Monday, February 5, 2007

Novak On the Stand: A Fantasy

In his "Media Equation" column today, New York Times media-watcher David Carr raises a good point about the Libby trial: rightwing columnist Robert Novak has skated.

Last week was not a pretty week for two prominent journalists called to the stand: ex-New York Times WMD-chaser Judith Miller and onetime Time White House watcher Matt Cooper. They were witnesses for the prosecution, and each testified that Scooter Libby had disclosed in off the record chats that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA. Their testimony contradicted Libby's claim that he had not informed them about Valerie Wilson's CIA connection. So Libby's defense attorneys--when it came time for cross examination--did what they could to destroy the credibility of Miller and Cooper. While being bombarded with questions from a Libby lawyer, Miller acknowledged she had a spotty memory on key matters, could not decipher the meaning of significant but sketchy notes, and went to a key interview with a pen that did not work. This is not how a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (even one with a sullied reputation) would like to be seen.

As for Cooper, he didn't look like such a diligent truth-seeker when he conceded that he took a brief remark from Libby--"yeah, I've heard that, too"--as confirmation of an important fact. Did you ask whom Libby had heard it from? a Libby lawyer asked Cooper. No, he said, with an expression of pain on his face. That was a big whoops to admit.

These representatives of the Times and Time did not acquit themselves well as practitioners of journalism. But the man who started this all--Novak--was lucky: his journalistic practices were not revealed.

Novak was the first journalist to publish the leak that outed Valerie Wilson as a CIA officer. He was never in direct legal jeopardy, for under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, only government officials (not reporters) who disclose such information are susceptible to prosecution (and can only be prosecuted if they knew the CIA officer was under cover). Moreover, Libby was not a source for Novak's column. Novak relied upon Richard Armitage, who was then the No. 2 at the State Department, and Karl Rove, the top strategist at the White House. Since neither Armitage or Rove ended up being prosecuted by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, Novak didn't make Fitzgerald's witness list.

Rove came close to being indicted, but he slipped past Fitzgerald, who had investigated Rove extensively for having possibly lied to the grand jury about his leaking of information about Valerie Wilson to Cooper. But Fitzgerald ultimately decided he did not have a case to make. And Novak cooperated with the leak investigation from Day One. He was worried that were he to adopt a confrontational stance (as did Miller and Cooper) he would face big legal fees and probably lose. Given that Novak's key source (Armitage) cooperated with the investigation, that his second source (Rove) squeaked by, and that he, too, cooperated, with Fitzgerald, Novak escaped the troubles that found Cooper and Miller.

But imagine if Novak were to take the stand and face a pit-bull defense attorney. That would be delicious. The attorney could ask him about his work habits. For instance, why did he not take notes when he interviewed Richard Armitage? Is that routine for him? And how often does he talk to Karl Rove? What sort of tips does Rove provide him? Does Novak trade information with White House and Republican sources for leads? What confirmation does he require before he publishes political gossip in his column? Why did he change his public explanation of the Valerie Wilson leak several times? And so on. Could he withstand the treatment that Miller and Cooper got?

Alas, such a moment will not come. As the Carr column--which refers to Hubris and quotes me and co-author Michael Isikoff--notes in its headline, Novak is "skipping merrily along as others take the heat." More proof that good fortune has nothing to do with good character.

Posted by David Corn at February 5, 2007 10:27 AM


capt said...

Mr. David Corn,

I have nothing good to say about Bob Novak. He has irked me since way back when.

"That would be delicious."

My sentiments exactly.


capt said...

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is the search for a superior moral justification for
selfishness." : John Kenneth Galbraith

The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace: James Madison

"The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.": John Flynn, 1944

We're not a democracy. It's a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we're a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy." : Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General

"Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy" : John Pierpont Morgan



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capt said...

A PETITION to sign if you like.


capt said...

Profile of the Neoconservative Warrior

Mark Steyn is one of the most extremist warmongers in our country and is gripped by the fear that the European race will die out as Muslims breed too rapidly and take over. He has also been as fundamentally wrong as one can be about virtually every issue he has touched. Guess who considers him a foreign policy guru? From a New Yorker profile of the Independent Senator from Connecticut, by Jeffery Goldberg:

Lieberman says that he does, at times, feel isolated. . . .

In another conversation, he told me that he was reading "America Alone," a book by the conservative commentator Mark Steyn, which argues that Europe is succumbing, demographically and culturally, to an onslaught by Islam, leaving America friendless in its confrontation with Islamic extremism.

"The thing I quote most from it is the power of demographics, in Europe particularly," Lieberman said. "That’s what struck me the most. But the other part is a kind of confirmation of what I know and what I’ve read elsewhere, which is that Islamist extremism has an ideology, and it’s expansionist, it’s an aggressive ideology. And the title I took to mean that we Americans will have ultimate responsibility for stopping this expansionism."


*****end of clip*****

Joe Lieberman sounds just like a Nazi.


capt said...

New thread!