Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why I love Patrick Fitzgerald

When Plamegate/Traitorgate was first tantalizing us (it seems like half a lifetime ago), the possibility of taking down Turd Blossom and/or Big Time was the mechanical rabbit that made all us blog greyhounds run. So far, at least, that goal still seems out of reach, at least in the perp walk sense. But it became obvious to me almost a year and a half ago that Fitz was accomplishing another, equally important task -- lancing the boil on the national bum that is the Washington press corps.

From my piece, which I titled "Miasma of Putrefaction," from November 2005:

General Electric is a huge conglomerate. I’m sure the folks in the news room will insist that they are free to follow their stories wherever they lead. But do you really believe that anyone who works for a company that expects more than $3 billion in revenue from rebuilding Iraq is going to be fearless about biting the hand that feeds it? Flash Occam’s Razor in a confrontation with Tim Russert and Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell and Pete Williams and tell me what explanation best fits the data. There is room to speculate about the motives behind their dereliction: simple cowardice could also explain some of their actions. Maybe laziness explains most of the rest. But consider this: Russert defends the exchange with Libby detailed in Libby’s indictment as a call in which Libby complained about how the network had covered Libby – a complaint Russert says he passed directly to the president of NBC News. What Russert did may be an appropriate response at People Magazine, but here betrays dangerous levels of dysfunctional symbiosis.

And Russert’s weekly kabuki theater, in which he failed for two years to so much as acknowledge his own role in the underlying scandal he discussed? Russert defends by saying that Fitzgerald asked him to remain silent. But Fitzgerald’s white hat does not change the fact that Russert yet again considered himself more beholden to his subjects than to his audience.

Back then, we were Kremlinologizing, trying to extrapolate the real story from hints and tidbits that the mainstream ignored. Now Fitz has these put these cretins onstage in a public trial, and their malfeasance is there for all the world to see.

From AMERICAblog:

Tim Russert, who blabbed to the FBI about his conversation with Scooter Libby, thought the Valerie Plame leak was 'really big.' Funny how no one at NBC bothered to share the 'really big' leak with their viewers. A 'really big' story that they never told:

Mr. Russert, who limped into the courtroom Wednesday using a crutch because of a broken ankle, recalled that conversation for Mr. Fitzgerald, who took less than nine minutes to draw out the account, in which Mr. Russert said that Mr. Libby was “agitated” about Mr. Matthews.

Asked how he could tell Mr. Libby was agitated, Mr. Russert replied: “He said, ‘What the hell’s going on with Hardball. Dammit, I’m tired of hearing my name over and over again.’ ”

Mr. Russert insisted that it “would be impossible” for him to have told Mr. Libby about Ms. Wilson in their conversation on July 10 or 11, 2003, “because I didn’t know who that person was until I read the Bob Novak column.” He said that, when he read it on July 14, he said to himself, “Wow, this is really big.”

You said it to yourself? You run the Washington bureau of NBC News. Your news team repeated the White House denials for years. You knew the White House was lying. Now, that's a "really big" story. Tim Russert, like most of the Washington press corps, blew it.

I think "blew it" gives Russert far too much credit, unless your mind takes you places Ted Haggard apparently no longer goes. By the rules Russert and so many of his pals accept without question, he did nothing wrong. To adapt a concept from a nearby scandal, this is not proper venue for the incompetence dodge. This sordid tale reveals the deep and fundamental corruption that is central to their mission as they understand it. I am confident that, in the minds of Russert and Judith Miller, and of their ilk, their only mistake was in getting caught. The idea that their primary obligation might be to tell the truth to the public would be as foreign as if it had been written in Sanskrit.

This sickness is so pervasive, even Olbermann just parroted the company line. Keith just said (not exact quote) that Russert was able to talk publicly today for the first time.

With all due respect, horseshit. Russert was under no legal obligation to avoid talking about the case. And in fact he did talk about it -- he just didn't tell the truth about it. The only reasons he didn't talk until now are (a) because he is so used to being a toady that it was inconceivable that he might speak out of school and/or (b) because he knew the whole thing would reveal (and has now revealed) what a pathetic toady he really is.

That is why we are dirty hippies. That is why blogs are so essential, and why the comfortable are so intent on stifling our influence. The folks whose job it is to afflict the comfortable have become far too comfortable sharing cocktail weenies with the morally afflicted.

Update -- Ariana:

Tim Russert's handling of his involvement in Plamegate speaks volumes about the very chummy relationship that has developed between the Washington press corps and government officials, and reflects badly on Russert's commitment to journalistic transparency and to keeping the public -- and even NBC management -- informed...

Update II -- Jane Hamsher:

(Libby defense attorney Ted) Wells wants to call Andrea Mitchell when the defense begins next week, hoping to somehow establish that Russert might have known that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA before the time he spoke to Libby on the phone. He'll also try to put Jill Abramson on the stand to impeach Judy Miller's credibility.

Delish. If Libby's team could actually take down Russert and Mitchell and one or two more "journalists," I might just accept their scalps in exchange for Libby's.

Update III -- Eric Boehlert has the line of the week:
Let's face it, ... Fitzgerald has consistently shown more interest -- and determination -- in uncovering the facts of the Plame scandal than most Beltway journalists, including the often somnambulant D.C. newsroom of The New York Times.

Indeed, for long stretches, the special counsel easily supplanted the timid D.C. press corps and become the fact-finder of record for the Plame story. It was Fitzgerald and his team of G-men -- not journalists -- who were running down leads, asking tough questions and, in the end, helping inform the American people about possible criminal activity inside the White House.

It's true that Fitzgerald's team had subpoena power that no journalist could match. But reporters in this case had a trump card of their own: inside information. Sadly, most journalists remained mum about the coveted and often damning facts, dutifully keeping their heads down and doing their best to make sure the details never got out about the White House's obsession with discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV by outing his undercover CIA wife, Valerie Plame.

So as the facts of the White House cover-up now tumble out into open court, it's important to remember that if it hadn't been for Fitzgerald's work, there's little doubt the Plame story would have simply faded into oblivion like so many other disturbing suggestions of Bush administration misdeeds. And it would have faded away because lots of high-profile journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, and NBC wanted it to.

In a sense, it was Watergate in reverse. Instead of digging for the truth, lots of journalists tried to bury it. The sad fact remains the press was deeply involved in the cover-up, as journalists reported White House denials regarding the Plame leak despite the fact scores of them received the leak and knew the White House was spreading rampant misinformation about an unfolding criminal case.

Watergate in reverse -- that is a perfect encapsulation of the failure of the press here. It shows how far Bob Woodward has fallen, and how far his profession has sunk overall.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'd think NBC would find Russert to be a big disappointment like the rest of America does. Their elevation of him to host MTP has desecrated the long running show. He savages dems while giving repubs a pass. I just wish the trial investigation was harder on him. It seems to me that Arianna Huffington is the only one who's got his number. Yea, Arianna.

2:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know you're right: "With all due respect, horseshit. Russert was under no legal obligation to avoid talking about the case. And in fact he did talk about it -- he just didn't tell the truth about it."

And this prince of journalism is chief of NBC's Washington Bureau. What's his influence on the rest of the NBC's news coming out of Washington?

6:48 AM  

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