There sure are a lot of people getting beat up out there.
Judy Miller. Mary Mapes. Maureen Dowd. To name just a few.
Not to mention George Bush, Scooter Libby, Jerry Kilgore, Doug Forrester, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Freddy Ferrer and Jon Corzine's ex-wife, plus Jimmy Smits, who lost that debate to Alan Alda, and Terrell Owens, who got kicked off the Eagles for running his mouth instead of the football.
Sure, politics (and media) is a contact sport, if you can't take the heat, things have gotten meaner, and so on. But I can't help but notice how much blood is on the floor at the moment.
The cases are all different, and I want to avoid the columnist's trap of melding a few disparate examples into a pseudo-trend. Libby has been indicted for lying. Miller has been hammered for erroneous WMD stories, not cooperating with her NYT colleagues after her dealings with Libby landed her in jail and generally just ticking people off. Mapes is still insisting that her Bush/National Guard story on CBS was solid (details here | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/08/AR2005110801843.html.) Forrester thought it was cute to drag the former Mrs. Corzine into his race for Jersey governor. Maureen says high-powered men want to marry salesclerks and secretaries, not high-powered columnists (the skinny here | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/04/AR2005110401996.html.)
But it is rough out there, and that seems to reflect the smashmouth culture. Miller, who after all spent three months in jail, has been denounced with a passion that sometimes seems out of proportion to her offenses (though she's given it back to Bill Keller and other critics, just as Dowd used her column to stick it to Miss Run Amok). And now, of course, she's been forced out | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/09/AR2005110901421.html. Mapes rips bloggers as a menace to society and drags Les Moonves's marriage into her criticism of her former network. Forrester and Corzine both got accused of having affairs, with the complicity of the press, as the rumor mill spun out of control. And, of course, politicians who lose elections are routinely painted as pathetic losers.
Tina Brown | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/09/AR2005110902486.html, who knows something about prominent women getting built up and knocked down, throws Harriet Miers and Martha Stewart into the mix and asks: "Was it always so hazardous for women in the public eye? . . . When a woman is the subject the vortex of venom reaches a spinning climax."
I don't think women have a monopoly on this sort of thing, but I do wonder whether the price of admission to the Great American Slugfest has gotten rather high.
Miller handled herself well on Larry King last night, but Steve Lovelady | http://www.cjrdaily.org/archives/002004.asp of CJR, is happy to bid Judy adieu:
"Miller, a reporter who gave new definition to the phrase 'gone native,' moved within the world of national security intrigue, a murky place, as we have recently learned, where creepy characters and self-serving careerists advance competing agendas, most of them only tenuously tied to reality.
"Inside that world -- and this is the scary part -- Miller fit right in, more at home, apparently, than she was in what she now calls 'the convent' of the New York Times.
"We commend the Times for lancing this boil, however reluctantly, after a long and frustrating summer and fall during which it sometimes seemed as if the newspaper itself was being run not by executive editor Bill Keller or publisher Arthur Sulzberger, but by Miller's legal strategy of the moment.
"As for Miller, she's still spinning fantasy, denying any 'insubordination' on her own part. 'I have always written the articles assigned to me, adhered to the paper's sourcing and ethical guidelines, and cooperated with editorial decisions, even those with which I disagreed,' she wrote in a letter printed on the Times editorial page.
"This, from the same reporter who -- as the Times put it in its own October 16 reconstruction of the Miller saga -- refused to cooperate with her colleagues and 'generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written account of her grand jury testimony or allow reporters to review her notes.'"
Amygdala | http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com/2005/11/door.html responds to Miller's parting letter:
"No, you became a lighting rod for public fury over taking dictation from politicians without questioning or sufficiently investigating whether what they and you were saying was true, and you presented little or no information challenging the single point of view you were representing. You became part of the story when you did that.
"She said she regretted 'that I was not permitted to pursue answers' to questions about those intelligence failures.
"Well, O.J., now you're free to go out and find the real killers."
Talk Left | http://talkleft.com/new_archives/013065.html parses the headline:
"Something I just noticed: The article at the Times website about Miller's departure from the paper is headlined, 'Reporter Agrees to Leave Paper.' That is a further slam to Miller in that it implies she was asked to leave and agreed. If the departure was her idea, wouldn't the headline simply read 'Reporter Leaves Paper'?"
Arianna Huffington | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/dear-news-cycle-thank-yo_b_10399.html, one of cyberspace's principal Judy-bashers, makes a point about New Media:
"I find it deeply ironic that one of the main sticking points of the two-week negotiation that led to Miller's 'retirement' was the battle over Judy's demand that she be allowed to write an essay for the Times Op-Ed page.
"I can't decide which is more retro, Miller thinking this was a deal breaker or Gail Collins haughtily insisting: 'We don't use the Op-Ed page for back and forth between one part of the paper and another'. They finally compromised on Miller being allowed to publish a letter to the editor refuting the allegations made against her by Keller, Maureen Dowd, and Barney Calame.
"As if it mattered where it was published. Memo to Judy and Gail: welcome to the 21st Century. If you write something and it's interesting, it will be read and picked up by others -- whether it's on the letters page, the Op-Ed page, a website, or a blog.
"The proof of this, of course, is that Judy -- in another poke in the eye to her old employer -- went ahead and scooped the Times by posting her letter to the editor on her website today, where it promptly went flying around the blogosphere and will have been read, analyzed, mocked, and blogged about within an inch of its life long before it appears in print...That this musty debate was even a part of the negotiations shows that neither Miller nor the Times understands the power of the blogosphere and the sea change that has occurred in journalism."
Karl Rove is back--sort of | http://nytimes.com/2005/11/11/politics/11rove.html?hp&ex=1131685200&en=c2ac3f5915f21de9&ei=5094&partner=homepage.
You may recall that I expressed skepticism about whether Congress, after huffing and puffing, would really cut spending much. Well, they're still huffing and puffing up on the Hill:
"House Republican leaders canceled a vote on their massive spending-cut bill yesterday to avoid an embarrassing defeat after being unable to muster enough votes to pass their proposal," says the Washington Times | http://washingtontimes.com/national/20051111-123421-1362r.htm. "After days of feverish negotiations, the leadership tried to win support Wednesday night by removing the provision most egregious to liberal Republicans -- one that would have allowed drilling at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. "But that angered some pro-drilling conservatives and still didn't produce enough votes to pass the bill. Also, some liberal Republicans still had problems with other features of the bill, such as reductions in Medicaid spending."
The Alito Express has hit some rough track:
"Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said Thursday that he was 'unduly restrictive' when he promised the Senate 15 years ago to remove himself from court cases involving two firms in which he has investments," reports USA Today | http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/judicial/2005-11-10-alitodemocrats_x.htm.
"When the Senate was considering Alito's nomination to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1990, he promised in a Judiciary Committee questionnaire that he would not participate in cases involving the brokerage firms Vanguard or Smith Barney or his sister's law firm.
"Democrats have raised questions about cases involving the brokerage firms that Alito helped decide as an appellate judge. The Boston Globe reported Thursday that he participated in a case involving his sister's law firm, but White House spokesman Steve Schmidt said Alito's involvement in that instance was minimal.
"In a letter Thursday to Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, Alito said that his participation in a case in 2002 involving Vanguard was due to 'an oversight' and that he asked later to be removed. He said that after more than a decade on the court, he 'realized that there was not a legal or ethical obligation . . . to recuse myself from every case involving the companies I listed.'"
Well, he's already parsing legal language like a champion justice.
The New Republic's Michael Crowley | http://www.tnr.com/blog/theplank has an observation about oily politics:
"How bad are things going for the Bush White House? Their agenda isn't just stalled out--it's starting to move backwards. House Republicans have now had to strip a plan for oil drilling in Alaska from their budget resolution to win the support of moderates for $54 billion in budget cuts. The House and Senate had both added drilling in ANWR to their budget resolutions earlier this year in what looked to be the final chapter one of the longest-running (and most tedious) battles in Bush's Washington. I'm really looking forward to the pyrotechnic tantrum Alaska Senator Ted Stevens--a pro-drilling fanatic who recently threatened to resign his seat if highway-bill pork projects for his state were rescinded--is sure to throw over this."
Now that New York will have gone 16 years without a Democratic mayor, Greg Sargent | http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=10603 takes a look for American Prospect:
"The significance of Bloomberg's landslide win is that he may have permanently shattered the idea of the imperial mayoralty . . . The idea of the imperial mayoralty, which held sway in the last century, was that a New York mayor couldn't be successful unless he had an overwhelming, larger-than-life personality with which he could tame the city's archipelago of competing interest groups. The two mayors most often described as successful in the last half of the 20th century -- Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani -- were both imperial mayors in this sense. They made the bully pulpit worthy of its name, each building majorities with crude and theatrical verbal attacks on minority leaders and interest groups in ways designed to stoke the fears of culturally conservative white voters, mostly in the outer boroughs. In Giuliani's case, such tactics ultimately lent a sinister subtext to what was undeniably an extraordinary achievement -- his victory over crime and urban disorder -- because he seemed devoted to advancing the idea that one couldn't defeat crime without exacerbating racial tensions.
"In many ways, Mike Bloomberg's first term -- and his huge victory yesterday -- stand as a partial repudiation of the mayoralties of Koch and, more directly, of Giuliani. Among Bloomberg's first acts were reaching out to Giuliani nemesis Al Sharpton and hiring the police commissioner of former mayor David Dinkins, who was associated in the minds of many with crime-ravaged, pre-Giuliani New York. Bloomberg quietly but insistently went on to undercut Giuliani's mayoralty in other ways. He showed that a mayor could keep crime falling and improve racial tensions at the same time -- which in a rational world would be seen as a partial blow to Giuliani's legacy. He also showed that a mayor could competently manage the city without building a personality cult at City Hall, without the unsightly histrionics so often unleashed by Giuliani."
Power Line's Scott Johnson | http://powerlineblog.com/archives/012209.php, one of those who led the charge against Mary Mapes's National Guard story last year, takes issue with a passage from her book:
"On Web sites such as Powerline, INDC Journal, Allahpundit, and Spacetownusa, the bravehearts of the blogging world worked anonymously in what appeared to be huge numbers, in unison, to destroy the Bush-Guard story, to uphold one another's wild and hateful claims, to outshout, outargue, and outblog anyone who dared to disagree.
"On September 9, 2004, as now, our home page 'about us' link took readers to our names, capsule biographies, photographs and telephone numbers."
Peggy Noonan | http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110007525 examines the McCain dynamic:
"Bob Novak did a column this week saying John McCain's fund-raising has been slowed because of the concern of potential donors that he's too old to run for president in 2008. I don't believe it. In a solid year of hearing people talk about the '08 possibles, I have never heard anyone say McCain is too old. Nor have I heard anyone do the weaselly I have a feeling people think he's too old. McCain is 69. He always seems bouncy and bantamy, in part because of the tight way he holds his mouth, like someone who's trying to keep something wildly interesting from popping out of it.
"But he is also not too old because every adult in America seems to have decided over the past 10 years that everyone's age has been officially pushed back a decade. Decades have been redefined. When we were kids, 50 was old. Now it's not. Sixty was even older; now it's the beginning of age. Seventy was semiancient, now it's hale maturity. Eighty is still antique, but that will change.
"I have been thinking lately, by the way, of this: When they ran against each other for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, George W. Bush was the conservative and McCain the moderate maverick. Now, five years later, who looks more conservative? McCain, who worries about spending, regulation and immigration, or Bush? Funny how things change."
As the MoDo publicity tour continues, Dowd ruminates about blogs for the Austin Chronicle | http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2005-11-11/pols_feature10.html:
"Blogs have made my life difficult, because with everyone trying to have an opinion, it's hard to think of anything original to say when you have to wait three days for your column to be published. It's like now we're in a whole nation of opinion writers, so what makes yours special? You have to work even harder. It used to be in the old days, (The New Republic editor) Walter Lippman and (longtime Times writer) James Reston would write from some Olympian height, and everyone would wait to have the word handed down, but not anymore . . .
"There can be problems in every aspect of journalism. The bloggers have done some great investigative work, and some hilarious work -- I love Gawker, they do some hilarious things and some very original columns. It's hard sometimes, because blogs also have a lot of misinformation. I'm never quite sure when you're using it as research, you never quite know how verified it is. It's like the Wild West. But that's what makes it exciting."