testify in another case. Some reporters have all the luck.

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