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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

KURTZ ON PLAMEGATE AND THE MEDIA: "Are They Enjoying Libby Indictment Too Much?"; Time Better Spent at Just One Minute for Real Coverage

Just in case you missed it, Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post zeroed in Monday on what the mainstream media is doing to itself with the Plamegate obsession. Here are the key graphs:

"Now that an indictment has reached the highest level of the White House for the first time since Watergate, journalists face a minefield of potentially explosive questions: Are they enjoying a bit too much the spectacle of Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, having to resign over the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice?
"What happened to the normal journalistic skepticism toward a single-minded special prosecutor, as was on display when Ken Starr was pursuing Bill Clinton?
"The hostility directed at Patrick Fitzgerald when he was threatening reporters with jail seems to have faded now that his targets are senior aides to President Bush.

"Perhaps most important, are reporters, commentators, bloggers and partisans using the outing of Valerie Plame as a proxy war for rehashing the decision to invade Iraq? The vitriol directed at New York Times reporter Judith Miller, whether deserved or not, seems motivated as much by her role in touting the administration's erroneous WMD claims as in her decision to be jailed, at least for a time, to protect Libby.
"In short, the leak prosecution is shaping up as a test of media fairness and responsibility in a polarizing age when many people on the left and right think the news business is hopelessly biased."

Kurtz also notes that some mainstream media liberals have argued the absurdity of journalists clamoring for the indictment of senior government officials for leaking:

"A few liberal commentators have cautioned their side against embracing the special prosecutor now that high-level Republicans are the target. Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg wrote: 'Rooting for Rove's indictment in this case isn't just unseemly, it's unthinking and ultimately self-destructive. Anyone who cares about civil liberties, freedom of information, or even just fair play should have been skeptical about Fitzgerald's investigation from the start.'
"Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen said Fitzgerald should 'return to Chicago and prosecute some real criminals.' And New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote: 'I find myself repulsed by the glee that some Democrats show at the possibility of Karl Rove and Mr. Libby being dragged off in handcuffs.'"

Sadly, with those three exceptions noted, Plamegate has demonstrated yet again that most mainstream media folks have absolutely no clue why their credibility with the public is in tatters.

There is much else of value in the Kurtz column. Go here for the full Kurtzing.

UPDATE: 9:25 a.m.

While we are on the topic, it is instructive to compare the mainstream media's coverage - shot through as it is with the "Bush Lied/People Died/Plamegate Proves It" meme - with the ongoing coverage by blogger Tom Maguire at Just One Minute. I haven't always agreed with some of Maguire's conclusions, but the depth, timeliness and quality of insight he's displayed throughout far exceeds that of anything available anywhere in the mainstream media.

Consider one little tidbit concerning the Tim Russert/Lewis Libby exchange that plays such a prominent role in the latter's indictment by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald:

"Perhaps the defense will stage a bit of a show - put Ms. [NBC's Andrea] Mitchell on the stand and let her explain that she kept her boss in the dark about the Plame/CIA tidbit. Put a few more reporters up there to admit they knew Ms. Plame was at the CIA.
"Maybe give Mr. Russert an opportunity to explain that everybody knew except him - after all, he 'may be the capital's most intimidating interlocutor,' but all his colleagues kept him in the dark, right? (I see Jack Nicholson playing Russert, shouting 'You're damn right I ordered the Code Red').
"Or perhaps Mr. Russert did know - he has been quite clear that he did not learn Ms. Wilson's name until he read Bob Novak's column, but a bit of a sphinx on other points. So, if he did know, why *not* mention it to Libby? Was he concerned that he might be leaking classified information to Mr. Libby? Why the big secret?"

In other words, 15 minutes spent on Just One Minute is worth more than days of following the mainstream media's obsessive-compulsive interpretative dancing crusading as journalism.

UPDATE: 12:40 p.m.

And speaking of NBC's Andrea Mitchell, Benedict Blog has some interesting observations here. There appears to be a general assumption in the mainstream media that Libby is guilty and will be convicted. I wouldn't rest my case on that assumption.

Plus, Max Boot is in The Los Angeles Times with a solid description of the Plamegate player with the most significant truth-telling deficit, Joe Wilson.