Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Gray Lady Down

The New York Times has been in a full frontal White House supplication mode of late and the timing of it coincides exactly with Judith Miller's release from jail. Shortly after Miller's release and her subsequent grand jury testimony in the Plame/CIA leak investigation, questions were immediately raised about her and the Times' involvement in the leak. Deftly or not, George Bush then nominated his White House counsel and former personal lawyer, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court. This caused a great howl from the right and, more notably, from the Christian right, who looked to Bush to provide them with a staunchly conservative jurist who would occupy a seat on the big bench. To the Christian right, of course, "conservative" has a very narrow meaning: anti-abortion and anti-gay. Harriet Miers' record, or lack thereof, did not meet these criteria.

The criticism of Bush's nomination was a fierce blend of rancour about her lack of obvious qualifications and that the nomination was, as it appeared to most, a blatant crony appointment. Republicans, indeed the country, were in no mood for anymore Michael Brown fiascos. Lefties and Democrats, by and large, reclined and watched the bloodletting.

But the New York Times, for reasons known only to themselves, engaged on a campaign of defense for the nomination and the woman herself. From the outset, the Times ran stories (here, here and here) that at first declared her nomination a "relief," that attempted to demonstrate how staunchly anti-abortion she is and then portrayed her as a "hard-working advocate for the President." All of these came out on the same day as the nomination. More soothing strokes ensued ( here, here and here) that called her a "quiet force for change in a male dominated era," followed then by stories of Bush and the White House calmly reassuring the "public" about Miers that she will be " a good, conservative judge." At this point, much of the consoling was meant for high ranking Republican senators as anyone else. Naturally, Elizabeth Bumiller added her own particular brand of White House ass-licking to mix with a rosy portrait of Miers, informing us all of her "intense devotion to Mr. Bush." This is, apparently, meant to comfort those few who still think Bush deserves intense devotion.

Still more stories would follow and we would then be told that "she has plenty of practice with the less provocative legal questions posed in most of the court's cases," and that the whole question about abortion would likely be moot:
It may be that abortion is the most important question that the court decides but it's close to the least frequent
Onward, Christian soldiers! nothing to see here.

The onslaught would not yet be over because we would then be reassured by Bush that Miers "won't change" and would be confirmed, as though Bush's request that everyone should just trust him had already been satisfied. Still more Miers nomination canoodling would appear and speak of the "warm Bush - Miers friendship," wherein it is conveyed how "cool" George is in Harriet's eyes. By this time the throat had tightened and teeth ached. The heavy doses of saccharine had been far too intense.

But the bromides didn't seem to be working on the nay-sayers. Did all those conservatives not read the Times? It finally must have dawned on the editors that, indeed, most conservative do nothing but make fun of the NY Times. The critics continued and finally the Time's brought out the big guns. Laura Bush stepped up to lay down the smack and call every damn one of Miers' and George's critics "sexist." Surely, that would do it.

An amazing performance, to be sure. And during this entire time, while much of the rest of the media world wondered, if only occasionally, about Judith Miller's involvement with the Plame investigation, the NY TImes has chosen to remain completely silent on the subject. Perhaps that's just as well, because it now looks like Miller is going back to the grand jury to testify, yet again, in the Plame case. But you won't read that at the NY Times. At least, not until everyone else knows it.

The Time's editor, Bill Kellor, claims that his paper won't print anything until they, themselves, have conducted a thorough investigation of their own investigative reporter. Just when that will be is almost anyone's guess. But the question Kellor should asking himself at this point is will anyone believe it or, for that matter, even care?

And if an answer in Miller's involvement in the Plame case is boosterism of Bush's Supreme Court nominee then the question is, what does the White House have on Miller and/or the New York Times? or are both parties firmly locked arm-in-arm and in this together? Of course, we don't really know what "this" is yet. But the New York Times will, in due course, set everything straight. Right?


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