Judith Miller is history, at least as far as the New York Times is concerned.
I describe the denouement of the long-running battle in which Miller went to jail, only to emerge at odds with her own newspaper, here. | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/09/AR2005110901421.html (Key to her departure: It all depends on the meaning of the word entanglement. You can read all about it on her site | http://judithmiller.org/news/.)
What's not history is the war, in which Miller was an important player through her erroneous WMD stories and conversations with Scooter Libby, and which continues to roil the political landscape and fuel Bush's slide in the polls.
Are we seeing a gradual shift in the way liberals talk about the war? I have obtained--from sources I cannot identify, although none of them are former Hill staffers--an advance copy of an editorial to be published in the Nation. The liberal magazine is serving notice on politicians, and while it doesn't move many votes, this could amount to a leading cultural indicator.
"The war has also become the single greatest threat to our national security. Its human and economic costs are running out of control, with no end in sight. It has driven America's reputation in the world to a historic low point. . . .
"The Nation therefore takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position. Many worry that the aftermath of withdrawal will be ugly, and there is good reason to think they are right. But we can now see that the consequences of staying will be uglier still. Fear of facing the consequences of prolonging the war will be worse.
"We firmly believe that antiwar candidates, with the other requisite credentials, can win the 2006 Congressional elections, the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and subsequent national election. But this fight, and our stand, must begin now."
Sign of the times? John Edwards, in another Nation piece, now says his vote for the war was a mistake.
The spinmeisters, meanwhile, put out their predictable talking points after Tuesday's elections: Democrats saying their day is coming, Republicans saying the local races meant nothing. Had the outcome been reversed, the party messages would have flipped as well.
By the way, there was a striking exception to my blathering yesterday about how political endorsements don't matter. They may not do much for the politician receiving one, but they can occasionally backfire, big time, on the endorser.
Randy Kelly, the Democratic mayor of St. Paul, got crushed Tuesday--he lost by 40 points--after backing Bush's reelection. "If people vote on the basis of my decision to endorse the president," Kelly had said, "I will lose." He was right.
Polls showing Bush dropping almost aren't news any more; the Wall Street Journal | http://online.wsj.com/article/SB113158656126793098.html?mod=politics_first_element_hs has the prez down to 38 percent.
Some interesting numbers: "The CIA leak case, in which former vice presidential aide Lewis 'Scooter' Libby was recently indicted on felony charges, has made a strong impression on the public. Fully 79% of respondents call the case 'a serious matter.' Americans now view Vice President Dick Cheney negatively 49%-27%, his worst-ever showing and a significant deterioration since January."
Good thing he's not running for anything, huh?
"The case, by compounding doubts about the administration's pre-war claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, appears to have also taken a toll on public regard for Bush's credibility. Some 33% now give the president high marks for 'being honest and straightforward,' while 47% rate him poorly on that score. In January, he was rated positively on this score by 50%-36%."
And the zinger: "Nearly six in 10 Americans say they believe President Bush 'deliberately misled people' about the case for war to oust Saddam Hussein from power." That used to be considered a far-left position.
The political divide is reflected in a split over media coverage:
"About 50 percent of Americans say the Bush administration is being treated fairly by the press," says the Washington Times | http://washingtontimes.com/national/20051110-125120-3866r.htm, "the lowest number since President Bush was elected, and an increasing percentage say the press is too critical of the president, according to the Pew Research Center.
"'There has been a notable rise over the past two years in the percentage who say the press is too critical of the Bush administration,' the survey released Tuesday stated."
In National Review, John Miller | http://nationalreview.com/miller/miller200511090425.asp minimizes the import of Election '05:
"Professional pundits will spend the rest of this week debating whether the Democratic victories in New Jersey and Virginia provide a glimpse of what will happen in next year's elections. It's a quadrennial ritual of the chattering class.
"Here are the facts: It's been more than a decade since these off-year results seem to have foreshadowed elections that were still 12 months away. In 1993, the success of Republican gubernatorial candidates Christie Todd Whitman (in New Jersey) and George Allen (in Virginia) preceded 1994's GOP triumphs. The last two cycles haven't augured anything: Republican wins in 1997 were followed by Democrat congressional gains in 1998; the reverse was true for 2001 and 2002."
The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes | http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/333qxkiq.asp, who lives in Virginia, doesn't blame Bush:
"Jerry Kilgore lacked the three things needed for a Republican to be elected governor in Virginia. In order of importance, they are: a dynamic campaign, an issue, and a president who's not a burden. So he lost to Democratic Tim Kaine yesterday in an election that Democrats will claim is more meaningful that it really is. Democrats captured the governor's office in New Jersey, too, but that barely rises to the level of talking point. . . .
"For the past seven elections in Virginia, voters have elected a governor from the party that doesn't hold the White House. Even if the president is popular, as Ronald Reagan was in 1981, he can't help his party's candidate much. But he can hurt the candidate if he's even slightly unpopular, as Bush is today in Virginia. Bush was a mild drag on the Republican ticket, especially in populous northern Virginia, where Kilgore did poorly.
"Was Bush a huge factor in the race? Not at all. The election wasn't a referendum on his presidency. But Bush's current troubles meant that Republicans weren't in a good mood."
A very different mood on the liberal side. Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum | http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/: "It looks like George Bush is now officially an electoral albatross."
Kos | http://dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/11/9/31042/3908: "Let's hope more and more Republicans decide to let Bush campaign for them. Heck, the Democratic Party should pay Bush's political travel expenses, since they will clearly help us more than their own guys."
The Philadelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman | http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/nation/13130424.htm jumps on one bandwagon:
"Unless you obsess over politics 24/7, or hail from Virginia, chances are you've never heard of Mark Warner. But that could change in a hurry, now that Warner has become the Democratic flavor of the week, a hot commodity for the 2008 presidential nomination.
"On Tuesday night, he was arguably the biggest winner in Virginia's gubernatorial race, even though his name wasn't on the ballot. He is the departing governor - a Democrat with a 70 percent positive rating in a tax-averse, socially conservative 'red' state - and he put his popularity on the line to elect a Democratic successor. His guy won big, beating President Bush's guy. Tim Kaine was down by 10 points when Warner stepped in and took a visible role; Kaine won by 5 points."
Fun fact: Warner goes to New Hampshire next week.
Obligatory Sabato quote: "He has shot to the top of the not-Hillary list."
Telltale sign: Kos's wife has switched from Hillary to Warner.
The Note | http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/TheNote/story?id=156238 riffs on why we all shouldn't get carried away:
"--The midterms are a year a way;
" -- President Bush has gone from being an unalloyed asset to being a mixed bag (at best) and in some places an obvious drag for GOP candidates;
" -- Kilgore and Forrester are not great candidates;
" -- Democrats can now (again) plausibly argue that they can win by advocating bigger government programs for things such as health care and education;
" -- the Democratic victory lap that starts today will jazz up their donors and help candidate recruitment;
" -- the discipline of the Rove-Mehlman team in keeping negative the-sky-is-falling quotes out of the papers is remarkable (but just wait until Thursday);
" -- if the Republicans can avoid mass retirements in Congress, even a politically weak Bush probably won't cost them control of either chamber (but they will obsess about all this for quite some time);
" -- the Washington Post Metro staff needs some deprogramming to get over its Mark Warner Stockholm Syndrome;
" -- thank goodness that the Schwarzenegger political consultants aren't afraid of Maria Shriver;
" -- Terry McAuliffe and Howard Dean are friggin' geniuses;
" -- winning is better than losing;
" -- if John Kerry could talk as comfortably about his personal faith as Tim Kaine can, he would be the President of the United States right now;
" -- if Howard Dean could talk as comfortably about his personal faith as Tim Kaine can, he would have been the Democratic nominee in 2004;
" -- and, one of the few positive trends in American political journalism is the vast curtailing of the practice of over-reading the results of off-off-year elections."
The week is still young.
LAT blogger Michael Hiltzik | http://goldenstateblog.latimes.com/ goes out on a limb after all four of the Terminator's initiatives get shot down:
"What of Arnold Schwarzenegger's political future?
"I've said it before and I'll say it again: I do not believe he will run for reelection. Sure, he declared his candidacy a few weeks ago, but he was boxed into a corner: The big donors being solicited for the initiative campaigns were sitting on their hands, pending reassurances that he'd be around to deliver the appropriate quid pro quos in the next term. The chief objection to my forecast was that his ego wouldn't let him bail out. To that I say, ego cuts both ways. Whatever his yes-men have been telling him, Tuesday's results are inescapable. Will he want to risk an even more personal repudiation next November?
"Watch out for signs of an exit strategy in the next few months. The creation of a Schwarzenegger Foundation for National Renewal, say. Another appearance by Maria on Oprah saying she wants her husband back home with the kids. A visit to the doctor for a 'routine checkup.'"
Is this the going rate for an Oval Office drop-by?
"The lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president of a West African nation to arrange a meeting with President Bush and directed his fees to a Maryland company now under federal scrutiny, according to newly disclosed documents," says the New York Times | http://nytimes.com/2005/11/10/politics/10lobby.html?hp&ex=1131598800&en=c143a0d022b49971&ei=5094&partner=homepage.
"The African leader, President Omar Bongo of Gabon, met with President Bush in the Oval Office on May 26, 2004, 10 months after Mr. Abramoff made the offer. There has been no evidence in the public record that Mr. Abramoff had any role in organizing the meeting or that he received any money or had a signed contract with Gabon."
Seeing more sex on the tube? You're not imagining things:
"The amount of sexual content on national television has nearly doubled since 1998, with nearly 70% of all programs containing some sex scenes or related language, according to a study released today," says the Los Angeles Times. | http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-110905tvsex_lat,0,1790525.story?coll=la-home-headlines
"Sexual context, including talk about sex and scenes of kissing and depictions of sexual behavior, was even more commonplace during evening prime time viewing hours, according to Sex on TV 4, a biennial study released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"Nearly 8 in 10 prime time shows or 77% included sexual content, averaging 5.9 sexual scenes per hour."
Whew! I'm out of breath just reading about it.
HuffPost's Eric Boehlert | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-boehlert/nightline-ignores-white_b_10302.html isn't joining the praise for Koppel's "Nightline":
"Fact: In the 24 months between Jan. 1994 and Jan. 1996, long before Monica Lewinsky entered the picture and back when Whitewater was about an alleged crooked land deal, Nightline devoted 19 programs to the then-unfolding scandal and investigation, for which no Clinton White House official was ever indicted. But during the 24 months between Sept. 2003 and Sept. 2005, Nightline set aside just three programs to the unfolding CIA leak investigation, for which Libby, an assistant to the president, was indicted. On the night of the Libby indictmnets, Nightline devoted just five percent of its program to that topic...
"Am I stating the obvious by suggesting it's inconceivable that if an assistant to president Clinton had been charged with lying to a grand jury investigating Whitewater that Nightline would have shrugged off the development so effortlessly?"
Coming back to Judy Miller, Jon Friedman | http://www.investors.com/breakingnews.asp?journalid=32777083&brk=1 of MarketWatch chides Maureen Dowd:
"Act One: Dowd wrote the columnists' equivalent of a crackback block -- a cheap shot about her much-maligned Times colleague, reporter Judith Miller. While Dowd's supporters said the column intended to tell the truth, it seemed to me to be mostly a thinly veiled attempt to get revenge on a long-time nemesis. I hope I'm wrong but. . . .
"Act Two: Sounding, perhaps, a mite defensive, Dowd told the Washington Post that she wasn't acting like a 'management hit man.' She also noted that one of her bosses warned he that it would like she was piling on. Whatever. Dowd has lived in Washington long enough to understand the first rule of politics: perception = reality (Psssst, it's true in office politics, too).
"It doesn't take any courage to kick someone when she's down. If Dowd had really wanted to make a powerful point in her column, she could've criticized Miller's editors at the Times. They coddled Miller (not to mention serial fabricator Jayson Blair before her) and didn't grill her sufficiently about the credibility of her sources. They could've done a much, much better of vetting Miller's stories when she parroted the Bush party line that Saddam Hussein had WMDs.
"I don't enjoy seeing one of my favorite columnists use her platform like some sort of Fourth Estate bully pulpit. Dowd is the most graceful, clever columnist around.
"Look, I've criticized Miller plenty in print, too. But I'm not her teammate (plus, I had no score to settle with her). And that makes a difference."
I don't agree. Would Friedman like it better if Dowd wrote nothing because Miller happened to work for the same paper? Doesn't it require more guts to take on a colleague?