The chances that the Supreme Court would take the Miller/Cooper appeal were always slim, and yet, it still comes as something of a shock that they, in all likelihood, will soon be headed off to jail.

Journalists take all sorts of risks, especially those who go into war zones. But having conversations with senior administration officials--a practice that occurs every three or four minutes in Washington--is hardly seen as the kind of reckless behavior that could land you behind bars. Judith Miller didn't even write a story for the New York Times about the outing of Valerie Plame, while Matt Cooper's piece in Time was about the very subject of whether unnamed Bush officials were trying to punish Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, by passing word of her undercover CIA status.

And, of course, neither Miller nor Cooper outed Valerie Plame. That distinction belonged to Robert Novak, who won't say whether he testified in the case or was even subpoenaed. What's more, the chances that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will actually find the leakers are slim, given the history of such investigations.

In terms of public opinion, of course, this is a terrible test case for journalists. The Plame leakers are not exactly Mark Felt, and fairly or unfairly, Miller and Cooper are seen by some as protecting high officials who carried out a tawdry act of revenge. Their response is that journalists must keep their word when making a pledge of confidentiality and can't pick and choose according to how sympathetic the sources are. But this remains a tough sell, PR-wise, even though neither of them would be in this situation had Novak not published the leak. And the general public dissatisfaction with journalists using so many unnamed sources, which some major news outlets are now trying to reduce, doesn't help.

It's hard to understand why 49 states (Wyoming is the exception) recognize a reporter's right to protect confidential sources, but not the federal government. Yes, journalists are occasionally jailed or threatened with jail at the state level, but these tend to involve murder cases in which a reporter talked to the suspect or has key evidence. Some members of Congress are pushing for a federal shield law, but I don't think that's at the top of the GOP leadership's list.

Is it really possible that Cooper and Miller will have to spend a year and a half away from their families while the folks who outed Valerie Plame get away with it?

Here are news stories in the LAT |,0,5583493.story?coll=la-home-headlines, and NYT |

The case is downright Kafkaesque, says Salon's Farhad Manjoo |

"What's most odious about the idea of Miller and Cooper going to jail is that there isn't a clear purpose to it. Perhaps you could make an argument for keeping them behind bars if it would lead the government to the scoundrel who leaked Plame's name. But lawyers who've been watching Fitzgerald's moves in the case suggest that he may already have some idea of who leaked the name, and the fact that he hasn't yet charged someone in the case may indicate that there's not enough evidence to move forward on the prosecution. Instead, what Fitzgerald seems to be after is a much weaker charge of obstruction of justice -- a low-level, catchall accusation that federal prosecutors use all the time when their main investigation runs dry."

Musing's Musings | is unsympathetic to Matt & Judy:

"Some have argued that forcing the two to testify would chill investigative journalism, but I'm not seeing it. Miller and Cooper did no investigating in this matter: they were recipients of an illegal leak from a federal official, who violated U.S. law in revealing Plame's identity. Refusing to name their source constitutes, in my admittedly non-professional opinion, an obstruction of justice. And we're not talking about a whistleblowing crusade against shoddy government oversight, or a deliberate coverup of illegal activities like Watergate here. We're talking about someone blowing the cover of a covert CIA operative for petty partisan politicking."

No SC retirement yesterday, on the term's final day of the term, but National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru | offers conservatives another reason to oppose Gonzales:

"If President Bush nominates Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, he won't be naming a new justice. He'll be naming something more like a new half-justice.

"A Justice Gonzales would have to recuse himself from cases dealing with a wide range of issues -- from the Patriot Act to partial-birth abortion -- because of his high-level service in the Bush administration.

"Federal law is clear: No federal judge, including any Supreme Court justice, may participate in a case if he 'has served in governmental employment and in such capacity participated as counsel, advisor or material witness concerning the proceeding or expressed an opinion concerning the merits of the particular case in controversy.' In addition, justices are to recuse themselves 'in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.'

"Given that Gonzales was Bush's White House counsel for the entirety of his first term, and is now attorney general, that means he will have to decline to participate in a lot of important cases. The administration's legal positions could therefore lose ground precisely because one of their architects would be on the Court."

MSM outlets aren't the only ones using anonymous sources. Here's Erick at RedState |

"Sources close to the White House are telling Red State that they do expect a Supreme Court vacancy in the next ten days -- as soon as tomorrow is possible, but within the next ten days seems most likely.

"One source (and only one) tells RedState that there is new talk of a vacancy to come soon and one to come closer to Labor Day, making two picks this year for the President. The source says the conventional wisdom is right that the two most likely candidates will be Justice O'Connor and Chief Justice Rehnquist. However, there may be a wild card due to health."

Slate | handicaps the Supremes field.

More on the Post Three: Frank Rich | reported Sunday that CPB hired a guy to evaluate guests on the public radio shows of Diane Rehm and Tavis Smiley. "Three of The Washington Post's star beat reporters (none of whom covers the White House or politics or writes opinion pieces) were similarly singled out simply for doing their job as journalists by asking questions about administration policies."

My investigation reveals that the three are Dana Priest, Walter Pincus and Robin Wright. Rich is right--they're all hard-working beat reporters. Is public broadcasting now afraid of such people?

Did you hear about this Dallas Morning News | story about a conference of young Republicans? "Party strategist Grover Norquist lambasted three Republicans who broke party ranks over the issue of judicial filibusters. He referred to them as 'the two girls from Maine and the nut-job from Arizona' - Sens. Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and John McCain."

American Prospect editor Michael Tomasky | has a very specific reason to be ticked over Ed Klein's Hillary book:

"Take, for example, page 155.

"It is there that he recounts an exchange between Clinton and Harold Ickes that took place in early 1999. It was a Sunday, and the two had both just watched (from separate locations) a Meet the Press episode in which her putative Senate candidacy was discussed. The first lady phoned the operative when the show ended and asked his opinion.

"'Well, Hillary,' Klein quotes Ickes as having said, 'if you don't want to do this, don't [screw] around with it. Issue a Shermanesque statement, and that'll be the end of it.' (Note: I'm cleaning it up here.)

"'Well,' Hillary said, 'that's not where I am with this.'

"I recognized the quote, or most of it, as having come from my own reporting, in my book Hillary's Turn. I interviewed Ickes while working on the book (Clinton didn't cooperate), and he recounted the exchange to me. I was the original source for the quote.

"Sure enough, the footnotes say that the exchange is taken from page 19 of my book. But then I turned to page 19 of my book, which quotes Ickes as saying, 'If you don't want to do this, don't mouse around with it.'

"So, from Tomasky to Klein, 'mouse' somehow became ['screw']. Undoubtedly, it's a better word . . . it would certainly have made for a better quote. And no, I did not bowdlerize it. Unfortunately, I felt bound by the usual workaday rule of reporting what the person actually said."

How old-fashioned can you get!

Ed Klein is lashing back at his ex-boss Tina Brown for this dissing | of his book, reports the New York Post |

"Hillary Clinton-bashing Ed Klein has lashed back at Tina Brown for calling him 'Ed Slime' and trashing his new book, 'The Truth About Hillary,' as 'bio-porn.'

"'Tina Brown is a has-been,' Klein told PAGE SIX. 'Over the past dozen years, she has had a failed magazine and a failed TV show, and she is now reduced to writing a column for her few remaining friends. Over the same past 12 years, I've had five best-sellers.'"

In the New Republic, Keelin McDonell | analyzes the right's reaction:

"Even as The Truth About Hillary bounds up the best-seller lists, the right has rallied around a collective cry of foul play. The question is why. The book is, of course, a masterwork of personal attack, full of anonymous sniping and vile insinuation. But Klein's tome relies heavily on past Hillary character assassinations--most notably, Dick Morris's Rewriting History--and the rest mostly reprises old complaints about the former first lady. The outrage emanating from the right hardly seems attributable to the rather unremarkable trashiness of this volume. More likely, conservatives are launching a preemptive strike on what Klein identifies as one of Clinton's central mantras--'victimhood can be a political plus.'

"Piling on Hillary now, particularly over a collection of unsubstantiated trifles, would merely advance theories of her old chestnut, the vast right-wing conspiracy. Rushing to Hillary's defense would seem to be a canny strategy both to prevent her from building up too much public sympathy and to assert the intellectual honesty of the American right. But it could also turn out to be a major miscalculation."

With Bush set for a major speech tonight, much of the public isn't buying his take on Iraq, says this WashPost poll |

A majority of Americans reject claims by the Bush administration that the insurgency in Iraq is weakening and are divided on whether victory over the insurgents will have a major impact on terrorism elsewhere in the world, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Barely one in five Americans -- 22 percent -- say they believe that the insurgency is getting weaker while 24 percent believe it is strengthening...

A majority of Americans reject claims by the Bush administration that the insurgency in Iraq is weakening and are divided on whether victory over the insurgents will have a major impact on terrorism elsewhere in the world, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Barely one in five Americans -- 22 percent -- say they believe that the insurgency is getting weaker while 24 percent believe it is strengthening.

In this eye-catching LAT column, Michael Cross-Barnet | recalls what happened to his father, Melvin Barnet, a copy editor at the New York Times, a half-century ago:

"On July 13, 1955, in Room 135-A of the Senate Office Building in Washington, my father tersely recounted his past. He said he had not been a communist since 1942. But when asked about other people, his lips were sealed. Twenty times the committee's attorney provided a name and asked my father if he knew that person 'as a communist.' Twenty times, my father gave the same reply: 'I assert my privilege, sir, under the 5th Amendment.' He would identify no one. Not even the man who had informed on him. Not even a dead person. The committee, he believed, did not have the right to ask him.

"After the hearing, he went to the Times' Washington bureau, where he was handed a note stating that his conduct 'has caused the Times to lose confidence in you as a member of its news staff.' His career in journalism was over -- he was 40.It is unfortunate that the Times fired my father for refusing to name names half a century ago. But the country was in the grip of fear and, as a new generation of Americans learned after 9/11, fear is a powerful emotion. What is more puzzling, and in a way more disturbing, is that 50 years later the New York Times won't admit its mistake."

Speaking of the NYT, Editor Bill Keller is making some changes based on an internal committee report. (PDF file here | Some highlights involving dialogues with reporters and the staff's diversity:

"We have been more wary than most major newspapers about giving our readers direct access to reporters. There are valid reasons for this: an accessible address opens a reporter to spam, crude personal attacks and orchestrated campaigns that are easy to organize on the Web but can be terribly time-consuming for a reporter on the receiving end. The price of our inaccessibility, though, is that we may send a message of indifference. And e-mail access opens up another avenue for reporters and editors to get ideas and tips that can lead to stories. As the committee points out, technology offers us a sensible compromise: easy access to reporters who are willing to give it."

Keller orders up "the introduction of Web links that will allow readers of Times articles on-line to contact the authors. As recommended by the committee, we will give readers access to 'dialogue boxes' that allow them to send a message to a reporter without disclosing the reporter's actual e-mail address. . . .

"We must, as the committee says, be more alert to nuances of language when writing about contentious issues. The committee picked a few examples -- the way the word 'moderate' conveys a judgment about which views are sensible and which are extreme, the misuse of 'religious fundamentalists' to describe religious conservatives -- but there are many pitfalls involved when we try to convey complex ideas as simply as possible, on deadline."

As for attracting a more diverse staff, "the point is not that we should begin recruiting reporters and editors for their political outlook; it is part of our professional code that we keep our political views out of the paper. The point is that we want a range of experience. We have a recruiting committee that tracks promising outside candidates, and that committee has already begun to consider ways to enrich the variety of backgrounds of our reporters and editors. First and foremost we hire the best reporters, editors, photographers and artists in the business. But we will make an extra effort to focus on diversity of religious upbringing and military experience, of region and class.

"Of course, diversifying the range of viewpoints reported -- and understood -- in our pages is not mainly a matter of hiring a more diverse work force. It calls for a concerted effort by all of us to stretch beyond our predominantly urban, culturally liberal orientation, to cover the full range of our national conversation."

That's so good I'm tempted to call it "moderate."

Finally, for those creeped out by ABC's "Idol" expose, the Sacramento Bee reports:

"Corey Clark, the 'American Idol' contestant who claimed to have an affair with contest judge Paula Adbul from the Fox TV talent show, was cited on a charge of misdemeanor domestic violence against his girlfriend Saturday at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in downtown Sacramento, police said."

Paula was smart to dump him.