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E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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August 5, 2005

Why Robert Novak Stormed Off the Set

Old Novak rules: sorry fellas, can't talk. New rules: Novak chooses. This, I believe, is the cause of what happened on air. The legitimacy of Novak's exemption from questioning had collapsed earlier in the week. Ed Henry was ready with that news. Novak was not ready to receive it.

Thursday afternoon Robert Novak stormed off the set of CNN’s “Inside Politics” and got himself suspended. He also eluded questions about the Valerie Plame case that were going to be asked by a CNN colleague, anchor Ed Henry, who said he warned Novak before the show began that he would be raising the matter. (The Transcript. The video.)

For months, Novak has been under pressure to answer questions from fellow journalists. On July 7 (see Time for Robert Novak to Feel Some Chill) I wrote at PressThink: “If you’re Jonathan Klein, president of CNN/US, you take him off the air until he decides to go on the air and explain.” Novak’s friends should tell him to take some time off, I said.

It just seemed to me, as a viewer, that Novak was in an impossible position every time he went on the air to talk politics. If he met his duty to himself (by not speaking up while the Plame case was open) then he could not meet his duty to his peers and his profession.

This was to tell CNN viewers just what he knows about a newsworthy story, and answer a fair-minded interviewer’s questions. Putting the man on the air in a situation so constrained was neither fair nor wise. It didn’t make journalistic sense, or human sense. (And where was his agent — rooting him on to disaster?)

“Just what this case needs: more public sanctimony!…” wrote Chris Lehmann in the New York Observer about my recommendation that Novak chill for a while on the sidelines. Now the network has been embarrassed by a live crack up of its own on-air talent, and Novak (who did apologize) is suspended.

Why did it go down Thursday? Because on Monday, Aug. 1, Novak violated the terms of a professional stand-off that had been keeping him just this side of legitimate in the eyes of his colleagues in Washington journalism. He had previously said that, on the advice of his lawyer, he couldn’t talk about the case, or answer any questions interviewers might put to him, until the prosecution had run its course.

But then he went ahead and talked about the case in Monday’s Chicago Sun-Times column (“Ex-CIA official’s remark is wrong”) in which he disputed the account given by Bill Harlow, the official spokesman at the CIA whom Novak called for more information about Valerie Plame.

That was the fail safe conversation. That is where the system broke down. If Novak was going to be successfully warned off the naming of Plame, it was by Harlow as spokesman for the Agency, responding to the questions of a reporter with a story. Harlow told the Washington Post last week that he warned Novak in the strongest possible terms not to name Valerie Plame. He said he told Novak that his story was wrong, and would harm U.S. interests. Harlow said he told the federal grand jury the same thing.

Novak, in order to counter the suggestion that he had been properly warned but went ahead anyway — which he said would be “inexcusable for any journalist and particularly a veteran of 48 years in Washington” — decided to take up his pen. Ladies and gentlemen, he said, people have got to know whether their columnist is a crook. Or a jerk. Or a tool. Did I go ahead with the name of a CIA covert operative despite being warned? No, I did not.

Old Novak rules: sorry fellas, can’t talk. New rules: Novak chooses when. When to take the Fifth on advice of counsel, when to ignore counsel and respond to the news with his own explanations of what happened to reveal Plame’s name.

This, I believe, is the real cause of Thursday’s break down of professional discipline on air. The legitimacy of Novak’s exemption from questioning had collapsed earlier in the week. Ed Henry knew it and was ready with that news. Novak was not ready to receive it. So he invented an out.

Brian Montopoli at CJR Daily was properly acidic: “A man who has spent years getting paid to spout his side’s rhetoric on television storms off the set when someone implies he’s pandering to his ideological base?”

It is beyond imagination that Ed Henry and his producers would notify Novak of their intentions without huddling with the CNN brass first. Thus there’s a corporate ballet embedded in the show itself, even before it became comic opera with the cry of “bullshit!” and the big walkout. Novak was about to be faced with a gigantic contradiction in his public stance, and the Network wanted it.

“The allegation against me is so patently incorrect and so abuses my integrity as a journalist that I feel constrained to reply,” he wrote Monday. But earlier he said he was constrained not to reply to such questions.

Among professional peers, almost all remaining sympathy for Novak was, I think, based on the good sense in doing just that. “He’s got a lot of explaining to do,” went the reasoning, “But you can’t blame him for following his attorney’s advice.” Many others, of course, were not sympathetic to him at all.

On “Inside Politics,” June 29, Ed Henry began to press Novak about why some reporters were preparing to go to jail to protect their sources. Novak (who had similar sources) wasn’t preparing to go anywhere. “Ed, I — my lawyer said I cannot answer any specific questions about this case until it is resolved, which I hope is very soon.”

Henry did not give up. Take a look at what happened:

HENRY: Do you understand why in general there’s frustration among fellow journalists after 41 years of distinguished work, where you’ve always pushed and been a fierce advocate of the public’s right to know, you’re not letting the public know about such a critical case, and two people may go to jail.

NOVAK: Well, they are not going to jail because of me. Whether I answer your questions or not, it has nothing to do with that. That’s very ridiculous to think that I am the cause of their going to jail. I don’t think they should be going to jail.

HENRY: Yes. But I didn’t say you were the cause. But there are some people—

NOVAK: Yes, you do did.

HENRY: No, but some people feel if you would come forward with the information that you have, that maybe they would not go to jail.

NOVAK: But you don’t know — Ed, you don’t know anything about the case. And those people who say that don’t know anything about the case. And unfortunately, as somebody who likes to write, I’d like to say a lot about the case, but because of my attorney’s advice I can’t. But I will. And there might be some surprising things.

HENRY: We’ll all be waiting to hear that story finally told, Bob.

When Novak said “Ed, you don’t know anything about the case…” he was disparaging CNN journalism — and a professional peer — on the air, something you do not normally see. (Why CNN permitted it is beyond me.) If he simply wanted to make reference to all that is publicly unknown about the case he could have said, “There’s a lot that hasn’t come out…”

It was a different message: Ed, you’re pulling questions out of your ass because you don’t know a damn thing. So do us all a favor and shut up. In fact, the biggest barrier to Henry knowing more was, of course, Novak himself: “I cannot answer any specific questions about this case until it is resolved.”

Unless they involve my honor! Whether Robert Novak recklessly revealed a covert operative’s name after proper warning from CIA spokesman Bill Harlow is a very specific question. In his wisdom of 74 years he decided to answer it Monday, admitting that his lawyers “urged me not to write this.”

That broke the stand off. Novak knew that dodging his colleague Ed Henry was no longer going to work. He solved a problem for himself, and for CNN with his theatre of phony rage.

After Matter: Notes, reactions and links…

A preview of Thursday’s walkout? Scott Heiser, a reporter/intern for the Financial Times, e-mails. He was there for the FT Wednesday when Novak spoke to the Young America’s Foundation National Conservative Student Conference. This was after the Aug. 1 column and before the Aug. 4 meltdown on air.

Heiser said he was “told in no uncertain terms beforehand that should I have the gall to ask Mr. Novak about his involvement regarding the CIA leak investigation, he would say no comment and walk away.” The Financial Times reported in its print editions (not online): “He has suggested he would end even live radio or TV interviews if any questions came up about the CIA leak case.” Heiser said the exchange went like this:

Q: Alright, let’s just get to the meat here - you’ve been maintaining silence throughout the grand jury investigation, but you just published a column on Monday —

A: My third column total on it

Q: Well, right, but…

A: I’m not going to answer any of it. Not at all.

Q: But don’t you have an obligation to explain your role?

A: I’m not a public figure.

Q. Except isn’t that self-serving?

A. You can say what you want…”

Q. Wait, you need to -

A. I think this interview is over!

And then Novak stormed off, Heiser said. Next day he walked off on the set of “Inside Politics” and ended the Ed Henry interview before it began. (Thanks, Scott.)

Atrios comments:

To me the most disturbing part is his claim that he’s “not a public figure.” I’m curious - do many other people who have been on television every day for the past couple of decades consider themselves to not be public figures? I’ve written before about the disturbing view put forth by news celebrities that they deserve all the benefits of celebrity without any of the downsides, but I’m actually quite shocked to have one of them say it so plainly.

I agree: bizarre. Certainly by the standards of Times vs. Sullivan he’s a public figure. What he meant, I think, is: I am not a public official. They have to answer your questions, I don’t. (Of course that isn’t true, either.) But he forgot that he’s a crucial figure in a news story— a source.

After Novak walked off, Henry told viewers: “I had told him in advance that we would ask him about the CIA leak investigation…Hopefully we’ll be able to ask him about that in the future.” (See TV Newser.)

Josh Marshall interviewed James Carville about Novak’s meltdown. Carville said the exchange was “nothing more than what it seemed like on the surface,” Marshall writes.

And he had no idea why it would have set Novak off. It didn’t seem like a big deal to him either. “At the time I thought it was like a 2.5 [on the scale on pundit show smackdowns]. But when I heard it again later, I thought, no, it’s more like a 1.5.”

Carville also told me that he didn’t get any sense during the interview or in anything that happened off the air that “something was building” or any other sense that the guy was about to snap. It was as out of the blue to him as it was to everyone watching.

CNN issued a statement Thursday (Aug. 4): “Bob Novak’s behavior on CNN today was inexcusable and unacceptable. Mr. Novak has apologized to CNN, and CNN apologizes to its viewers for his language and actions.”

Broadcasting & Cable magazine got CNN/US President Jonathan Klein to comment. Did he plan to meet with Novak? “I don’t know how much more discussion is necessary for the network to decide what to do about it. I think our actions speak for themselves for now and we’ll just see how it plays out.”

Joe Gandelman at The Modederate Voice: “Is walking off the set a big deal? It’s only the most unprofessional thing a newsperson or actor can do.”

Tom Karr at Media Citizen has an excellent round-up, including why Novak is becoming increasingly unpopular among Republicans too.

Garrett M. Graff at Fishbowl DC:

After stalking off the set, Novak confronted anchor Ed Henry and D.C. bureau chief David Bohrman off-air, furious that Henry’s post-walk-off statement that he intended to ask about the Plame investigation might lead viewers to believe Novak was upset over that.

Of course that might very well be the case. According to people familiar with the events, Henry had warned Novak in advance that he would ask about Plame and related materials were on the table in front of Henry on-set—leading some to wonder whether Novak had been eyeing them through his segment and getting more agitated as he realized what was in store.

Ex TV news director Terry Heaton was watching “Inside Politics” that day and thinks the Plame case had nothing to do with it. He says why in comments.

Robert Novak gives the AP an interview the day after:

CNN correspondent Ed Henry said afterward that he had been about to ask Novak about his role in the investigation of the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity, which Novak has repeatedly refused to comment on aside from some references in his column.

“That had nothing to do with it, absolutely nothing,” Novak said. “I was sorry he said that.”

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times traces the 20-year relationship between Robert Novak and Karl Rove:

The story of that relationship, a bond of mutual self-interest of a kind that is long familiar in Washington, [gives] a clue to Mr. Rove’s frequent and complimentary mentions over the years in Mr. Novak’s column, and to the importance of Mr. Rove and Mr. Novak to each other’s ambitions.

“Novak has been under pressure to answer questions from fellow journalists,” I wrote. On this point see Sydney Schanberg in the Village Voice (Aug. 2 edition):

Robert Novak should come out from behind his false curtain and tell us everything. Judith Miller must also tell her story in full. Tim Russert cuts a large figure in Washington. He should be a big man now and give us some details; why not agree to be interviewed by someone as probing as he?

Again, they don’t have to name their sources. Just be reporters. The public has a right to know; isn’t that our mantra?

He also says that he believes journalism to be a profession (not just a craft) “but that belief has standing only when we regulate and explain ourselves.”

Posted by Jay Rosen at August 5, 2005 5:38 PM   Print


Truly one of the iconic moments in the history of live TV.
Watching Novak self-destruct in front of your eyes was painful, yet strangely instructive.
It was like watching an automobile accident unfold in slow motion-- you don't want to look, but you can't resist.
On some level, the Prince of Darkness knows the game is up.
Jon Stewart said it best last night:
"He's rotting from the inside [out]."

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at August 5, 2005 8:51 PM | Permalink

Sorry, but the words "iconic moments in the history of live TV" and "CNN's Inside Politics" aren't even in the same country.

Posted by: Dexter Westbrook at August 5, 2005 9:56 PM | Permalink

okay...not that I want to defend Robert Novak...but the fact of the matter is that he was rudely interrupted by Carville.

And in situations like that...the host of the show usually admonishes the interrupter and allows the interrupted to finish his point. But that did not happen this time. Instead (After Novak cried "bullshit"), Ed Henry directed the next question towards Carville...and...then Novak stormed off the set.

Maybe it wasn't Carville's insult or the fear of being confronted on Plame by Henry....maybe it was Ed Henry's not letting Novak finish his thought that made him leave the set.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at August 5, 2005 11:12 PM | Permalink

Perhaps an iconic moment in the history of cable news pundit shows.

Posted by: Leoniceno at August 6, 2005 1:28 AM | Permalink

James Carville teased/insulted Bob Novak, and Mr. Novak got upset, cursed, and walked off. Apparently, he was getting stressed out over the questions Ed Henry was about to ask him.

It's a breakdown of professional discipline, yes, but Mr. Carville wasn't acting professionally either. Doesn't excuse Mr. Novak, but at least he apologized promptly. Did Mr. Carville apologize (or did it ever even occur to Mr. Carville that he had done something that called for an apology)?

Posted by: matthewjerome at August 6, 2005 2:13 AM | Permalink

I question whether those defending Novak here in light of an opinion that Carville "rudely interrupted" him and "wasn't acting professionally" have ever before watched the two go head-to-head on any CNN program.

This is their regular debate M.O. -- in between intelligent and enlightened points, they take jabs and talk over each other and get a bit (too) excited. The exchange that led to Novak's meltdown was, in fact, NOTHING compared to their regular back-and-forth. I agree with Carville that it rated about a "1.5" as their usual debate goes.

Any TV news personality walking off the set is generally indefensible, with very few exceptions -- one being the fear of bodily harm. Add in the fact that Novak has had a huge hand in the very invention of such hard-hitting news-channel debate programs, and there's absolutely no reasonable defense of his actions.

Either Novak couldn't take the heat in a kitchen he built, or he needed an out in light of forthcoming questions on the Plame affair -- questions that he could no longer sidestep on legal grounds after his Tribune article. Either way, his career may never fully recover, and rightfully so.

Posted by: matthewc at August 6, 2005 4:50 AM | Permalink

Great news! News folk becoming more responsible, like other leaders, for what they say and don't say -- including acting irresponsibly due to tempers.

I supported Novak not saying anything until the investigation is over -- but that means not defending himself much, either. Or making it very clear that he's goint to defend himself, only against what he considers slanders, but not talk about the substance.

More news folks need to be examined by other news folks.

Like Jay Rosen should be asked about MSM lack of coverage over the funding scandal about Air America. When Leftists "borrow" cash from anti-poverty NGOs, with conflict of interests, why isn't the MSM more interested? Bias???

Novak is a journalist/ political player; so is Franken, so is Jay Rosen (or at least a wannabee). Those reporting the news are more worthy of being quoted than most celebs.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at August 6, 2005 6:52 AM | Permalink

Novak isn't "news folk." He's a political operative who works in the media.

As for his walkoff, it had zero to do with Carville being rude to him, or interrupting him, or cutting him off, or any of that. Henry told Novak before the show that he was going to ask him questions about his role in the Plame outing, and there are no good answers to those questions. Novak needed an excuse to get off the air, and taking offense at something Carville said had the added benefit of allowing him to go back to his constituency and say "Well, I'd just taken enough crap off that liberal reprobate, and I'm not putting up with it. He impugned my honor by suggesting that I was acting tough for the Wall Street Journal editoral page."

It's a pretty cool playground move, but it didn't fool Wonkette, which summed up the act thusly: "Novak takes his lack of balls and goes home."

Watch the tape. It was a mild exchange by Crossfire standards, and Novak didn't "storm off." He got up, took off his mike and walked away. I think he was shaken, but he was shaken by Henry's pending questions, not Carville's precision needling.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 6, 2005 8:32 AM | Permalink

My bad. "Inside Politics," not "Crossfire."

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 6, 2005 8:36 AM | Permalink

In a rare moment of afternoon freedom, I happened to be watching when this whole thing went down, and I did not come away thinking he bolted over upcoming questions. I've been around this game a very long time, and I think he responded to the moment.

Carvelle was having fun at Novak's expense over the whole "doctored photos" matter. Novak said he believed Rep. Harris' claims that certain papers were trying to make her look bad by altering her photos. Novak said the same thing had happened to him.

Now, I think that's ridiculous, but here's the thing. I was shocked when Novak said that he, too, had been a victim of "Photoshopping." Novak looked and acted especially defensive when he made that remark, no doubt a reaction to all the heat he has taken recently. When he tried to puff Harris, Carvelle zinged him, and he broke.

I sat there stunned, because -- as has been stated -- walking off a set during a live broadcast is the height of unprofessional conduct. Novak is worn out and needs to take some time off -- perhaps a very long time.

But to add this event to the Plame case in any way other than, perhaps, being demonstrative of stress is a stretch.

My 2 cents.

Posted by: Terry Heaton at August 6, 2005 8:59 AM | Permalink

Novak has been in decline for years.His demise was only accelerated by this phony, deliberate act to play dodge ball.But it is too bad Carville doesn't have to take his lumps for something, too -- he deserves it. Novak stopped being an ethical newsman(oxymoron?)long ago. Carville never was.

Posted by: James Head at August 6, 2005 9:47 AM | Permalink

Tough guy Novak wasn't ready for the Plame pop quiz. He panicked. He pulled the fire alarm. He ran. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Posted by: defenestrati at August 6, 2005 11:40 AM | Permalink

Once again, it's the conservative journalist that knows more than he's telling who accrues our liberal press friends' outrage. Why no similar cry for the many other journalists who know more than they're telling? Ah, those journalists aren't conservative - - I see.

I think the Novak-haters' real issue is what Jay alluded to above: They believe that Novak, perhaps all too willingly, allowed himself to be a "tool" in an effort to take down Joe Wilson's credibility. Partisans will disagree about whether that was justified. But isn't it interesting that we don't hear such outrage when journalists allow themselves to be the conduit for other leaks, especially those that politically damage conservatives such as President Bush, Karl Rove, Tom Delay, Judge John Roberts, Porter Goss, etc., etc.? God forbid there's an ideological double standard...

Posted by: Trained Auditor at August 6, 2005 12:10 PM | Permalink

psssst, Ed Henry is a real journalist.

pass it on..........(and scroll down to find the first Henry/Novak duel.)

Posted by: Flamethrower at August 6, 2005 12:18 PM | Permalink

If Novak didn't want to answer questions about Valerie Plame and he knew Ed Henry was going to grill him on it he could have simply refused to go on the show in the first place. He might have gotten flack from CNN bigwigs about it, but it wouldn't have been the public spectacle that a walk-off is.

No, I don't think Novak planned this public outburst. What I think happened is that he decided to go ahead with the show knowing that he was going to be grilled. He went ahead because he thought he could handle the questioning.

But then Carville made his comment about Novak having to look tough for the right-wingers and Novak responded with "That's Bullshit!" It was at that moment that Novak knew that he WOULDN'T be able to handle the upcoming grilling. If he was going to snap at Carville over a fairly inoccuous comment like that then what would he say when the REAL questions started flowing?

Novak is a quick thinker. You have to be. In the seconds that followed his outburst Novak self-reflected and realized he was in a no win situation. His "let's just drop it" was an external expression of his inner desire to run away. But then he realized he said that to and that was when that inner desire took control and he ran.

Novak was brought down by his own arrogance.

Posted by: Chris Andersen at August 6, 2005 12:28 PM | Permalink

Novak fell like a great old oak tree that is rotting from the inside out ... a modest gust of wind comes along and "crack - thud'" the great oak falls like nothing at all was supporting it.

It reminds me of that period in the late fall of 1998 when Newt Gingrich fell, followed quickly by rotting oak Robert Livingston. Those folks were trying to remove a president from office for the same sorts of things they did themselves. The hubris and hypocrisy could not be sustained any longer.

The rot that brought Novak down also infects more than a few 'trees' in the Bush administration. A good windstorm could very well bring them all down. Lying the nation into war, sanctioning torture, destroying critics, enabling corruption and bribery, thumbing your nose at the law ... at some point, unchecked rot like that will topple even the mightiest oak in the forest. The only real question is whether the wind storm will come before the elections, or after Bush leaves office.

And that timing will depend almost entirely on the traditional press. Will they continue to look the other way, to give uncritical deference to obvious lies, to abdicate their vital function in a democracy? Given their complicity in much of the rot that infects the bush administration, I am not very hopeful that the truth about anything will come out in full view while these folks are still in power. It will take more than Judy Miller rotting in jail and Bob Novak self-destructing on TV to reform our rotten-to-the-core mainstream media/press (aka the fuckwad 500).

Posted by: steve schwenk at August 6, 2005 1:03 PM | Permalink

Jon Stewart didn't even come close when he said Novak was rotting from the inside out. It appears the elite press (or national, or legacy, or MSM, or whatever we are calling them) is also suffering from terminal internal rot.

One of the more enlightening aspects of this Plame business is how cozy the DC press corp(se) is with those they cover. Oh sure, they want us rubes to think of them of fierce watchdogs so they can get their special privileges,but hey, who wants to be excluded from those great A-list parties? Also brought into sharp relief is the power the press has to drive the agenda. The press is up to it's eyeballs in the Plame mess, but they only focus on the Bushies, not themselves. Who will report about the wrongdoing of the press? Certainly not the press we have now.

For further proof of press rot, go no further than the recent attempt by the NYTimes-Democrat to access the sealed adoption records of John Roberts' two small children. In a way, it's a pity they were found out so early in the game---the public outcry over such sleaze would have been the final nail in the Times-Democrat's coffin. There would be no way they would have credibility as anything other than a DNC Newsletter.

It now appears the National Enquirer is setting journalist standards for all. Yes, inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 6, 2005 1:05 PM | Permalink


I question whether those defending Novak here in light of an opinion that Carville "rudely interrupted" him and "wasn't acting professionally" have ever before watched the two go head-to-head on any CNN program.

Answer: I've never watched them. But I am aware of the rather childish rhetorical back-and-forth on these kind of shows.

The exchange that led to Novak's meltdown was, in fact, NOTHING compared to their regular back-and-forth. I agree with Carville that it rated about a "1.5" as their usual debate goes.

I'm sure you're right about the exchange.

But I think of it as "defining unprofessionalism down". Novak and Carville may interrupt and tease/insult each other on a regular basis, and that may be the show's standard operating procedure, but it's still wrong.

Any TV news personality walking off the set is generally indefensible, with very few exceptions -- one being the fear of bodily harm. Add in the fact that Novak has had a huge hand in the very invention of such hard-hitting news-channel debate programs, and there's absolutely no reasonable defense of his actions.

Here's a reasonable defense: He was stressed out, and scared about the grilling he was going to get from Ed Henry. It's not an excuse, so I'm glad Novak apologized, but it's certainly a reasonable defense.

Either Novak couldn't take the heat in a kitchen he built, or he needed an out in light of forthcoming questions on the Plame affair -- questions that he could no longer sidestep on legal grounds after his Tribune article. Either way, his career may never fully recover, and rightfully so.

I agree with you that Novak cannot go back to business as usual, to "schoolyard punditry". But if he can stick to debating in a dignified, ethical, and respectful manner, then there's no reason he can't become a better commentator than he was before.

Novak's meltdown is only superficially a disaster -- it's actually a big opportunity, provided Novak is up for it.

Posted by: matthewjerome at August 6, 2005 1:12 PM | Permalink

Ron Brynaert, you must be kidding! Novak is the king of interrupting and overtalking people, then playing victim himself. He was clearly filibustering to avoid the Plame questions, and Carville called his bluff. Novak has interrupted Carville 1000 times.

Posted by: Mike Rakowsky at August 6, 2005 1:41 PM | Permalink

Novak's meltdown is only superficially a disaster -- it's actually a big opportunity, provided Novak is up for it.

You missed your cue, Matthew. After that line, you're supposed to break into "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Posted by: billmon at August 6, 2005 2:30 PM | Permalink

Apropos of this thread (and most others) as well as the Crossfire/gotcha school of journalism is the article in the recent AJR. Leslie Whitaker, who teaches media ethics, asks:"If the stories journalists tell about conflict focus primarily on the dissent between extremes, are we actually foster polarization? And if we are, even if it's unintentional, should we do anything to change that?" According to therapists in the Public Conversations Project, "the media have more influence over our sources and our audience than we realize." They find that "people in conflict tend to mimic the press in the way they characterize their opponents and the dispute--reducing it to a battle between two, and only two, extremes, making it more difficult to explore the complexities of their opponents' view, those of people on their own side and even their own positions, which may include internal doubts."This is a fascinating article, RTWT.

Again, the hero of the left, Jon Stewart, is caught up short--it's not just CrossFire that is hurting our country, it's the press.

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 6, 2005 2:41 PM | Permalink

Waaaaa! Waaaaaa!

Trained Auditor, stop being a whiner.

Novak didn't allow himself "to be a 'tool' in an effort to take down Joe Wilson's credibility." He allowed himself to be used as a weapon to get harm the family of someone who damaged George Bush's credibility.

Kind of like the way you're using the Internet to take down your own credibility.

Posted by: Holden Lewis at August 6, 2005 3:03 PM | Permalink

Another litmus test for the Times-Democrat; the darling of the NY left, Eliot Spitzer has announced he will be investigating the Air America/Gloria Wise Boys and Girls kerfuffle. Those on the left have probably not heard of it. Will the Times-Democrat cover this like they have all other Spitzer crusades against the eeeeevil corporations, or will they protect their own? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 6, 2005 3:46 PM | Permalink


Maybe you should reread what I wrote. I didn't posit the theory that Novak left the set because of Carville's interruption (and Novak threw a zinger at him first, anyway). I said he may have left because he didn't get a chance to finish saying what he wanted to say...and that Henry directed the next question to Carville instead of allowing him to finish.

It's funny reading all the left-leaning accounts of this silly story. Barely any of them even mention the interruption by Carville. They make it seem like nothing went on at all.

I'm quite aware of Novak's history on Crossfire...and that the slam by Carville was very minor.

But my side used to live in the reality based community...but now it seems that too many people base their opinions on partisan principles instead of reality.

Don't any of you freaking get what Jon Stewart is complaining about? He's against the nasty partisanship on both sides...not just from the right. He even remarked about it on clip where he made fun of Novak.

I don't care if this is "business as usual." The fact of the matter is that Carville should offer an apology, as well. And so should Henry for not handling his show correctly.

Didn't any of you see that Donny Deutsch show with that nincompoop, Bernard Goldberg. Goldberg kept interrupting Linda Stasi and Deutsch gave him hell for that. Henry should have done the same.

And are liberals really upset about the word "bullshit" being said on the air. I agree that the hypocricy of right wingers who complain about the decaying of the culture is "bullshit" when you have stuff like this and Dick Cheney saying the f word in the Capital. But there were actually readers on Daily Kos who wrote that they called the station to complain about profanity. That's ridiculous.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at August 6, 2005 4:24 PM | Permalink

I WISH the NYT were liberal. Then maybe they wouldn't have let Judith Miller help Bush lie the country into war.

Posted by: Ben Rosengart at August 6, 2005 4:32 PM | Permalink

I just wanted to add one more thing.

In my opinion, the absolute worst right leaning blog is the despicable Captain's Quarters, which is full of lies and ridiculous conspiracy theories that can be easily debunked with three minutes of googling.

But boy was it a surprise to see that Captain's Quarters had the most accurate description about what happened on the show - in my opinion.

I think it's so silly to posit theories that Novak left the show because he was afraid of questions that he was going to face. I mean...come on...he agreed to do the show in the first place...and James Carville was scheduled with him.

Hasn't anyone ever gotten into an argument with someone in real life? When you don't get a chance to make or finish your get pissed off. That's what happened - I believe - nothing else.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at August 6, 2005 4:33 PM | Permalink

Novak's walkoff--premeditated or in response to Carville's dull buzzing? Who cares?

Why the focus on Novak not answering questions? (Aside from the obvious reason, that it is a big, fun, distracting circus.) Many other reporters who know something about Fitzgerald's investigation aren't talking either. And those that do talk, like Russert, issue carefully parsed statements that say less than they seem to say. The whole lot of them are behaving like politicians waiting for this storm to blow over. What is this, omerta?

Posted by: Brian at August 6, 2005 5:35 PM | Permalink

So true, Ben Rosengart, and I have no doubt that if GWB would have been the only one who claimed that Saddam had WMD, the Times-Democrat would have been in full-sneer mode. But no. Such liberal heroes as Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Hillary Clinton, and the Sacred Church of the UN said Saddam had WMD. That makes it easier to understand how the Times-Democrat "let Judith Miller help Bush lie the country into war", now doesn't it?

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 6, 2005 5:58 PM | Permalink

Will Tim Russert join Judy and Bob in the MSM Hall of Plame Shame? Swopa asks the question:

Are all three covering up for their collaboration with White House officials?

If so, CNN, the NYT and NBC were likely all involved (perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not) in a criminal conspiracy orchestrated by White House officials to destroy a whistle-blower and his wife for exposing lies/deceptions used to force the nation into a disasterous and unnecessary war.

Has a bit of a ring to it, doesn't it.

The entanglement of NBC, CNN and the NYT may or may not be established in the course of this investigation (although Novak seems to have already implicated himself). But one is constrained to raise the question of their involvement given what is known up to this point.

Now, will Tim answer the question tomorrow, or will he let this linger out there eating away at his credibility? Swoopa wonders: maybe he'll get so flustered that he storms off the set just like Bob Novak did.

Posted by: steve schwenk at August 6, 2005 6:05 PM | Permalink

Steve Schwenck:

Your troika doesn't make sense.
CNN wasn't the vehicle that Novak used to blowtorch Valerie Plame; it was his syndicated column, carried by the Washington Post and dozens of lesser papers.
As for Russert, however -- you're right, it will be interesting to watch him tomorrow.
It's a juicy cast of characters, that's for sure, on both the admin side and the press side. (This case is exactly why a 2004 Pew poll found that, while most Washington reporters intended to vote for Kerry, for professional reasons they were praying for a Bush victory. Four more years of watching the miscreants at play; can't beat that if you're a reporter.)
Too bad Shakespeare isn't around to chronicle this one. It's right up his alley.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at August 6, 2005 6:43 PM | Permalink

The cracks in the Republican propaganda machine are showing. So many lies. So much spin. So much rot.

But there is one indisputable FACT:

For the first time in the history of this country, an ultra-partisan administration willfully decided to expose the top-secret identity of a covert CIA operative in furtherance of their ultra-partisan agenda.

National security? Forget it. Corporate profits and unchecked political power have trumped national security in this ultra-partisan administration.

And Robert Novak is just part of this Republican propaganda machine.

Just like the Bush administration blowing off intelligence agency analyses contradictory of their partisan war agenda, Robert Novak blew off a warning from a CIA spokesman, Mr. Harlow, who twice indicated that using Valerie Plame's name in his syndicated column would be damaging to our national security.

So, the chain of culpability in this major national security breach is very long, and twisted, and rotten.

And Robert Novak is part of this chain. As is, apparently, Judith Miller. As are the editors at the NY Times and the editors at Novak's news syndicate. As are the Bush administration officials responsible for using a covert CIA agent as a football in their partisan game.

These unscruplous partisan people punted, but in the end, I hope and pray that Patrick Fitzgerald kicks them all in the ass.

Our national security demands that all those behind this major national security breach are held accountable.

This is why I believe Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation has expanded. The root-rot in the Bush administration as evidenced in this unconscionable national security breach is much more extensive than initially suspected. Three federal judges agree.

I hope and pray Mr. Fitzgerald continues in his quest for justice and succeeds in uncovering and prosecuting everyone with a hand in this treasonous act. Our national security depends on it. Godspeed, Mr. Fitzgerald.

Posted by: The Oracle at August 6, 2005 7:14 PM | Permalink

Yes, you are right, of course, Steve. Sorry for the sloppiness.

But CNN did keep Novak on the air long past the point where he should have been yanked. The possibility remains that this was an effort to disassociate the network from the co-conspirator.

I just wish we could have seen Carville go after him on the Who's-Who excuse. It would have been humiliating, or worse, incriminating. After the Harris make-up digs, Novak knew that he would not be able to fend off Carville and get away with his usual non-answers, not after his monday column.Novak would have declined to answer and Carville would have shredded what's left of Novak's tattered credibility.

Posted by: steve schwenk at August 6, 2005 7:24 PM | Permalink

God, we are talking about this like the Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston break up. Who said what, where, and when. And, in my eyes, it is just as important.

Maybe I am completely off base on this, but I just don't think that this is a big deal. There are kernals of larger themes here, like Atrios question of when journalists (if Novak can be called that) are public figures. But really, isn't it clear that the only victor here is CNN?

Posted by: Daniel Kreiss at August 6, 2005 7:31 PM | Permalink

Matthew J -

But I think of it as "defining unprofessionalism down". Novak and Carville may interrupt and tease/insult each other on a regular basis, and that may be the show's standard operating procedure, but it's still wrong.

Maybe so. But as I said, Novak must include himself at the top of a list of those who have taken on-air "discussion" to this point. He has spent years perfecting this sort of so-called debate. He's not allowed to change the rules -- rules he wrote -- in a split second, on the air, because they no longer serve his purpose. Just because he can no longer win the game under the rules he helped put in place, he's allowed to rewrite them? Nope.

Here's a reasonable defense: He was stressed out, and scared about the grilling he was going to get from Ed Henry. It's not an excuse, so I'm glad Novak apologized, but it's certainly a reasonable defense.

Remove the word "reasonable" from the above, and I can swallow it. Since when is it reasonable for any on-air personality to get up and walk away because he doesn't like some questions that seem to be coming his way? The "Twinkie" murder defense was indeed a defense -- but not a reasonable one.

...if he can stick to debating in a dignified, ethical, and respectful manner...

He can't.

Posted by: matthewc at August 6, 2005 7:45 PM | Permalink

A new (BTW, the root of the word Novak means 'new' in his popular Czech surname) First Amendment Center/AJR survey finds that 69 percent of the public thinks journalists should be allowed to keep a news source confidential A Source of Encouragement

Posted by: Jozef at August 6, 2005 9:12 PM | Permalink

Now simmer down, kilgore. Folks working the news dodge are already aware of the slippery state of the profession. Look at Poynter or CJR or AJR any given day and there's plenty of concerns - and righteous anger - expressed over poor journalism, sinking readership, corporate consolidation, and an absolute panic over the readership staying away in droves.

They don't, however, see the problem as ideologically as you. That's a false dichotomy and I suspect you know it. Jon Stewart's critique on CNN's "Crossfire" ripped Begala and Carlson equally. But it was aimed generally at all the media. By failing to live up to their responsibility to power, they failed us all.

To make the media's failings attributable to leftist (or rightist) bias is more than short-sighted. It's dishonest.

I'll leave you with the words of Jack Shafer, Slate's media critic.

"But mindless skepticism is mainly an excuse for ignorance. Even the people who denounce the New York Times as the bible of liberals ultimately get most of their useful news from it."

As for Robert Novak: To me, he's just another asshole with an opinion.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at August 6, 2005 10:16 PM | Permalink

kilgore trout:

Jon Stewart didn't even come close when he said Novak was rotting from the inside out. It appears the elite press (or national, or legacy, or MSM, or whatever we are calling them) is also suffering from terminal internal rot.

One of the more enlightening aspects of this Plame business is how cozy the DC press corp(se) is with those they cover.


I've got no abstract problem with the intelligent use of anonymous sources -- I've got a problem with journalists who knowingly participate in their own manipulation.

The Plame outing was shameful. It was shameful on the part of the White House, but it was also shameful that so many news outlets were a party to it. They didn't have to be.

A journalist who goes to jail to protect a whistleblower acting in the public interest is a hero (a subjective view, of course). A reporter who protects the anonymity of a top administration offical and publishes on his behalf damaging information about that official's enemies is nothing but a media hit-man. But our system ENCOURAGES such behavior. We say, "Oh, well, he has good sources," or "I don't know where he gets it, but he's well-connected."

I would hope that those of us in the business who trade in manipulative government leaks will take a lesson from this ugly mess and just stop doing it.

I'm not talking about honest mistakes. I'm talking about trading secrets and favors for power, prestige and promotions. It's our Dark Side.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 6, 2005 10:46 PM | Permalink

I also think it's time that we stopped pretending that "bullshit" is an offensive term. Being offended by such talk on TV, when our daily lives are saturated with blue language, is beyond disingenuous.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 6, 2005 11:01 PM | Permalink

You're right, Daniel: "Bullshit" is a necessary term in the American language, and the ability to detect it a component of one's sanity. Therefore the network that bans the word from everyday use is doing something that's a little bit insane, or at least un-real. I believe it's often these tiny subtractions from life, the refusal at critical moments to be real, that makes TV news so unbelievable today.

Putting good looking people on the air is one thing. No one really minds. But when you put implausibly good looking people on the air, people who in visual terms are no different from the cast of Baywatch, and they read the news, or argue about it as pundits, you lose credibility even if every story they read to us is true, and every opinion brave.

I believe some people in this thread have said that James Carville is un-real to them in a similar way. I would call this level of things "visceral." It's trust for the five senses. It's what lies beyond disingenuous. It's not about whether you have the story right, but whether your existence seems false to a high number of viewers. To me, Carville's is false. He was a net loss for CNN journalism when he came on board.

Impossibly good looking is not Robert Novak's problem, of course. Sometimes I think CNN has kept him on the air for so long not because he's a conservative voice, or a reliable pro, but because someone at the Network who thought himself very clever said: the audience wants a villain, he stays. And as reasoning it stuck. (ABC Sports succeeded with such a strategy with Howard Cosell.) If you think of Novak not as an analyst or an operative but an actor, as in stage actor, you can start to see the point.

One must remember a network news executive is generally a middle aged white guy (although Klein's predecessor was a hip youngish black guy) who in his self image is trying to succeed in news. But he fears the way to succeed is actually with entertainment. This is CNN to a T.

Mister News wants to inform us, responsibly. He really does. And he feels that deep down, as creatures of desire, we maybe are not responsible enough. And thus we cannot be informed, most of the time. (We can in a crisis.) But Mister doesn't give up. Instead of taking a wholly cynical view he reverts to middle ground contempt. He and his colleagues feel they have to--and this is the key phrase, I think--"get us into the tent." And if he does not share this belief, he knows the company is likely to find someone who does.

But if we cannot be informed (won't "choose" serious news enough) then he has to practice entertainment (think Nancy Grace) which is the opposite of the ethic Mister News thought he was going to live by. It's not his broadcast but his whole professional life that makes no sense, then.

Perhaps to some of these people Novak's rawness, his anger, his undisguised contempt, and especially his willingness to be a real shit on the air were perfect for the part. They thought themselves clever for keeping him on. It was actually their contempt for us that did it.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 7, 2005 12:03 AM | Permalink

Before he became Novakula, Robert Novak had a mischievous racoon dog-with-indigestion charm about him until he opened his mouth. It was difficult enough to discern his purported news or entertainment purpose even then, when he was still alive. Sometimes I thought I was being hypnotized by the enormous circles around his eyes.

Perhaps more recently CNN has been trying to hang on to marketshare with the undead?

Racoon dog (also known as tanuki in Japan)

Posted by: Mark Anderson at August 7, 2005 3:01 AM | Permalink

Ron Brynaert: I think it's so silly to posit theories that Novak left the show because he was afraid of questions that he was going to face.

Really? He says the day before that he would end live interviews if the questioner asked about the case-- and promptly ends one. The next day he walks off the set just before a questioner was about to ask about the case. The alleged provocation is a ribbing from James Carville that was neither unusual nor extreme on CNN. There is a complete disproportion between the action he took and the supposed cause. And with these facts clearly in view I am being silly to suggest (using the construction, "I believe") that he left to avoid questioning?

Ron, I am a fan of your writing and digging, but I have to say I am mystified by your conclusion. And by your counter-suggestion: that exasperation at being interrupted is to blame. It just isn't true that CNN hosts regularly come to the aid of guests who have been interrupted; I don't know where you got that.

As a TV guest myself from time to time I have been told by producers to interrupt in order to make my points. How do you think they get that food fight atmosphere? Interrupting and being interrupted is practically what panelists on "Crossfire" and "Capital Gang" do for a living; Novak was a regular on both.

If Novak had refused to go on the air Thursday after being told he was about to be questioned, I believe he would have been suspended right there and then. He didn't want to answer questions, his attorney's advice excuse had collapsed, but he went on the air anyway, without a plan, hoping against hope to somehow talk his way out of it.

Ron: My side used to live in the reality based community...but now it seems that too many people base their opinions on partisan principles instead of reality.

I agree entirely with this. There has been a noticeable uptick lately in the "they do it, so we have to do it" mentality, in faith-based reasoning among so-called liberals, and in "the preferred story has to be the real story because we're right and they're wrong."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 7, 2005 11:10 AM | Permalink


Well....maybe I shoud have done some more digging...i skipped over your After Word (last time I do that) and missed the exchange Novak had with the Financial Times reporter who emailed you...cause if that's true than I probably couldn't have been wronger.

Taking that into account...the CNN cut and run does seem calculated.

Now who's the silly one?

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at August 7, 2005 1:08 PM | Permalink

Thanks. But one small and further correction-- really a clarification of my own view. What I have said is not that his move was calculated in the sense of planned, but that he did it to avoid questioning. I think he had no plan. He also had no good options, except take my advice: go off the air until the case is over and Judy Miller is out of jail. You aren't doing yourself any good.

It was essentially a little celebrity character test he himself invented for airing on live television. Could I rise to the occasion?

And from that test he fled.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 7, 2005 4:23 PM | Permalink

Watching Bob Novak fall apart over these past few weeks, it's a wonder no one picked up on it. A couple of weeks ago, there he was announcing that he knew...knew positively that Rhenquist was resigning as soon as President Bush landed pack in the US after the G8 meeting. CNN carried his story live (with Carville in tow). No apology later for being wrong. Just ignore and move on. Then his dumb comment that he too had had his photos retouched so as to bolster Harris' absurd statement. Finally he cracked. His lies had finally come home to roost. There was nothing left to do except to either expose himself or disappear. He chose the latter. I remember, back in the day when his column was referred to by insiders as "Errors and No Facts." Doesn't seem he ever rose to the level of a credible journalist. Isn't it time we stopped allowing political operatives the cover of being journalists?

Posted by: Fran Zankowski at August 7, 2005 6:03 PM | Permalink


Time to stop? The Internet is probably going to see even more political operatives "act" as journalists. I never understood the appeal of Novak, other than as a cartoonish personality, but there seems to be a market for that kind of thing. And it isn't shrinking. What do you think Carville is, after all? He's a party apparatchik who goes on the same shows as Novak to give his scripted, party-approved line as if he is simply providing Democrat-leaning analysis.


Posted by: Brian at August 7, 2005 8:27 PM | Permalink

Hi Jay. You don't know it but you were in my car today.
On NPR, I mean. In a repeat broadcast of a program.

I agree with your conclusions about Novak but I too initially read your comments about it being a pre-planned departure as meaning he'd been planning it regardless of what was said.

I'm still unclear on what the significance is of the Who's Who book that some bloggers noted seeing on his set.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Scott Butki at August 7, 2005 9:03 PM | Permalink

It was that pause between saying "Bullshit" and storming off the set that I thought strange. But according to the Financial Times Bob did formulate a sort of plan (hey...if a tree falls in the forest and they turn it into a newspaper but they don't put it online does anybody read it?):

“He has suggested he would end even live radio or TV interviews if any questions came up about the CIA leak case.”

Maybe he just figured that he might curry favor with the WSJ if he left beforehand because of incivility (though he's the king of that himself) so while it wasn't entirely must have been running through his head at the time.

But...yeah. He should have just taken your advice in the first place. You either choose to talk or don't talk...and whether it's his lawyers or his handlers telling him not to talk he should at least try to remain consistent.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at August 7, 2005 10:12 PM | Permalink

You know, I went to cover Carville and his wife back in the 1990s when they came to town to "speak" to an insurance industry group. It was a weekend and I was interested, so I took the assignment myself, didn't make a big deal about being a reporter, and just sat in the back.

Anyway, Carville and Matlin get up and do their schtick: About 15 minutes of the Sonny and Cher show, followed by press bashing. Then more press bashing. Tag team. Left and right. We're cowards. Idiots. Fools. We're tricky and unethical and we don't care about the truth. On and on. And when James Carville gets after you, it's like being flayed alive by an ornery reptile. Those insurance executives were lapping it up, too, cheering and applauding. Yeah. Hell yeah. Everything would be great if it weren't for those damned reporters.

When it was over, I didn't go back and talk to them. I left, wrote the thing up straight as I could, including mild descriptions of their "press criticism," tried not to let my disgust show through, told the night desk to bury it inside and went home.

Because here it is: I know a thing or two about the careers of Carville and Matlin. I admire their skill and intelligence. But I left that theater with a very clear understanding: Those two are no better than paid assassins, and they'll do whatever it takes and count it as the cost of doing business.

When CNN hired Carville I remembering thinking that we were lost in the woods. Carville hates the press, hates journalists, but he's happy to play one on TV, happy to bankroll his celebrity, happy to strut and preen in what amounts to semi-scripted professional wrestling. Politainment.

Just in case anybody thought I only disliked Novak...

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 7, 2005 10:45 PM | Permalink

The "blame Carville" gambit reminds me of the "blame Wilson" gambit.

Apparently, all you need is a pale shade of grey that you can call black and thus ignore the black / dark grey central issue.

I blame Carville for giving Novak the ghost of a pretext.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 7, 2005 11:00 PM | Permalink

I have been using "infotainment" for decades.

Now I need to add "Politainment" to the vocabulary. It's the perfect description of most political junk -- the horse race, the blow by blow, the World poli-Wrestling Federation (it's a Real Sport! uh, yeah, right).

But, in Slovakia, I never watch Cross-fire.

Jay's comment: "There has been a noticeable uptick lately in the "they do it, so we have to do it" mentality, in faith-based reasoning among so-called liberals"
Sorry Jay, press attack dogs started with Nixon. Eased off on Carter, full rabid attack on Reagan. Didn't seem so tough on Bush I (wimp-read my lips...oh, never mind), and it wasn't the press hounding Clinton so much as the Reps.

Notice how much bigger the Hiroshima 60 years memories are than either the 30 years ago Killing Fields, or the 11 years ago Rwanda genocides. Since "Peace Now" meant genocide soon after; and the Rwanda "no genocide" policy had the benefit of meaning no US war casualties.

The Iraq war is opening more eyes to the alternative of fighting evil; and the blogs are letting folk, psychotic or otherwise, leave comments. Prior Leftist closed-mindedness is being challenged more repeatedly, and more Reps are turning up the volume and talking back.

Since the Left has long been shouting against the Right at Loudest Comfortable Volume -- it's becoming uncomfortable to all when the Left tries to TURN UP THE VOLUME. [Just saw Radio Raheem get brutally murdered by police in "Do the Right Thing" -- he was not innocent, but didn't deserve death.]

Though I'm enraged by an unfair, unjust Leftist press bias in the NYT, it's clear a lot of my news comes from them (and BBC and Reuters; Leftists all, and the WSJ, not Leftist). I have this thought that lots of folks think Leftist press bias hurts Pres. Bush -- and so support Bush to punish the arrogant Leftist press. In other words, that 5 points against Bush by press bias might actually be more points for Bush as a reaction against unfair bias.

If this was true, a more balanced press would hurt Bush because they would make fewer silly criticisms (Bush lied) and then the real ones (Bush is feeding porkfuls of tax-cash to rich corps) would be heard by the middle.
[I know when my own kids are shouting, I can't really hear what they're complaining about until they repeat it more quietly.]

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at August 8, 2005 12:45 PM | Permalink

If there is anyone left on the planet Earth who cannot understand why MSM is going down, look no further than this article in today's Times-Democrat by Lovelady's pal, Kit Seelye.

The article is about Mike Allen leaving WaPo for Time to cover the WH with Matt Cooper. When asked if Cooper's outing of Rove in the Plame investigation presents a conflict of interest, Cooper says, hey, no big deal, I love my job. OK, then.

Asked (presumably by Seelye) "if it was appropriate for Mr. Cooper to stay at the White House when he had become part of the lead story, (Jim Kelly, Time's managing editor) said "It's not a matter of appropriateness, it is matter of effectiveness." OK. My jaw bruised my sternum on reading that.

Oh sure, call me a liar and a right-wing hack, but see for yourselves:

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 8, 2005 2:58 PM | Permalink

Tell you what, Kilgore, I'll agree to a transfer of Cooper to the Time Wyoming Bureau (or whatever you think 'appropriate') if you'll agree that Karl Rove's continued presence in the White House constitutes a conflict.

I mean, Rove's still there, even after discussing undercover CIA agents with reporters. Perhaps you read it about it in the Times.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at August 8, 2005 3:27 PM | Permalink

Dave, I don't give a damn about Karl Rove, or anyone else in the Bush Administration. If you roll the dice, you pay the price. But really, does anyone believe that politicians and their operatives don't lie? Didn't we just endure the dreary impeachment of that sleazebag, Bill Clinton to prove it? A Democrat President was convicted of perjury and relieved of his law license (no great loss, I agree), which is why nobody wonders if politicians lie---it's the press who are in the dock now. It's the press who have something to prove here, not Rove or GWB.

An interesting development is that Doug Jehl, from the Times-Democrat, has been assigned to do an "in house" investigation of the First Amendment Martyr, Judith Miller. Stay tuned, people, the most interesting news about Plamegate will not be about the Bushies, but about the newsies.

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 8, 2005 3:53 PM | Permalink

Still lusting after the intrepid Kit, Trout ?
Hard to shake those fantasies, isn't it?

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at August 8, 2005 4:28 PM | Permalink

"Stay tuned, people, the most interesting news about Plamegate will not be about the Bushies, but about the newsies."

And my point, Kilgore, is that Plame is about both. To ignore Rove's role is disingenuous at best.

I agree that Jehl's report will be most interesting. There's already leaks from within the NYTimes that it will be less than comforting to Judith Miller.

While we're at it, I would think that Cooper wouldn't be all that effective anymore as a White House correspondent, if only because has become such a public player. (Though not because he 'outed' Rove. Rove gave him permission to 'out' Rove. No body plays the DC game better than Rove.)

But your outrage seems a bit underplayed. I'd think you'd be bit more upset than a undercover CIA agent was exposed for petty politics.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at August 8, 2005 4:36 PM | Permalink

Lovelady: "Still lusting after the intrepid Kit, Trout?" Yeah, you and me both, Lovelady.

Dave, no one is ignoring Rove, the MSM is obsessed with him. As for outrage---not me, not here, it's just business as usual. It's not personal, it's just business.

Posted by: kilgore trout at August 8, 2005 4:56 PM | Permalink

Someone needs to talk to Ann Coulter about their liberal media fetish. What people do with the media behind closed doors is their business, but even Coulter acknowledges that it ain't liberal. I honestly can't remember the national media ever being truly liberal myself. Not ever. Was it?

Posted by: steve schwenk at August 8, 2005 5:09 PM | Permalink

Stay tuned, people, the most interesting news about Plamegate will not be about the Bushies, but about the newsies.

it will be to you, kilgore. here's my distinction: "Bushies" is a small group of people; "Newsies" represents an awfully broad brush. The observation isn't wrong, but the generalizations are.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 8, 2005 7:19 PM | Permalink

The whole story is about politicos and journalists and the way they get a dirty job done. What I don't get is: who here said any different? There's a lot to come out yet about the press, and certain newsies, and a lot that is really squalid about the White House too.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 8, 2005 8:27 PM | Permalink

Jay, what do you think about Murray Waas' take on what is going on, i.e. that there was a secret undercovered meeting?

Posted by: Scott Butki at August 8, 2005 10:52 PM | Permalink

Jay is right.
This isn't Woodward and Bernstein we're talking about here.
We've progressed (or regressed) into an entirely different realm.
This is Miller, Cooper, Novak, Libby and Rove and "the way they get a dirty job done."
Want to understand it ? Read John LeCarre, or Cormac McCarthy in his latest, "No Country for Old Men."
This is puzzles within puzzles and mirrors within mirrors.
One hopes that Fitzgerald, a prosecutor with an unlimited budget, an unlimited mandate and no deadline, is up to the task. But that's a hope, not an assurance.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at August 8, 2005 11:08 PM | Permalink

Robert Novak 'outed' Valerie Plame. Clean and simple. In short-- Robert Novak is a traitor.

Posted by: Rusty Cage at August 8, 2005 11:08 PM | Permalink

"This is puzzles within puzzles and mirrors within mirrors."

And navels within navels. And circuses within circuses. These tired metaphors never lose their appeal! One thing is for sure: nearly all of what is said about it will be meaningless heat-of-the-moment spin from people who absolutely must figure out how to cram this decidedly irregular block into the round hole of their respective ideologies. Just read Rusty Cage. He has nothing to learn from any further disclosures. Conclusion already drawn and quartered.

Posted by: Brian at August 9, 2005 12:28 AM | Permalink

Will this be the first criminal case where members of the media colluded with the White House in order to mislead the public about why the nation went to war?

Or the first criminal case where members of the national media colluded with the White House to destroy a whistle-blower?

Or how about where a NYT reporter of national repute hid behind a source in order to hide her own participation in a criminal conspiracy with the government?

We almost expect this type of conduct from politicians. But from so-called journalists from national outlets? (I know, Novak isn't really a reporter... he just writes for a newspaper and appears on TV news shows.) I could possibly accept the Tallon News White House correspondent doing smething like this. But the NYT? They are in real trouble over this, it appears. Judy Miller may end up doing more damage to that paper than any other single reporter ever. Who gave her all that rope, and why?

Posted by: steve schwenk at August 9, 2005 12:28 AM | Permalink

Take a look at http/ and you will see Fitzgerald seems to have "traitor" Novak in his crosshairs. Looks to be a possible Treason offense. Bob sure looks like the the White House Administration's impression of a "true patriot".

Posted by: Grant at August 9, 2005 3:27 AM | Permalink

Why is this a story? Because Bush claimed in his SOTU that Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa.
(Bush didn't specify Niger).
Joe Wilson went to Niger to find out; wrote an op-ed in NYT that 1) lied about who recommended him to go (he said Cheney, but it was his CIA wife),
2) lied about his results, saying no Saddam interest (in the op-ed) while his report to the CIA did indicate some interest, although not a purchase.

Why did the NYT print these op-ed lies by Joe Wilson? How did we find out they were lies -- the Senate Intel committee report. But before that, as part of the Bush defense against Leftist lies, Rove, among others, confirmed it was Wilson's wife who recommended him, not Cheney.

It's not clear how much Rove knew about Valerie Plame/ Wilson, or her status; and therefore whether it was legal to mention her. (Rove prolly guilty here of not knowing a status; prolly not guilty of outing a secret operative).

The Leftists act like a witch-hunt about Rove/ Novak, but the real hunting should be on Wilson. Jay's comment "they do it, so we have to".
Bush told the truth in the SOTU. Leftists lied about Bush; lied about the reality. Bush supporters try to defend the truth. Possibly some did some wrong things. (It's still not clear to me if outing Plame was an actual crime.)

Leftist story: what Bush supporters did that was wrong. Non-stories: a) Bush telling the truth about Iraq and uranium. b) Bush-hating Wilson lying in the NYT. c) Reasons the NYT supports Bush-hate lies.

Looks like press bias in the non-stories to me. But we won't know until the investigation is over, and more is public.

Compare with Oil-for-Food: Kofi's friend Bevon is indicted, and it's long been known to be corrupt. Where is the Leftist outrage? Almost nowhere, because everybody knows the world needs a cop, and if the US isn't good enough, the main alternative is the UN -- and they're far, far, worse than the Bushies. But if the MSM doesn't talk about it, does it really matter? (If a genocide occurs in Rwanda but the US says it's not, is it? Or in Sudan with the UN saying it's not?)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at August 9, 2005 6:05 AM | Permalink

Tom, I'm sorry that you feel that way, but I don't find your version of reality compelling today. A few weeks ago it was worth Googling. Today it's like arguing Intelligent Design over evolution. Or journalists versus bloggers.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at August 9, 2005 9:00 AM | Permalink

I have a little rule when watching political talk shows on cable. As soon as someone starts interrupting, shouting over someone else, I change the channel - that's it. I've worn out two remotes on the same set. If Novak got up and walked out every time he was interrupted, he wouldn't have any legs left. Don't think he is that thin-skinned.

The main point is the man is a cranky, un-entertaining, nasty, over the hill, traitor. He should be in jail. Anything that keeps the old man off the tv and out of the newspapers is a good thing.

Posted by: Ricardo at August 9, 2005 11:27 AM | Permalink

What's terrible is we've lost two good journalists this month - Peter Jennings and David Shaw - and yet the sucky ones like Miller and Novak are still around.

Is Novak's column continuing or has that been put on hold too?

Posted by: Scott Butki at August 9, 2005 4:08 PM | Permalink

I wonder if it's within Special Counsel Fitzgerald's portfolio to investigate Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame? If he finds information that either or both of them attempted to use their offices to skew intelligence reports or public understanding about uranium, Iraq, and Africa in an effort to embarass or misdirect the Bush Administration, could he pursue charges against them?

I mean, our friends who are unsympathetic to President Bush take it for granted that the Bush team fixed facts around their policies (perhaps assisted, in some eyes, by at least one complicit newspaper journalist), but suppose the opposing team attempted the same (abetted by their own allied journalists)? It's de-rigeur to assume one's favored team acts in good faith while the other team acts in bad faith, but what about other combinations?

Posted by: Trained Auditor at August 9, 2005 4:43 PM | Permalink

Trained Auditor:

My understanding is that Fitzgerald's mandate is limited to finding out who outed a covert CIA agent, which is a criminal offense.
That was the whole idea of the (taxpayer-financed, let us not forget) investigation in the first place.
It may turn out to be a Rove or a Libby (or someone we don't even know about) who planted the dirt with Novak.
Or it may turn out to be a journalist (Judy Miller?) who shared the information with an admin official in hopes of a quid pro quo; and then the Bush flunkie leaked Judy's tip to the ever-so-receptive Novak, who wrote about it.
Either way, it's a felony, and the culprit should be locked up for a very long time.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at August 9, 2005 10:09 PM | Permalink

No, no, no! The reason Novack stormed off the set is that he's freaking out. What Harlow has done in testifying before the Grand Jury is to nail not only Rove and Libby, but Novack too. If you read Section 794, Title 18 of US code, you will see what all the journalists in this country have missed. Novack is just as liable for the death penalty on this as are the rats in the administration who gave him this information. Section 794, Title 18 is also why they are trying to legally weasel in the new term, Global Struggle Against Islamic Extremism--Instead of GWOT (Global War On Terrorism). You can't be sentenced to death under that statute if no war is in place.

Posted by: Ron Russell at August 10, 2005 1:36 AM | Permalink

From a Paul McLeary post at CJR - online, a nice review of an article by Michael Wolff in this month's Vanity Fair:

Wolff manages to find a unique approach to the issue, positing the thesis that the New York Times and Time magazine are complicit in the cover-up of the fudging of intelligence in the prelude to war in Iraq -- in that they knew Rove was the source of the Plame leak intended to discredit Joe Wilson after he called the administration to account. "Not only did highly placed members of the media and the vaunted news organizations they worked for know it, not only did they sit on what will not improbably be among the biggest stories of the Bush years, they helped cover it up. You could even plausibly say that these organizations became part of a conspiracy -- they entered into an understanding that, as a quid pro quo for certain information, they would refuse to provide evidence about a crime possibly having been committed by the president's closest confidant."

Well, at least I'm not the only conspiracy nut. I'd go a little further, though, and suggest that some of the media folks and organizations went beyond just participating in the cover-up. They also knowingly participated in the actual fronting of the fake info and intelligence in order to help deceive the nation into supporting the war...or not objecting out of fear. Judith Miller would of course be among that class of participants, but there are plenty of others.

Seriously, isn't it time now to hold a conference on journalistic ethics, one specifically tailored for highly placed national media assets? Why wait until after the indictments? It could be called something like, "Separation of Press and State: How to Avoid Destroying Democracy and the Rule of Law."

Posted by: steve schwenk at August 10, 2005 1:41 AM | Permalink

Hey Steve,

Fitzgerald's mandate is to go where ever he wants to. Acting Attorney General Comey granted Fitzgerald the Powers of the Attorney General and no one can do a thing about it. Their is no expiration on the term (contrary to what the MSM tells you) and the funding is taken out of the DOJ for as long as Fitzgerald wants the Investigation to continue. The GAO has codified this in writing and neither Bush or Gonzales can do much about it. Try reading the GAO's responses to Congress that codify Fitzgerald's power:

Posted by: Ron Russell at August 10, 2005 1:42 AM | Permalink

Here's the link:

Posted by: steve schwenk at August 10, 2005 1:54 AM | Permalink

I am glad he stormed off the set and I hope they do not let him return.

Posted by: Jim at August 10, 2005 5:09 PM | Permalink

The Denver Post says what I said.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at August 10, 2005 5:24 PM | Permalink

A New Wilson Interview
conducted by e-mail by Steve Soto over at his blog, "the leftcoaster."

It's worth checking out because Wilson addresses some of the issues argued endlessly here, such as whether his trip was initiated based on info from the same forged docs as the bogus SOTUS claim, his wife's involvement in choosing him for the mission (she did not, not even close), etc.

A clip from the interiew:

Amb. Wilson: I try not to conflate Miller’s reporting on WMD before and after the war and the predicament she finds herself in. If you accept that the real reason for the attacks on me were to preserve the cover up of the web of lies that underpinned the decision to go to war in the first place, then you see how Valerie and her twenty year career, Matt Cooper and Judith Miller are collateral damage. The real victims are the constitution of our nation, and most poignantly those Americans and Iraqis who have been killed, wounded or displaced because of a war undertaken on false pretenses.


TLC, Q8: Considering how journalists have been blanketed with reams of misleading or false talking points from the GOP, are you finding many journalists in the mainstream media who are willing to delve deeper into this issue and address aspects such as the fact that Bush's SOTU claim was in fact reliant on the fake Niger documents (alone) (and not some other countries in Africa) and that the forged documents were behind the intel that sent you to Niger?

Amb. Wilson: The mainstream media has failed miserably in critical coverage of the administration’s blatant falsehoods and misleading of the American people. It has been thanks to the diligence of the bloggers and a few Congresspeople that the truth is only now beginning to emerge. When the history of this time is written, the Press will not fare well.

Posted by: steve schwenk at August 10, 2005 6:28 PM | Permalink

From the Intro