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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Repiglican report 

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A LAST HURRAH:

It's a good thing that the New York Times didn't publish the details of Judy Miller's severance package. I'm sure that it was massive. (Witness the surprisingly warm, almost certainly extorted, language of Keller's fare-thee-well letter.) Despite everything she had written, and despite all the damage she had exacted on the institution, she had the Times by the nuts in these negotiations. The simple fact about Miller is that you can't stop her, you can't even hope to contain her. It's the exact reason you can't negotiate with a crazed dictator: Miller doesn't play by the same rules or operate under the same set of mores as the rest of us. She overflows with so much gumption and so much ambition that she will always claw her way back from whatever Elba-like bureaucratic beat the editors consign her to, back into the limelight. You will always live in fear of her breaking agreements and finding new, creative ways to burn you. Removing her from the building was Keller's only sane option.

Unfortunately, it took Keller an eternity to understand this. At every turn, in his quest to burnish his anti-Raines, nice-guy bona fides, he gave Miller the benefit of the doubt. He failed to adequately flay her for WMD coverage; he failed to keep her banished from the WMD beat; he failed to minimize her embarrassment to the paper in the Fitzgerald case. Instead of disciplining a rogue, untrustworthy reporter, he preceded to defend her in the press, to display his generous spirit.

Keller is too beloved by the staff to suffer much for this scandal and his poor handling of it. And, perhaps that's fair. It was Raines who stuck Miller on the WMD story and instructed her to go win a Pulitzer for the paper. But Keller needs to finally confront the paper's WMD coverage. Last year's Editor's Note on the subject was more-or-less a whitewash. It failed to state the truth about the Times coverage: The paper screwed up because it assigned the biggest story of the decade to a pathological person. I also hope that Pinch Sulzberger comes to terms with what just happened. While he may have defended Miller out of friendship, I doubt that's the whole case. Sulzberger jumped into the Miller fracas, because he wanted to prove himself. He was hungry for a crusade, eager to turn himself into a First Amendment crusader. And in a way, he shared the same weakness with Miller: a melodramatic urge to play the parts of Clark Kent and Lois Lane.

Now that Miller has left 43rd Street, she will surely continue to embarrass the paper. She still apparently has powerful friends in New York. It's easy to imagine her worming her way back into Charlie Rose's chair, commenting on this and that. And it's impossible to imagine her resisting further entreaties from New York Observer reporters. But now that they have extricated Miller from the building, perhaps the Times will be liberated to finally speak honestly of the mess that just transpired. Although based on its record this past year, I wouldn't count on it.

Judith Miller. Martyr. Traitor.

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Judith Miller, who retired from the New York Times Wednesday after more than 28 years at the paper, launched a website (www.judithmiller.org) a few weeks ago to respond to the her critics, some of whom include Times staff, who wrote scathing news stories about her cozy relationship with key members of the Bush administration as well as her flawed reporting on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction which laid the groundwork for war.

Miller, who joined the Times Washington bureau in 1977, spent 85 days in jail after refusing to reveal who told her the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Since her release, reporters say, she had not been cooperative with the paper’s investigation into her role in events surrounding the case.


Judith Miller, Fired


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"I hope to God that I'm wrong. I hope to God that not another American ever dies in a terrorist attack. But I would take no comfort. I would be heartsick to have to say I told you so.

"But I will make no apologies for my continuous commitment, my desire to pursue stories about threats to our country," she says emphatically, almost frantically, her crusading eyes brimming with tears.


Ah, you poor Crusader

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We're sure that many newspapers would join us in offering to give the president ample space in our pages to publish his own "Farewell Letter" to the electorate. Also, they would be happy to make clear, as Bill Keller, the Times' executive editor, did Wednesday in regard to Miller, that the president had no sexual "entanglement" with Scooter Libby. Approving a generous financial settlement is guaranteed, if Halliburton pays for this cleanup.

W should resign as well

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Republicans, wincing from losses in two governors' races this week and President Bush's current political weakness, face a broader problem as well: Some of the party's most potent traditional advantages appear to be eroding.

Amid their failure Tuesday to take back governor's seats in either Virginia or New Jersey, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll shows that Republicans have lost the upper hand on a series of issues they've counted on to preserve their congressional majorities in 2006.


Among other findings, the poll indicates that voters no longer prefer Republicans to Democrats on handling taxes, cutting government spending, dealing with immigration and directing foreign policy.

Repiglicans Lose Mojo

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